The first demo Smart Factory opened in Slovenia

date: 13.06.2019

category: Sporočila za javnost


Ljubljana, 4 June 2019 – Today, the Laboratory for Handling, Assembly and Pneumatics at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering (University of Ljubljana) opened the Smart Factory demo centre, which is the only and one of a kind centre in Slovenia. It was made in parallel to the GOSTOP programme, the largest S4 Smart Specialisation Programme dealing with smart factories in Slovenia. The idea of a demo centre is in line with the fundamental idea of S4 smart specialisation, namely to demonstrate the innovative use and introduction of 4.0 Industry technologies and the smart factory concept in real industrial environment.

The Slovenian economy needs to digitalise all company processes in order to increase its competitive position. The Laboratory for Handling, Assembly and Pneumatics at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering (UL), guided by Prof. Dr. Niko Herakovič, developed its own architectural model of a future factory LASFA and successfully transferred it into a real-world laboratory environment and partly also into a realistic industrial setting. In doing so, focus has been placed on the efficiency of the production process. Compared to classic factories, smart factories are more efficient, intelligent, flexible, agile and most of all autonomous.

The “Smart Factory” demo centre has been built on the concept of distributed systems and includes all important key technologies that are vital for the operations of a smart factory. The backbone of a smart factory includes the global digital twin and global digital agent or, rather, artificial intelligence backed by machine vision. Every process and system has its own digital twin and one or more digital agents that control processes upon the support of artificial intelligence and solve problems automatically at local level, while all processes and activities are visualised and transparent. RFID technology provides the traceability of every process and provides communication between smart factory objects and subjects. In addition to robotic processes, the demo centre also includes a smart manual workplace, where it is possible to demonstrate various smart factory technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, digitalisation and transparency of instructions for assembly operations, adaptability of assembly stations and buffers, workplace ergonomics, etc. A smart factory in a demo environment hence provides fully flexible and agile as well as completely automatic planning and optimisation of a work plan and production process.

“We must be aware that organised production processes will in future be based on cyber connectivity, digital twins and digital agents, supported by artificial intelligence and other key Industry 4.0 technologies. By developing and establishing the centre, an innovative scientific research model has been set up as a demonstration of a modern and functional example of the digitalisation of production processes. Hence, we have opened the doors to industry representatives to see how individual processes in fact function and to find a common solution as to how to transfer digitalisation into their environment tailoring it to their needs,” explained Herakovič.

Valter Leban, MSc, of the Kolektor corporation added: “A smart factory can only be a factory that is able to learn in addition to carrying out pre-programmed tasks. A merely automated factory is, therefore, not a smart factory, since it does not operate under the sense-think-act principle.

Dr. Marjan Rihar, the Director of the Electronics and Electrical Industry Association at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Slovenia, highlighted the importance of the demo centre for the economy. “Our companies must undergo commercial changes and digital transformation, while raising the added value of their work, and it is the Association’s task to encourage primarily small enterprises to follow that trend. The new demo centre will enable that. We can achieve progress with joint efforts, making our companies not only followers, but also the leading players in their area of operations.”

Rudi Pajntar, the Director of the SRIP Factories of the Future, elaborated on the breakthrough area and the impact of the activities on the development of Slovenia. A smart factory is an association of people, machines, business and breakthrough technologies, which is a very complex process. “A smart factory reduces costs in the long run, which is why companies are encouraged to tackle it in the long term. If we manage to cooperate like so far, we will build many a thing. In future, we will try to bring in new technologies,” added Pajntar.

The smart specialisation steps already taken by Slovenia and its plans for the future were explained by Dr. Peter Wostner, Head of the Smart Specialisation Coordination Sector at the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy. He said that digital transformation was currently one of the most important topics for Slovenia and highlighted the importance and contribution of the demo centre as a good practice example.

The opening ceremony for the Smart Factory demo centre also included two lectures – the first one entitled The Purpose, Concept and Technologies of the Smart Factory at the Demo Centre was given by members of the Laboratory for Handling, Assembly and Pneumatics, while the other lecture was given by Dr. Marko Thaler of Kolektor Digital, who spoke of the future of smart factories.

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