US business growth consultants, Frost and Sullivan, have recognised the disruptive power of Forcam’s Smart Factory technology and awarded it their ‘New Product Innovation Leadership Award’ for 2014. World-wide, Forcam has more than 50,000 machine tools and processes under the control of its Factory Framework shop floor manufacturing execution system (MES).
Weir Minerals is one of the first UK companies to adopt Factory Framework. Their Todmorden factory recorded a 12% increase in output in the six months following the installation and continues to see incremental improvement. Aerospace component supplier Hyde Group has also applied the system with beneficial outcomes.
“We are all aware of the Internet of things (IoT). The discussion so far has centred on smart homes, building management, intelligent cars and systems that can monitor our fitness and health, but the major breakthrough is in manufacturing. Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication will allow UK manufacturers to improve productivity, quality and the pace of innovation to become leaders in the new industrial revolution,” explained Charlie Walker, Forcam’s UK manager
Forcam, are pioneers of smart factory technology in Germany. The German government has also recognised the importance of this to manufacturing with Industry 4, an initiative to encourage industry to integrate shop-floor processes using intelligent networking to achieve greater efficiency and competitiveness.
Auto manufacturers Audi, BMW and Daimler, fastening specialist Hilti and aero-engine maker MTU are all early adopters, some achieving efficiency improvements of 20% or more in the first year. Worldwide Daimler has over 15,000 machines linked via Factory Framework. All these companies are using the system within their continuous improvement programmes (CIP) to achieve still higher year-on-year productivity, keeping them competitive against lower cost overseas manufacturers.
There are other advantages. Product yield and quality are improved because the tighter control loop means more rapid remediation of problems. Innovation and new product development cycles are reduced and production of small batch and bespoke products becomes viable. In large companies networking the supply chain makes for better integration between company owned plants and with outside supply partners, even when these are on different continents.
The internet-of-things means far more than controlling the central heating from your smart phone or your fridge re-ordering the tomatoes. Forcam UK is working to ensure it will have a major beneficial effect on industry that will bolster the revival of manufacturing in an advanced economy such as the UK’s.