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Why smart and human-centric approaches can go hand in hand

Smart, Industry 4.0 – what image do you have in mind?

You may already have seen this video. If not, you might want to watch it!

I wondered where this quality comes from, what is needed and who is thinking all this through. One of the answers lies with our smart factory. The image in my head is crystal-clear.

When I imagine walking into a 21st century smart production set-up with all the cool stuff like sensors, robots, logistic trains etc. I fancy the coolness of technology. However, humans play a secondary role in my mind.

When I entered the Fujitsu factory in Augsburg, I realized metal robots talking with a computer voice do not replace humans. This was fascinating for me on the one hand, but a little disappointing on the other.

However, there is an important caveat that I would like to explain further on. I just realized the future is now. Moreover, it is more vivid and humanely warm than my imagination is.

IoT, Industry 4.0 – How does it connect to smart factories?

I recently met with Raimund Landsbeck, Head of Factory Operations in Augsburg, under whose management the Smart Factory Services and Tools team is continuously developing new ways of doing smart production for Fujitsu.

As we toured the smart factory there, Production looked to me as clean, neat and tidy as production facilities usually look these days. However, there was a tiny difference between reality and my imagination: people.

Already some 10 years ago, he explained, we took the first steps in the direction of smart manufacturing. Productivity and efficiency were increased based upon the lean production system we established on basis of Toyota principles. But the incremental changes in technology and shifts demanded something more.

This is especially the case because Production is a “breathing factory”, meaning that every system can be produced with a minimum batch size of a single unit, production capacity can be adjusted dynamically and we can respond to individual customer requirements with smart solutions, such as Deskview Load. You can tell efficiency was a core driver to delivering the best quality and individual solutions.

In any regard, humankind was and still is at the core of all activity. Any implementation that makes life easier for us is designed to fulfill the needs of our staff.

Where do you start? What is your aim?

The quality of our systems is a promise we make to the market. Simply put, this is what we are known for. To ensure this, and to bring together the “old world” and the “new world” we needed to look at the entire supply chain: from the first part order to the handover to our logistic partners.

A holistic review of the tangible assets and processes was the starting point, said Raimund Landsbeck.

Another part of thinking was to become eco-friendly. We set ourselves the target of doing away with inefficient print-outs for accompanying handouts, work instructions, etc.

Implementation of Technology

Getting back to the holistic view: this already starts when our workers enter the Production facility. Depending on their skill set, experience and trainings they will be assigned to their workplace for the day. The smart production planning toolset allows for very fine-granular planning, which is required since the entire production set-up is arranged along “built-to-order” lines.

For example, in our mainboard production line, the last one in Europe owned by a global ICT company actually, things already start with a smart solution for an automated picking system. This connects to our SAP environment, the manufacturing execution system (MES) and more to supply picked material boxes to the production line almost fully automatically.

Further on down the production line, monitors replace paper, delivering a live view of part provisioning and the status of the line. This is enabled by hundreds of sensors, RFID chips and scanners all connected to the overlaying Wi-Fi network throughout the facilities and pushing data to our private cloud environment, explained Daniel Spanfellner.

These sensors allow lean production to be enhanced with checkpoints. This can automatically halt a production line if any anomalies are measured above the tight thresholds we have for those sensitive mainboards. All of this is for the sake of quality.

Using IntelliEdge, such data is then immediately logged to the database, which is used not only by our manufacturing execution system (MES) but also by our colleagues in Quality Management, System Engineering and Product Management. The aim is to achieve the highest quality. This is one way we can ensure this even after the production has started. However, this does not mean we are done testing.

Afterwards things gets even smarter. We are currently running a co-creation project with KUKA, a leading manufacturer for robotics that brings a sensitive robot next to our people for the ICT, the integrated circuit test.

Of course, all data is also moved back to a cloud, actually two: one belonging to Fujitsu and one belonging to KUKA. Thus, we are connecting our IntelliEdge with the cloud-to-cloud solution implemented in the production line. More on this can be found at the link above or in the video here.

Certainly, this is not the end of our smart factory and, as I outlined before, human-centric facilities are at the core here. Robots do not replace people, but take the heavy work off their shoulders.

Another factor is the paperless factory, which requires devices to provide the information that our colleagues previously got from a sheet of paper: tablet PCs. The upside of this is that an interactive element comes into play here, synchronizing the various backend systems and the production and assembly lines, while orders for material are shown live.

Once a request is processed, integration allows for automatic re-orders and order recommendations for our Purchasing Department. This not only speeds things up, but also allows for quality control, including in terms of the traceability of products and components. This is yet another reason why PRIMERGY on the line is best of breed in quality.

Once Assembly requests material from our supermarket (our smart warehouse), people and technology join together to work hand-in-hand. Tablets deliver the information for material picking and our logistic trains deliver just in time to the assembly lines.

Once again, a smart move within the line is evident here: all trolleys are equipped with long-lasting e-ink displays containing all relevant information with order codes, material codes and in-house destinations. Moreover, they are tracked in the background, delivering all required information for predicted maintenance, locating it in the factory or quality stop of the trolley itself. This really is a smart multi-use of technology, making life easier.

An additional factor is that all the data collected is processed through the various elements of our IT infrastructure. It is summarized on dashboards that allow for the constant, live monitoring of the entire production supply chain. The “aFlair” app connects to this over the air and delivers important information about current machine status, production cycles and more. This places all gathered information at the disposal of our line managers.

Several strands are brought together. The smart in “smart factory” therefore does not necessarily always refer to sensors, cameras, and buttons – it also means the smart minds of people who know how to adopt the promise of Industry 4.0 and show this by orchestrating an extensive set of tools and mechanisms.

Efficiency UP, Productivity UP, Quality UP

You may have realized that my imagination was quite fanciful in terms of what you can expect. An interesting point for me, personally, is that we always expect to see something right away – but you hardly ever do.

Most of the measures to increase our efficiency, to ramp up the productivity levels and, ultimately, to produce top quality IT equipment are unseen and happen in our cloud and datacenters.

A fun fact here: PRIMERGY supports itself. The PRIMERGYs produced rely on the quality that we implemented within the production facility control center and the (private) cloud environments we need to produce them.

Because we know what we are doing – now you do, too.

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