The Most Innovative Factories Making Their Mark on the World
Look at business headlines and you will usually see some stories about technology advances such as advanced robotics, automation, and AI. These advances are changing the face of factories, and the manufacturing sector, across the world. They are revolutionising the way factories operate and improving their efficiency levels. Technology is also helping manufacturers to address environmental issues and improve their carbon footprint.
- The term Industry 4.0 refers to the transformation of production and manufacturing with digitalisation, smart machinery and robots.
- Audi has a vision for a manufacturing environment supported by driverless transport systems
- Danfoss employs 3D printing technology to remove the need to make molds
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These innovative technologies are part of what has become known as Industry 4.0. This represents the fact that the stage we are at now is regarded as the fourth industrial revolution. It’s interesting to look at what Industry 4.0 means for today’s factories and see how the evolution of technology is being optimised by five of the most innovative factories in the world as they become recognised as innovation leaders.
What is Industry 4.0?
The term Industry 4.0 refers to the transformation of production and manufacturing that has been instigated by digitalization and the introduction of smart machinery and robots. The computing that provided the foundation for the innovative solutions that we have today first emerged as part of Industry 3.0.
At the time it was disruptive technology because it had never existed before. Today, computers are an integral part of manufacturing, as they are in everyday life. Not only that but computers now communicate with each other which reduces the amount of human involvement that is required.
As machinery becomes smarter, and manufacturers get access to more valuable big data, we will witness an increasing amount of innovation in factories across the world. For some organisations, innovation is already an integral part of what they do. Let’s look at how five familiar brands have embraced the advantages of Industry 4.0 and become committed innovators.
World’s most innovative factories
Several well-known brands have taken innovation to a higher level, in order to improve the way they operate and bring new manufacturing processes to the world.
US-based specialists in Quantum computing, Rigetti Computing is well-known for its work planning space missions and helping with disease diagnosis. It has secured millions of dollars of funding to help with its innovation such as the development of its own Cloud platform, Forest. Here, developers can gain experience writing code on 30-qubit simulated quantum computers.
The speed of Rigetti’s lab is another example of its innovation. Here, the team can produce 3D-integrated quantum circuits in a couple of weeks. This is a process that can often take a couple of months in other organisations.
The world of car manufacturing has changed considerably in recent years. As vehicles have become more complex, manufacturers have had to improve the efficiency and accuracy of their production processes. It was this background that provided the impetus for German manufacturer Audi to introduce it’s “Smart Factory 2035” vision, in 2015.
This vision includes a manufacturing environment supported by driverless transport systems, augmented reality (AR), and 3D printing. The vision started to become a reality when Audi introduced its smart factory in Hungary, in 2018. The company has also recently committed to achieving climate-neutral production using measures such as the installation of a 107,000 square metre-photovoltaic system.
UK based online retailer Ocado has transformed from a standard online grocery retailer into a recognised technology innovator. This innovation has helped the company to develop robot-controlled processes in each Ocado warehouse. This means that it is capable of processing 3.5 million items each week.
The increase in efficiency, and reduction of errors, has led to Ocado increasing its profits. This is a situation that seems set to continue as the company’s warehouses are home to a network of robots that work together and are controlled by a central computer. These robots are responsible for organising inventory and selecting items for delivery. This leads to operations that are efficient and accurate which indicates a bright future for the company.
Chinese online retailer J.D.com has ambitions to achieve success in an area that is currently dominated by Amazon, in global terms. It’s a big ask, but the company is already making impressive progress. Like many organisations, JD.com has installed robots in its warehouses.
However, the big difference for the innovative organisation is that its operations in Kushan are almost completely automated. There are only four human workers on the premises with robots and automated machinery responsible for processing orders. They achieve an accuracy rate of 99.99% and the process is completed in a few minutes.
The World Economic Forum commended Danfoss for adopting Industry 4.0 technologies at its factory in Wuqing, China. This innovation improved productivity by 30%. While humans still assemble the parts of compressors in the factory, they are assisted by technology.
This happens when automated vehicles deliver the parts that they need straight to their workstations, thereby speeding up the production process. This is not the only example of Danfoss using technology at its Wuqing site. The company also employs 3D printing technology to remove the need to make molds. It’s not surprising that Danfoss has won awards for its innovation.
These innovative factories are all at the forefront of Industry 4.0 as they utilise technology to improve efficiency and accuracy.