Transformation into a Smart Factory


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B Braun AG is a company working in the Medical Devices industry. Headquartered in Germany, the company has a global presence in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Australia

Transformation from a traditional Factory to a Smart Factory is not only about new technologies. It is about changing the way a company creates value, interacts with its customers, suppliers and business partners, simplify business and competes in established and emerging markets. It is an organizational change process that reaches every corner of the company including the culture. However, Digital Technology of cyber-physical-systems, Industrial Internet of Things, Internet of Services and everything connected are the basis to reach the vision “SmartFactory”.

Industrie 4.0 is a concept, initiated in 2011 by the German Government and the German Industry that can help to transform towards a Smart Factory. Industrie 4.0 refers to latest technologies to gain higher competitiveness and drive significant business improvements and is also defined as the fourth Industrial revolution.

Starting from the shop floor, a key element to build a Smart Factory is Industrial Internet of  Things (IIoT). In this context IIoT refers to the industrial use where Physical Objects in industrial machines and equipment have embedded intelligent Actors and Sensors and are connected via industrial wired or wireless network. IIoT allow to collect data from Sensor at machines or equipment within a factory in Real Time. This lead to unlimited data that need to be transformed into digital data and forwarded to a central data storage where the data has to be transformed into Information. This information can be accessed and analyzed from elsewhere in “nearly Real Time” for example, via a Plant Information System (PIMS). This standardized data layer and its content can be seen as well as Big Data and the PIMS is an analysis tool of this data including of predictive Analytics. Best is when all shop floor systems follow ISA-88 and ISA-95 standards to ease the integration with bidirectional communication into the Smart Factory eco system.

In a Smart Factory all Systems from the Sensor and Actor of an Equipment up to the Systems used by the Sales and Marketing department including the customer and supplier are inter-connected and exchanging data continuously. Analytics feed various dashboards with valuable information from all the collected data, which alert responsible parties in case of deviation of defined thresholds. Employees are empowered to action these alerts, which they receive via mobile technology that allow them to act instantly and create value.

Simplicity of the interaction with the technology is essential for user acceptance to get the right information at the right time out of this data in order to make valuable business decisions.

Transforming a Traditional Factory into a Smart Factory is a cross departmental exercises where in particular the IT department play a major role.

Business units need to be integrated in this transformation at all time to ensure the success and the sustainability of the changes. This require also the involvement of the Human Capital Management department, the Senior Management and if applicable the union and workers council.

Technical and Soft skill Trainings are important to prepare the employees and all business partners for the Smart Factory.

The organizational, technical and financial structures of the organization across all units must be aligned. Functional Location is a methodology that supports such an alignment across the whole organization across all dimensions and systems.

Systems, interfaces of equipment and machines and IT infrastructure must be standardized and integrated into the overall structure. Direct and indirect materials, supplies, spare parts, semi-finished and finished goods need to be classified following international standards for example according to the eCl@ss.Thisclassification will help to improve and automate processes for purchasing, sales, logistics and maintenance as well as improving the transparency on inventory across all direct and indirect materials. Without classification data analytics on materials for example to streamline purchasing and inventory management will not be possible easily.

Employees, supplier and clients need to be able to access data and information at any time from any place in secured manner. From a technical perspective speed and scalability of solutions out of the cloud is an option to support the digital transformation. The cloud has the advantage it is scalable, flexible and cost- efficient. However security, performance and regulatory requirements can be of concern and need to be evaluated carefully before a decision to use cloud based solutions is made.

Besides all technical and structural changes, companies undergoing such a disruptive digital transformation still have to ensure compliance with international standards such as ISO or others based on the industry, customer and regulatory requirements throughout the journey.

Digital transformation projects are characterized by high complexity, structural rigidity, stringent standardization of technology and processes and procedural ambiguity. The journey to transform a production site from a Traditional Factory to a Smart Factory needs time, visionary leaders, a profound concept, a clear roadmap, budget and a skilful project team.


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