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Smart Factory: Get a Glimpse of the Future of Production

Reading Time: 4 Minutes 23.03.2021 Currents & Trends

The Smarty Factory of Graz University of Technology shows the future of digital production

The model factory developed by Graz University of Technology in cooperation with proALPHA and other industry partners offers specific digital showcases for small and mid-sized enterprises.

The smartfactory@tugraz, the model factory by Graz University of Technology, demonstrates the many potentials of digital production today and tomorrow,. With approximately 300 sqm in size, the factory has a variety of plants and machines, just like the ones that are used in the modern industry. These are used by the team of operators lead by Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Rudolf Pichler to showcase specific topics of the production environment.

The research and teaching factory initiated by Graz University of Technology in cooperation with us and other industry partners is aimed at students as well as small and mid-sized enterprises that want to get a glimpse of the future of digital production.

The smart factory is supposed to demonstrate buzzwords like "Industrial Internet of Things", "Smart Production", and "Digital Twin", and help understand the potentials for digital transformation with hands-on simulations.

What makes the project so interesting for SMEs?

The smartfactory@tugraz pursues two goals in particular: agility and security.

It is currently assumed that the future of production in Europe – especially for SMEs – lies not in mass production, but in the capability to provide customized products. Consumer orientation is key here. The faster companies can accomplish this, the higher are their profit margins.

„This is where the future of European production in consumer orientation lies“,
Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Rudolf Pichler


This requires a high level of agility. This aspect is demonstrated with the manufacture of a gear – in a total of 18 variants.

The second topic "security" addresses the issue that the merging of information technology (IT) and operation technology (OT) has increased the number of cyber attacks against the manufacturing industry. Smaller enterprises are not spared from this either.

The Graz model factory not only raises awareness of the risks but also provides specific solutions to promote a secure operation. Let's take intrusion detection as an example. The usual data traffic is recorded and tracked by means of a module and a Nozomi box. The system picks up which data flows are normal for the company. In case of anomalies, the system will raise an alarm.

What is our role in this?

On the one hand, the smartfactory@tugraz proves that ERP systems will remain the central system for data management and controlling in the smart era. On the other hand, it shows the central role of ERP systems in agile production in particular.

The web-based product configurator of the ERP system by proALPHA lets customers configure product variants themselves, for example, the gear in 18 variants as mentioned above. Relevant information, like CAD drawings or bills of materials, are maintained in the product lifecycle management (PLM) system and then adopted into the ERP system using an intelligent algorithm. With this fully digitized showcase, the information must no longer be entered twice.

This is complemented by classical ERP functions like the calculation of a manufacturing date or optimization processes, each under agile conditions.

What are the benefits to us and our customers?

After having had positive experience in Kaiserslautern and Aachen, we accepted the invitation extended by smartfactory@tugraz in 2016 to also boost the research in digital production in Austria. This is a major benefit to our existing as well as prospective customers.

Since the Graz model factory targets small and mid-sized enterprises, too, we can team up to present solutions which are relevant to and affordable by this target group.

Szameitat_Alexander_500x500_bubble „We don't just want to provide solutions which only big company groups can afford but also solutions that offer our usual customer group some real added value.“,
DI Alexander Szameitat, Management IT Consultant at proALPHA

We want to use our proven solutions, innovative partners, and the input from the university to develop a reference architecture that will be available to all of our customers. Thanks to this project, we can present our solutions to the general public and to hence attract new prospects.

In a nutshell: By building a bridge between theory and practice, the smartfactory@tugraz allows SMEs to experience the digital transformation close up. It shows how companies can implement the latest solutions even with old machines and limited resources if they are flexible and open to innovation.

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