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Keywords of this article:  Industry 4.0 
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At Hannover Messe 2016, the Fraunhofer Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology (Fraunhofer IPK) will present its solution for the factory of the future.

"We envision a manufacturing organization which has no rigid plans or fixed processes, one where human coordination and decision-making capabilities play a central role in flow control," explained Eckhard Hohwieler, Head of Production Machinery and Plant Management at Fraunhofer IPK.

One of Fraunhofer IPK's key aims is to win the confidence of the SMEs for whom Industry 4.0 still generates images of factories devoid of humans. "A common misconception is that Industry 4.0 is about using IT to automate production to the point where human input becomes redundant," said Hohwieler.

Fraunhofer IPK has a different vision: They believe that, although sophisticated tools inform his decision-making, the human worker in Factory 4.0 ultimately decides which production sequence to use. This approach decentralizes production control, with each worker assuming responsibility and contributing to more flexible production processes and product individualization.

IT-based tools ensure that workers at all organizational levels constantly receive the information they need to produce the end-product on schedule - from process management to production planning to final assembly.

At the show, Fraunhofer IPK will present an example of gear-wheel production with five fields of activity.

Station 1 is the model-based Industry Cockpit that provides an overview of complex administrative and production processes so that they can be customized to fit individual orders. The cockpit continuously delivers a precise overview of the entire operation, including all processes and the status of the production machinery and the supplier network. All actors - machine operators, shift supervisors, salespeople, and managers - receive real-time information about all aspects of production relevant to their tasks.

Stations 2 and 3 are for a supervisor, who determines the work plan, and a machine operator, who activates the plan. An integrated, intelligent machine tool that can communicate within the process takes over the processing of the gear-wheel.

Station 4 showcases yet another key component of the factory of the future: An intelligent transport system that manages the logistics of materials and components. Various setups are presented there, including automated guided vehicles.

Station 5 features an assembly robot that fits various finished gear-wheels onto different shafts. Thus the system must autonomously recognize which shaft is involved. At the Fraunhofer IPK display, the assembly station is digitally integrated with the Industry Cockpit so that diverse, real-time process data can be used to perform quality checks and detailed analyses.

"With our exhibit we deliver an example of how we can use applied research to confirm that Industry 4.0 works and creates more flexibility in human-machine collaboration," stated Hohwieler.

Hannover Messe 2016 will be held from April 25-29 in Hannover, Germany.

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