Even before the Swiss Smart Factory (SSF) – one of the four research fields of the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne (SIPBB) – as the first department moves into the new building in autumn 2020, the first milestones will have been reached in the provisional location in Ipsach. The lighthouse project is intended to show how Industry 4.0 can already work today with an entire production ecosystem. The initiator of the project is the Swiss Smart Factory of the SIPBB. The team collaborating with research director Dominic Gorecky and project manager Michael Wendling, as well as the SSF network, provide the know-how required. The Association for the Promotion of the "Swiss Smart Factory" (FV-SSF) already has 50 members and 40 of these are cooperating in the lighthouse project.
An ecosystem that shows how Industry 4.0 works
The lighthouse project is intended to work like an idea supermarket for companies that would like to digitalise. This is because many technologies in the digitalisation field are invisible due to software components and the final result seldom if ever tells you anything the individual functional steps. With the lighthouse project, we are headed in the direction of the "glass factory" and visitors to the SSF can track the entire production along the production ecosystem – from product design to packaging – the entire product life cycle. The big challenge here is to show this networking in production. We make this possible through virtual reality and augmented reality as well as floor marking and light effects.
Optimal cooperation through data consistency
To develop smart production and achieve higher added value, technologies are not only used on their own, but also together. Our focus here is not just on the machines, but rather the entire environment – building, infrastructure and machines. Thanks to this comprehensive data consistency of all work steps, information flows from developer to developer; from the developer to the machine; from the machine to the product; from the product to the customer and from customer back to the manufacturer.
Pragmatic, creative and cost-efficient
You can certainly deliver pizza with a Ferrari, but it definitely would not be the most efficient way. We have to be pragmatic (i.e. rather take the Fiat) and creative to find a solution that is simple in design, can be integrated and is cost-efficient.
Our out-of-the-box thinking permits us to perform test runs without causing huge investments at the company.
What is important in the lighthouse project is the fact that it is never the product (in the first phase of the project a drone), but always the means of production that takes pride of place. Whether drones or shoes are produced is irrelevant here.
The SSF as key location for exchanges between research and industry
The fear threshold relating to subjects like the cloud and collaborative robotics, etc. is still relatively high. Companies recognise the value of these technologies, but do not use them. We want to create trust here and establish an exchange of information between industry, companies and research with the lighthouse project. The SSF plays a crucial role in this regard in the information transfers for companies that want to define their own production environment and benefit from the ecosystem with its 40 partners.
We want to inform, create enthusiasm, train and be able to present the first proof of concept with companies. We want to inspire companies to get to grips with the value of these technologies through the lighthouse project.
Production should once again occur to an increased extent in Switzerland as a result of Industry 4.0 technologies.
The drivers and partners behind the initiative
The canton of Bern has a great interest in the lighthouse project as the canton with the strongest industrial base. The canton of Bern stands behind the initiative together with the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne and supports the lighthouse project as an innovative prestige project for partners and companies. In the factory hall – the centrepiece of the new SIPBB building – it will receive the best area and also be visible to passers-by from outside.
A consortium of organisations – companies, associations, research institutes and schools – have also affiliated themselves with the lighthouse project.
40 of the approximately 50 partners of the Association for the Promotion of the "Swiss Smart Factory" (FV-SSF) are taking part. For the most part, these are technology providers that offer operation technology (OT) components as well as IT partners that facilitate communication between the various means of production – so-called "networking software". In addition, universities like BFH and technical colleges like HFTM are involved.
Time axes and milestones
The lighthouse project kicked off in January 2019 and will last two years. In the first year, we analysed how we could involve the 40 partner companies in the project.
Since summer 2019, we have been developing the first production units to facilitate the basic production operations for the drone. We want to have completed the first development phase by the opening of the new building (January 2021).
Currently, we do not yet have a complete production ecosystem. However, with the various technology demonstrators we can already present an almost real production environment.
Our appearance at the Swiss technology trade fair Sindex in September 2020 will be a milestone for development stage 0.5. After one-and-a-half year's project time, we will for the first time show what we have developed and achieved together with our partners and the SSF.
In the future, we want to exhibit every year in late summer/autumn to show where the evolution of Industry 4.0 is and what we have further developed with our partners.
New communication approach with tutorials and manufacturer-independent marketing showcase
The SSF is already very well known and receives numerous visitors every year, who come to us on account of our marketing activities or the recommendations by the Bern local business development association or by the Greater Geneva Bern (GGBa). As a result, the lighthouse project provides all of the organisations involved with an excellent advertising showcase and not a manufacturer-specific showroom. For the first time, the SSF will be using tutorials at the lighthouse project in order to present the production system and in order to be able to present the lighthouse project optimally in social media channels.
Interview: Leila Chaabane, Marketing-Communication SIPBB, with Project manager Michael Wendling