In an age of increasing digitalization, people often talk about “Smart Production,” referring to the networking of production and cutting-edge information and communication technology. ZEISS Industrial Metrology has been driving this trend by developing networked measuring technology. But how exactly does this work?
What Smart Production is
Analyzing and networking data plays a key role on the road to intelligent and flexible manufacturing. The driving force behind this development is the rapidly increasing digitalization of the economy and society. Following in the wake of the steam engine, assembly line, electronics and IT, Smart Factories are now ushering in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The technical foundation for this transformation is intelligent, digitally networked systems that will make manufacturing as self-organizing as possible: people, machines, systems, logistics and products will communicate and cooperate with each other in the Smart Factory. Production and logistics processes at different companies will be intelligently interlinked, making manufacturing even more efficient and flexible.
How Smart Production works
In the age of Smart Production, measuring and inspection technology will increasingly be the central tool for controlling manufacturing. However, this new role means that technology must capture quality data at different sites with greater flexibility and speed: in the measuring lab, at-line and in-line. This is precisely the approach taken by ZEISS Car Body Solutions. Moreover, the measuring and inspection technology must merge and analyze this data centrally and make this control input available to the right people or machines. Production and information technology are fusing with the goal of increasing manufacturing efficiency. Not only is measuring and inspection technology used to capture quality data, it must also reduce this to what is essential, evaluate it and make it available digitally to those areas of the company that need it. Special software solutions, such as ZEISS PiWeb, make this possible.
Why Smart Production is necessary
Increased requirements and consequently mounting pressure are driving this change, such as in the automotive industry. Parts and components must be manufactured faster while ensuring greater precision. Expensive recalls caused by defects must be avoided at all costs: not only are these expensive, but – even more importantly – the company’s image suffers. That is why measuring and inspection technology is increasingly becoming the steering instrument used in manufacturing. The Smart Factory will only be self-organizing when quality data for the workpieces is captured parallel to production on a permanent basis. Industrial measuring and inspection technology will form the interface between the virtual world, where production processes are prepared and simulated automatically, and the real world, where not everything runs according to plan. The only way to prevent rejects is to use measuring and inspection technology to obtain feedback from the real world of production.
What will come next
When it comes to measuring technology, companies need to take several different approaches simultaneously. That is why ZEISS puts its trust in the ZEISS Car Body Solutions process chain, which already offers multi-track solutions in the production flow and provides the foundation for networked quality data. In the future, highly accurate off-line measuring technologies in the measuring lab, in-line as well as at-line technologies in the production area will share the measuring jobs. Moreover, not only will data capture change, but data processing will as well: decentralized intelligent systems will pre-process data in the sensor and reduce it to what is most important before sending it onward. This is the only way that companies will be able to minimize transfer times and prevent the mountains of data from becoming unmanageable. And one factor will be absolutely critical in the future: software solutions for production will automatically provide instructions on the basis of measurement data. You can already see this process at work in production facilities today where numerous automobile manufacturers and suppliers are merging their process and quality information using the ZEISS PiWeb central software platform.