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Smart Factory: Digitization in 5 Steps

IT infrastructure, technology and a digitization strategy lead to a successful digital business model.

August 11 2020Enno Borchers

The vision of Industry 4.0

Standing still is a step backwards, especially for production companies. They often play a pioneering role in terms of technological development. This also applies to the digital transformation, because modern technologies offer Industry 4.0 numerous opportunities to develop new business models and improve processes. However, German companies often have a lot of catching up to do, especially in process optimization. 

First things first: The IT infrastructure is where it all begins

A man with a laptop in his hand kneels beside an aircraft engine.

For production companies, for example, this means digitizing and automating their intralogistics. Interfaces between the supplier and the customer must also be created. This enables the production of goods to be tracked transparently, from supply and storage, through to further processing and subsequent delivery, thus allowing quality to be improved while increasing the company’s own competitive edge. For example, when employees in production areas request spare parts via driverless transport systems (AGVs). Stock levels are automatically checked by the system, the AGV drives autonomously into the warehouse and picks the right spare part at the destination. The AGV scans the current stock via camera, and the system reorders goods as required via interfaces to warehouse management and the ERP system. Using precise positioning, the AGV locates the employee who initiated the order and delivers the spare part to its destination as quickly as possible The basis for such an automated smart factory process is data. However, the question of how to generate and collect data from machines and work processes is not the first step when moving towards digitization. 

Only an efficient transmission infrastructure makes it possible to interconnect devices and collect data in a smart factory. The higher the demands on such a network are, the higher its performance must be. With regard to Industry 4.0, a campus network provides reliable, flexible and high performance connectivity on the factory floor. In a 5G network, users benefit from high bandwidth, low latency and high availability - ideal for the fully networked smart factory. This enables applications from the Internet of Things (Internet of Things/IoT), integrated sensor technology or intelligent algorithms to be operated without any problems, and the produced data can be processed in real time. The advantage of cellular transmission technologies like 5G or LTE: Production facilities can be set up in a modular fashion and adapted to changing business conditions without the need to make costly changes to the network infrastructure. Exclusive licensing protects the frequency spectrum used - and thus stability in the manufacturing process.

Read the factsheet on 5G Campus Networks now

5G accelerates the smart factory. Companies pave the way to Industry 4.0 with a local 5G campus network.

In 5 steps to the digital business model

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In addition to the IT infrastructure and technology, the digitization strategy is also an essential aspect on the way to the smart factory. With a methodical approach, companies can decide how to use which digital technology for each use case, in order to save time and money. These five steps are important:

  1. Analyze the current status: A detailed look at the individual work steps in all departments represents the basis here. Intelligent analysis techniques, such as process mining, are used to analyze and examine processes for deviations. These enable efficient and inefficient work steps and problem areas to be identified. T-Systems can support you with the data analysis.
  2. Design the target process: Not every solution can solve the actual problems. We plan internal digitization goals together with companies based an individual technology portfolio. We consider each technology as an adapted piece of the puzzle on the individual digital map, in order to achieve the target processes. 
  3. Develop a transformation strategy: The journey from the current situation to the target situation using Industry 4.0 must be planned strategically. We look at both from a process and technology perspective, in order to decide which problem can best be solved with which technology. We think in terms of individual milestones, which together form the roadmap for the transformation landscape in Industry 4.0.
  4. Develop an operative model: Know-how, and financial and human resources determine whether a company implements a digitization project itself or relies on services from an IT service provider. Process quality and possible risks are also included in this make-or-buy decision and have a decisive influence on the project budget.
  5. Prepare a financing model: When deciding whether to release financial resources, it is not a question of looking at the costs of the individual digital solutions. Rather, medium and long-term cost savings achieved through digitization in the smart factory are decisive for stakeholder approval. Together we can create transparency when it comes to technology, process and program expenditure.
About the author
Enno Borchers, Client Consulting

Enno Borchers

Client Consulting, T-Systems International GmbH

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