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Festo and SAP combine to offer insight into the future of manufacturing

Companies say their Open Integrated Factory is designed to help people understand Industry 4.0 concepts

What will manufacturing processes of the future look like, and what will be their defining features?

Festo Didactic and SAP created the Open Integrated Factory giving an example on how shop floor and a Manufacturing Execution System can be linked successfully in the era of Industry 4.0.

Work pieces in Festo Didactic’s CP Factory “tell” the machine how they should be processed. 

Today there is an increasing demand for products that match customer expectations precisely. At the same time, companies face growing pressure to manufacture at ever more competitive prices.

To adapt to these new conditions, the fields of systems engineering, production IT, and business systems will need to fuse to a higher degree than ever before, creating new means of production in the process.

The Open Integrated Factory in SAP’s Experience Business Center in Paris impressively demonstrates the integration of manufacturing and IT.

What makes this smart assembly line of just 8.60m length special are its work pieces: They “tell” the machine how they should be processed.

Not only is it capable of producing two completely different products – a remote control or components for smart meters, one of the two can actually be built in up to 16 variations.

SAP product development and the SAP Co-Innovation Lab developed this scenario as part of a co-innovation project with Festo Didactic providing the systems technology.

The scenario demonstrates that this production line can be run using SAP software.

The work pieces contain information in the form of production parameters.

Frédéric Puche, head of SAP’s Experience Business Center, says: “The parts know what they are and can communicate with the facility through RFID technology.

“After approaching the correct station, they tell it which part and variant they are, and request to be processed with the appropriate method.”

Through the use of defined standards, product variations can be manufactured in any given order and quantity, all on the same production line.

This finally makes lot size 1, the production of a single product with exact customer-defined specifications, a realistic endeavor.

The basis of the Open Integrated Factory is the CP Factory.

The cyber-physical learning and research platform is used by businesses in industry and educational facilities to train a broad range of technologies: from plant networking to PLC programming, drive technologies, sensor systems, safety technology, robotics, assembly as well as value chain analysis and optimisation.

Simon Colas, Didactic Education Manager at Festo France, says: “For Industry 4.0 research and teaching purposes, the system can integrate with all open systems and communication standards such as OPC-UA.”

The CP Factory consists of individual cells that can be configured for diverse different production situations and can be linked to IT systems.

The individual cells can be reconfigured in minutes to create new plant layouts. The patented passive work piece holder routing system makes it possible to operate each cell individually and to quickly set up an operational production line.

Festo Didactic’s CP Factory’s assembly line comprises the following work stations: Initialization station, component depot, oven, drill, assembly robot, Q-gate camera, rework station, and packaging station. Excluding the final two stations, all modules are fully automated.

The work stations query SAP MES for parameters. SAP MES provides parameters including material number, order number, and a unique variant ID for the next product in the line.

From the moment that this data is permanently written onto the RFID chip on board the work piece carrier, the work piece “knows” what it is.

This unique tag identifies the work piece at each work station, and the permanent communication aspect ensures proper forwarding of information.

If the camera-check detects a mistake in the production of one of the variants, the part is transported to the rework station.

Here, factory employees can transmit data to SAP Manufacturing Execution using a touchscreen, or remove the work piece from the production line altogether.

The controllers in the CP Factory cells have a modular design.

All control components are housed in the cell control cabinets: controllers with Profibus or Profinet networking, ProfiSafe components, and drive components such as frequency converters, contactor controllers and servo controllers.

The production line can be operated with and without a master control system.

The exceptional flexibility of a CP Factory system is a product of the modular design of its cells, which is always identical: dimensions, track rollers, control cabinet, conveyor, control console, system cable.

A single cell provides two conveyor sections and thus represents the basis for a complete subsystem.

The production cell with a branch module opens the door to new layouts: it can also be used as an independent system and be fitted with all functional modules.

The robot cells are equipped with everything necessary for industrial robotics training.

Completely enclosed and with safety doors, they provide totally safe working conditions.

Hot topics such as camera-supported assembly, the use of interchangeable gripper systems, palletising, camera tracking and so on can be dealt with in a practical way using a robot cell.

There are practically no limits on how the cells can be combined and the possible layouts.

The CP Factory combines cutting-edge systems technology with an SAP cloud-powered order management and production control system.

Order management is handled by SAP ERP, while production control and ERP integration are run by SAP Manufacturing Execution and SAP Manufacturing Integration and Intelligence.

SAP Plant Connectivity is responsible for systems control, and OPC-UA serves as the communication protocol.

Seamless vertical integration of these systems eliminates the need for line controllers, at the same ensuring high flexibility with regard to order changes, variant combinations, and process modifications.

The Open Integrated Factory demonstrates that SAP Manufacturing Execution enables a fully integrated end-to-end data stream, from customer orders within the SAP ERP system, all the way to parameter transfer in systems control.

All of this bidirectional data exchange between systems control and SAP Manufacturing Execution occurs within milliseconds.

The ability to produce small, highly customized lots as cheaply as large lots, once a dream of the production industry, is now just around the corner.

With the Open Integrated Factory Festo and SAP say they are opening up new horizons for Industry 4.0.