Since we’ve just blogged about the future of transportation, it seems only appropriate to consider what factories may be like in the future. The European Union is so interested in this that they set up in 2008 a Public Private Partnership for Factories of the Future (FoF), which is currently funding 150 projects looking into this phenomenon (see link). For an industry perspective on this, a recent article in The Manufacturer by Antony Bourne neatly summarises some key points, as follows:
- More local – factories will be smaller and hence more geographically distributed, largely to simplify and speed up the supply chain, but also making them more sustainable
- More technological – according to Bourne “digital will play a greater role”. To illustrate this, SAP have showcased two examples of FoF – the “open integrated factory” and a “hands on machine cloud”.
- More automated – especially with the capability of 3D printing. This Forbes article describes Proto Lab – an entirely automated production facility
- More collaboration – between manufacturers and universities. One example of this is Picknpack, an EU funded consortium of businesses and academic institutions collaborating to develop the food FoF.
- Agile configurability – shop floor layout will be highly adaptable.
- Cultural shift – factories will look and feel more like offices than production plants. This is exemplified by Airbus’ vision of their FoF.
So what will the role of humans be in these automated, digital production spaces? Siemans have the answer.