The WEF’s identification of nine world-leading smart factories kicks off a wider programme to get industrial companies learning from each other in the era of Industry 4.0, as Jessica Twentyman reports.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released a list of what it says are nine of the world’s smartest factories when it comes to adopting industrial IoT (IIoT) technologies.
These ‘lighthouse’ facilities, as they are called by the WEF, have been selected from an initial list of some 1,000 manufacturing companies, based on their successful implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) thinking, in ways that have had proven financial and operational benefits.
The aim of the WEF initiative is to build a network of such ‘lighthouses’ worldwide, in order to identify the hurdles faced by industrial organisations in both advanced and emerging economies in making these kinds of investments.
Earlier research by the WEF found that over 70 percent of businesses investing in technologies such as the IoT, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing have not been able to take their projects beyond the pilot phase.
With this in mind, all nine ‘lighthouses’ in the new network have agreed to open their doors and share their knowledge and experience of the IIoT in practice with other manufacturing companies.
Europe leads the way
Five of the lighthouse factories are located in Europe, three in China, and one in the United States. According to the WEF, their geographic distribution demonstrates that while Europe “may have struggled to produce its own homegrown internet giant, the region remains a powerhouse when it comes to applying advanced technology to manufacturing”.
Each of these facilities has deployed a wide range of Industry 4.0 technologies at scale, according to the WEF, which goes on to list one example of success from each of the nine sites.
Bayer Pharmaceuticals Division (Garbagnate, Italy): At a time of major volume growth for the site, the company has deployed a digital twin-based scheduling programme to drive improvements in its quality-control lab.
Bosch Automotive (Wuxi, China): Advanced data analytics are helping the company to “deeply understand and eliminate output losses, simulate and optimise process settings, and predict machine interruptions before they occur”.
Haier (Qingdao, China): Artificial intelligence has been at the heart of work to create an ‘order-to-make’ mass customisation platform and a remote, AI-supported intelligent cloud platform for predictive maintenance.
Johnson & Johnson DePuy Synthes (Cork, Ireland): The factory has used IoT technology to create digital twins of physical assets for advanced machine insights, lower operating costs, and machine downtime reductions.
Phoenix Contact (Bad Pyrmont/Blomberg, Germany): ‘Customer-driven digital twinning’ has involved creating digital copies of each customer’s specifications, cutting production times by 30 percent.
Proctor & Gamble (Rakona, Czech Republic): The factory has developed a Web-based analytics model for supply chain improvements, speeding up time to market, and increasing inventory efficiency and customer satisfaction.
Schneider Electric (Le Vaudreuil, France): Operators have increased visibility into operations, maintenance, and energy use, leading to energy cost reductions of 10 percent and maintenance cost reductions of 30 percent.
Siemens Industrial Automation Products (Chengdu, China): A new platform for flexible production takes customer orders and immediately allocates resources and schedules production time, leading to 100 percent compliance and 100 percent traceability.
Fast Radius/UPS (Chicago, US): Industrial-grade 3D printing is helping to tackle demand for fast-turnaround times and mass customisation of products, while a centralised, proprietary operating system drives real-time analytics and orchestrates design, production, and global fulfilment.
Internet of Business says
The network of manufacturing lighthouses will officially launch at the World Economic Forum’s 12th Annual Meeting of the New Champions, which takes place on 18-20 September in Tianjin, China. The network is expected to grow, with companies invited to propose additional sites in the build-up to the WEF’s annual Davos meeting in January 2019.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to deliver productivity gains and transform the future of manufacturing, but we are still at the beginning of the journey,” said Helena Leurent, head of the WEF’s ‘Shaping the Future of Production Systems’ initiative and a member of its executive committee.
“Our efforts to create a learning platform with the lighthouses as the cornerstone are part of the giant leap needed to capture the benefits for the larger manufacturing ecosystem, including multinationals, SMEs, startups, governments and academia.”
The WEF worked with US-based strategy firm McKinsey and Company on the project.
According to its global head of manufacturing, Enno de Boer, the pioneers named as lighthouses have much in common: agile teams with domain, analytics, IoT and software development expertise; a common data/IoT platform; and up to 15 use cases already in action. “They are thinking ‘scale’, acting ‘agile’, and resetting the benchmark,” he said.