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Smart Factory - A Step towards the Next Generation of Manufacturing

Dominik Lucke 1 , Carmen Constantinescu 1, 2 , Engelbert Westkämper 1, 2

1 Institut für Industrielle Fertigung und Fabrikbetrieb, IFF - Universität Stuttgart, Germany

2 Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung, IPA - Stuttgart, Germany

Abstract The Stuttgart Model of adaptive, transformable and virtual factories, already implemented in German basic research performed at the Universität Stuttgart has been extended with a new perspective, the so-called “Smart Factory”. The Smart Factory approach is a new dimension of multi-scale manufacturing by using the state-of-the-art ubiquitous/pervasive computing technologies and tools. The Smart Factory represents a context-sensitive manufacturing environment that can handle turbulences in real-time production using decentralized information and communication structures for an optimum management of production processes. This paper presents our research steps and future work in giving reality to the envisioned Smart Factory at the Universität Stuttgart.


Smart Factory; Real-time Factory; Ubiquitous computing


In recent years manufacturing engineering experienced a dramatic change through different parallel running developments. The globalisation and the wish to produce highly customized products lead to a higher proliferation of variants, shorter product life cycles and closer enterprise networks. The short planning horizons and product life cycles induce the decrease of batch sizes and do therefore require a high dimension of manufacturing flexibility. In order to make the right management decisions, real-time information and the direct realisation of the decisions are indispensable.

Dynamical changes in the factory, caused through internal or external turbulences like a machine breakdown or an order fluctuation in the market, can often not be taken into account and therefore lead to false decisions on different planning levels. Due to complex interactions of the different functions and departments of the factory and their task-oriented specific data formats, the causes of the dynamic changes exponentiate themselves and their consequences for the factory as well. Thus, high flexibility demands are posed to the manufacturing resources, their planning and control [1].

The management control of the complex processes inside and outside of the factory is even today performed through Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and applications. The increased market turbulences and therefore increased flexibility of manufacturing require complex manufacturing sequences, which are difficult to realise with the today’s solutions. Outdated information in the different information systems are leading directly to problems in planning and production.

The information management is responsible for the allocation of the job and process specific information like NC programs or machine properties, however the material management is responsible for the supply of components. Tool and device systems are additional mobile manufacturing resources to conduct a manufacturing process. The coordination of many

The 41st CIRP Conference on Manufacturing Systems, 2008


heterogeneous subsystems providing all required resources, materials and information at the work place is necessary to ensure a constant resource load. To achieve this synchronization, many different specialized software systems and applications are used, like resource management systems, MES or ERP systems. Any failure in a subsystem would result in a significant reduction of the productivity of the whole system. While a MES plans and controls the manufacturing level, the ERP level plans and controls the synchronization of the subsidiary planning entities. Even the smallest difference between the real and digital saved data, e.g. initiated by a malfunction, leads to planning discrepancies and a miscalculation of the optimal working point.

A parallel development was enabled by the integration of

electronic components like microchips or sensors into objects due to their decline of price. This development enables a decentralized control in a more economical way.


The design and development of the Smart Factory require as

a first step the definition of the concept. Mark Weiser’s vision

of the smart environment describes a physical world, which is

closely and invisibly interwoven with sensors, actuators, displays and computer elements, which are seamlessly embedded into daily life objects. They are connected with each other by a network [2]. The Mark Weiser’s approach of smart environments is transferred to manufacturing issues.

After the development of digital and virtual factories next step

in evolution of factories is the fusion of physical and virtual

world [3] under a so-called Smart Factory.

2.1 Definition

The basic research in the field of Smart Factory at Institute of Industrial Manufacturing and Management (IFF) is performed within the Center of Excellence Nexus (SFB 627) [4]. This interdisciplinary research is funded by the German Research

D. Lucke, C. Constantinescu and E. Westkämper

Foundation (DFG). The so-called Smart Factory is defined as

a Factory that context-aware assists people and machines in

execution of their tasks. This is achieved by systems working in background, so-called Calm-systems and context-aware applications. In our case, context-aware means that the systems can take into consideration context information like the position and status of an object. These systems accomplish their tasks based on information coming from physical and virtual world. Information of the physical world is e.g. position or condition of a tool, in contrast to information of the virtual world like electronic documents, drawings and

simulation models. These systems are working on different levels of the factory, like context-aware information systems

in the shop floor (workers cockpit) or advanced manufacturing

execution systems that can act context-aware for the shop floor manager. Calm systems are referring in this context the hardware of a Smart Factory. The main difference between calm and other types of systems is the ability to communicate and interact with its environment.

2.2 Challenges

The Smart Factory concept enables the real-time collection, distribution and access of manufacturing relevant information anytime and anywhere. The Smart Factory represents a real- time, context-sensitive manufacturing environment that can handle turbulences in production using decentralized information and communication structures for an optimum management of production processes. Premises for further assistance than today are the horizontal and vertical integration of information systems, the assignment of material and flow of information within an enterprise. For acting context-aware, the applications in the Smart factory have to answer the following three questions, from those deriving more challenges:

1. How is an object identified? Identification phase

2. Where is an object located into the factory? Positioning phase

3. What is the situation or status of an object? Status knowledge

These and further challenges are shortly presented:


The Identification of objects, as one of the basic challenges in

a factory, assigns information of the virtual world like process steps to real world objects. Therefore suitable identification methods, tags, sensors, sensor readers and communication

facilities have to be found and chosen, specific to their task in

a rough industrial environment.


For improving the processes and reducing idle times within the Smart Factory the localization is required to have an actual knowledge about the position of the objects like tools or materials. Depending on the purpose, the accuracy of a positioning system has to be a range within 0,15m - 1m. Furthermore a positioning system used in a manufacturing environment has to work on a large scale and has to be robust against environmental influences, electromagnetic fields, noise of dust, etc. [3].


Status knowledge:

The assistance systems in a Smart Factory have to know the status or situation of the objects in order to provide users the context-aware information.

Update of smart management systems:

Current object information like the status or location has to be communicated to the systems of the Smart Factory. As an example the highly dynamical data like the position of an object should be updated every 10 to 30 seconds [3].

Support for different queries:

Assistance systems in the Smart Factory have to support different kinds of queries [3]. We can differentiate into object- based, location-based/spatial, temporal and combinations of the previous types of queries.

Integration of heterogeneous information:

The integration challenge of different systems in an enterprise is caused by different information models, interfaces and data formats. In order to provide other systems easy accessible information, different systems have to be integrated into a common synchronizing platform.

Real-time characterized reaction:

For supporting people and machines information has to be provided within seconds. This challenge addresses mainly communications technologies and database management.

2.3 Enabling Technologies

The implementation of the Smart Factory is enabled by several technologies, in the following shortly presented (Figure 1). An application of the Smart Factory consists of a Calm-system (referring more to hardware components) and a context-aware application (referring more to software components).

Positioning Technologies

Figure 1: Smart Factory.

Embedded Systems:

To provide small computing power for decentralized intelligent functions, microcontrollers have been developed in the last few years. They are optimized to low energy consumption for working in mobile devices. Today a wide range of “easy-to-use” microcontrollers are on the market with different computing power ranges, like the AVR or Pic microcontroller or the Xscale processors families.