Automotive supplier Faurecia recently unveiled a new manufacturing facility that represents the company’s push into Industry 4.0, the data-driven, automated and connected promised land of the manufacturing sector. The $64 million, 400 000-sq-ft facility in Columbus, Indiana is set to produce a new emissions control technology (ECT) product for the commercial vehicle industry.
The Technology of Columbus South
So what exactly is 4.0 about Columbus South? Here’s a rundown of some of the technologies and systems in place in the new facility:
* Quality Control: Laser scanning for early detection of variation.
* Transportation: Component parts will move through the facility on self-learning autonomous intelligent vehicles (AIVs) to reach the assembly line.
* Data…lots of data: The facility equipment will continuously collect and share data using the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). So much data will be collected that Faurecia will hire a full-time, on-site mathematician to mine it for insights and to forecast equipment failures.
* Collaborative robots: Cobots, as they’re colloquially known, are robots designed to physically interact with humans in a work environment. Columbus South will boast a combination of collaborative robots – a veritable cobot combo.
The Future of Manufacturing
“Columbus South isn’t only about the product and the processes,” said Faurecia’s North American ECT president Dave DeGraaf. “People have been an important part of the equation. Ultimately, these advanced technologies, like the AIVs and cobots, will enable employees to work more efficiently, experience less physical stress and improve work-life balance.”
If the systems work as promised, there’s no doubt that the automated and assisting technologies will improve the employee’s work experience. Who wouldn’t want a friendly cobot to fetch them a cup of coffee? Then again, if the robots or self-learning AIV’s aren’t as helpful as advertised (picture Siri in physical form), they may end up doing more harm than good. Just imagine: What if your cobot brings you decaf?
There’s no doubt we’ll eventually make good on our technological promises for Industry 4.0. But Faurecia claims to be the first company to incorporate all of these technologies into a single manufacturing facility, which means there’s likely a bit of trial-and-error needed to iron out the kinks.
But somebody’s got to be the first to do it, and Faurecia is proud to help kick off the future of the manufacturing industry.
“Manufacturing is sometimes stereotyped as dirty and requiring few skills,” said DeGraaf. “Columbus South contributes to the shifting landscape of the industry to one that is modern, clean and technologically advanced, and aimed at attracting a new generation of employees with different and advanced skillsets.”