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The road to Industry 4.0

Small and Medium Enterprise Factories (SME) are lagging behind in terms of digitalisation, but the DigiFab project can help them.

Olav Johan Øye Published: Updated:

In Norway, small and medium-sized industrial enterprises are struggling with a low level of automation and digitalisation, while countries like Denmark are at the forefront.

It is therefore important to find out how they can digitalise production to become competitive without this being too costly.

The smart factory

The DigiFab project analyses the current situation to provide a digital picture of production in small and medium-sized businesses.

Bilde fra Industri 4.0-laboratoriet

This will result in an efficient roadmap towards Industry 4.0, also known as the ‘smart factory’.

The process is all about automation and the sharing of data, including cyber-physical systems (CPS), the internet of things, cloud technology and cognitive data processing.

DigiFab has received NOK 4.5 million from the Research Council of Norway. The project was started in November last year and will continue for three years.

Ingvild Jensen from Q3 is the project manager, and the research group ARIS – Automation, Robotics and Intelligent Systems at the Department of Mechanical, Electronic and Chemical Engineering at OsloMet is also involved in the project.

DigiFab makes it cheaper

‘We use new technology to make the process cheaper and as automated as possible so as to help businesses find the fastest road to Industry 4.0,’ explains Associate Professor Alex Alcocer, who is part of the research group.

Part of the project concerns building a digital 'twin' that is not too expensive and can be used by small and medium-sized businesses.

A digital twin is a digital copy of a company that can simulate and optimise current processes, such as flow processes and supplier processes, and calculate investments.

At present, developing a digital twin can be very costly and it is often only big companies with more resources that use them.

Competes better with robots

‘We are now trying to find solutions with the help of robots, drones and sensor technologies that are cheaper than the current standard.’

‘For example, if you're going to make a 3D model of a factory plant that simulates a flow process, you would traditionally use laser scanners, which are incredibly expensive. Instead, we are trying to use drones equipped with RGB-D or time-of-flight cameras in order to make the 3D scanning autonomous and affordable.'

One part of the project is about how to use the digital twin in different companies so that they can grow and become more competitive, and raise their level of digital competence.

Businesses on board

DigiFab is cooperating with various businesses to develop solutions, including companies that make doors, plastic components for the oil and gas industry, and parts for leisure boats.

The businesses are all small, with less than 200 employees and their processes are similar, despite the fact that they work in different industries. Enterprise-specific services can also be developed through a network of suppliers.

One of the aims is to establish a business model for selling solutions to the businesses and follow this up with support.

Major gains from automation

‘We have a huge potential since labour in Norway is relatively expensive. This is why we have so much to gain from automation in order to be competitive with other countries,’ says Alex, who has a background in cybernetics and robotics, with a PhD in underwater robotics.

The funds from the Research Council of Norway will also be used to pay for student assistants and research time, so that, for example, students and staff at OsloMet can be part of the project.

A group of bachelor’s students at the Department of Mechanical, Electronic and Chemical Engineering are now working on DigiFab and will present their work on the Autonomy Day, 3 May 2018.

Industry 4.0 lab at OsloMet

The new Industry 4.0 laboratory at the Pilestredet campus will be used to develop and demonstrate the technology used in the DigiFab project.

Further information