eFactory

European Connected Factory Platform for Agile Manufacturing

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Katharina Bernhard is the CEO of a large furniture manufacturer. A few days ago, she acquired a major client: a hotel chain, which recently placed an order for the furnishing and decoration of a new building. In the past, she would have faced a laborious search for new suppliers, given that she does not have the capacity to do both the furnishing and the decoration for the project. Luckily, she recently became a part of the eFactory Platform! Here, she finds suppliers and service partners in no time at all. Mrs. Bernhard sits back and relaxes: Thanks to the eFactory Platform, not only did she find new service partners - she is also able to monitor her partners‘ activities in the collaborative, transparent network and can act and react if necessary.

eFactory is a federated, intelligent business network and digital platform that connects various stakeholders in the field of digital manufacturing. The platform enables its users, e.g. system integrators and computer programmers, to experiment with disruptive approaches and develop innovative, customized solutions for particular problems.

eFactory consists of four major aspects which guarantee a direct interlink between the stakeholders. The eFactory Platform connects a variety of digital production platforms, intelligent tools and Industry 4.0 concepts to introduce a connected and intelligent network of the future. Communication within the eFactory Platform is achieved through various protocols and data exchange, which is performed transparently by the Data Spine. The Data Spine connects digital platforms, automation and operating systems, CPS, IoT objects and cloud services through a data exchange mechanism. In addition, the eFactory Platform contains a useful Tool Kit for smart data and industry 4.0, provided by the project partners. The available tools and services cover the whole production and logistic circle. The fourth part of eFactory is a versatile Market Place Framework, which connects several platform-based marketplaces.

Three pilot projects in the fields of aerospace supplier networks, furniture manufacturing, and supply networks in circular economy

As part of three pilot projects, the features of eFactory are being tested and implemented. The first pilot project addresses Adhoc Aerospace Supplier Networks. Specific products like commercial airplanes often need customized solutions for production, which cannot always be provided by OEMs and therefore are supplied by small innovative, high-tech companies. The products need to be developed and produced in a short period of time and in cooperation with the OEM and SME. The problem is that often the parties are separated geographically. Therefore, they need to find a way to facilitate collaborative production. The eFactory Platform Tool Kit can support a decentralized adhoc production process, encourage collaborations, and assure necessary visibility within the production network.

The second pilot project takes place in the field of Lot-Size-One in Furniture Manufacturing. B2B clients of the contract segment, e.g. large hotel chains, demand an integral service for furnishing and decoration. This is either supplied by a third party, or has to be provided by the furniture manufacturer itself. Since the focus is on individualized products instead of the company’s catalogue, the production process needs to be changed. Products are being manufactured in a specific quantity and for one specific project only. The eFactory Platform assists furniture manufacturers with finding new production partners, suppliers and/or products.

The third pilot project concentrates on Agile Supply Networks in Circular Economy. Several European manufacturing companies are part of this project. Currently, these companies are using traditional ways of communication to manage their supply chain and business relationships. The main issues include the lack of waste tracking and tracing functionality and barriers for new innovative companies to enter the network. The eFactory Platform can help solve these issues. By implementing the Platform, new and innovative services can be offered and the visibility of the different production processes can be improved. In addition, SEMs receive new business opportunities and have the chance to become a part of the supply network.

Tasks of Fraunhofer FIT

Fraunhofer FIT is responsible for the technical management of the project. Moreover, FIT is accountable for the design and implementation of the Data Spine. Thanks to its longstanding experience and expertise in User-Centered Design, FIT will perform requirement analyses among the user group and interlink the pilot companies and the technical partners. Fraunhofer FIT emphasizes agile working methods to quickly react to new demands and ensure the effectivity of the eFactory Platform.

The project is being funded by the European Union as part of Horizon 2020.