The manufacturing factory of the future

Glen White
- Technology - Oct 31, 2014

German manufacturing is famed for its efficiency and its automotive sector is among the most successful in Europe. On a global scale Germany’s automotive manufacturing industry is the third largest in the world.

But with an aging population, the country is struggling to meet the demand for a skilled workforce that can continue to propel manufacturing forward.

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With this in mind, scientists at Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology in Saxony have developed a 17,000 square foot innovation hub in the city of Chemnitz. The “Factory of the Future” provides a space for researchers to experiment with new technologies and machinery in a bid to improve production processes. The factory is particularly committed to rethinking the role of humans in manufacturing lines.

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“The processes we are developing today are so much more complex,” says Professor Dirk Landgrebe, director of the institute. “The machines and resources are so much more sophisticated that we will need qualified people to handle these processes in the future.”

Virtual training on-site

As part of the new factory a state-of-the-art virtual environment has been installed where potential employees can test out the new technologies and intelligent systems, which are set to form the building blocks of German industry.

Employees enter a 3D room, which can take on the appearance of a factory or even a piece of equipment. By using a controller, the advanced technology detects head motion, adapts to movement and changes the user's view accordingly.

Funding innovation

Fraunhofer Institute is one of 70 institutions committed to researching and developing new ways to enhance Germany's industrial landscape. The German government is also involved in funding work that will eventually form the infrastructure of German production.

“Our task at Fraunhofer is to bring as much of our research as possible straight into industrial production,” says Matthia Putz, director at Fraunhofer Institute.

“We don't focus on reports, we develop new products and new technologies together with industrial partners,” he continues.

Germany's manufacturing industry has long held the standard for innovation, and even though it has faced challenges, it looks like “The Factory of the Future” may keep the country from losing its edge.

To find out more, watch this video.

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