Source: Fotolia 85258358

Industry 4.0

as an example of Decentralized Production Control for the Automotive Industry

In the past, industrial production processes have generally been organized along hierarchical lines. Planning is carried out at the top levels of the organizational hierarchy. Decision-making involves a significant degree of freedom and a low level of detail. As a result, they are only networked from the top down, but not across hierarchy levels. The SMART FACE research project addresses this situation by working with companies from a range of industries to develop solution concepts.

The significance of process key performance indicators (KPIs) is subject to continuous reweighting. There will be a much greater need for self-organizing adjustment of current objectives than is the case at present. The same is true for the planning and production process in the automotive industry, where no vehicle is the same as another these days. Optimization will be based on changing KPIs with a much greater degree of self-organization.

Linking the Physical World and Virtual World

The principle of the Internet of Things (IoT) will advance the creation of new organizational structures. To acquire the necessary information, individual things – known as cyber-physical systems (CPSs) – will perceive their environment using sensors. Cameras, distance meters and other sensors will capture their surroundings. The resulting information will either be processed on-board or transmitted to software services. This enables the CPSs to autonomously make decisions, including those based on KPIs, and to organize themselves.

Today‘s Internet is all about networking humans and IT systems. Tiny IT systems with the capabilities of earlier desktop computers can now be almost invisibly attached to objects. This enables any objects to be equipped with the computing power that allows the objects to be networked with one another.

Objects and IT Systems merge together. Provided that decision algorithms can be executed in the IT systems, it is possible for the objects to have local decision-making capability. In future, production processes will involve networked working by humans, IT systems and objects. 


Copyright: PSI FLS


This networking will help resolve the apparent contradiction between the variety of production orders and efficient organization of production processes.

SMART FACE combines industry, IT and logistics 

To prove that this is not just fiction, a consortium made up of automotive manufacturers and suppliers, logistics and IT providers and institutions involved in applied and direct research has set up the SMART FACE project. SMART FACE is a research project that is part of „Autonomik 4.0“, a technology program for autonomous systems backed by the German Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy

The Thinking behind SMART FACE 

In the past, the planning process in automotive production involved several hierarchy levels. First of all, annual planning defines the planned figures for annual sales. These are used to derive the annual requirements for the parts and components that can be determined from the bills of materials. At this point, the planning scope is extensive, but starts to reduce at this level of the decision-making hierarchy. Monthly planning sets out the long-term delivery contracts and the delivery quantities for suppliers. At the same time, rough-cut planning of resources is carried out in the ERP system. At this stage, the possible planning scope is reduced again, although there is still a relatively high degree of freedom.

The next step is to derive the weekly planning from the monthly planning. This involves preliminary planning of the production sequence on production lines. The delivery calls at sequence and time slot level are then passed on to suppliers. Changes are still possible, but the amount of work involved increases. In the daily planning, the resources are then specified and frozen. The sequence of orders is specified in terms of time and location within a shift. All supplier processes are precisely scheduled. Any fault or the need to change a sequence requires a great deal of work, which can lead to stoppages of the production process.

The aim of the SMART FACE project is to replace the scheduling from daily planning with a self-organizing CPS. An order pool is processed autonomously within a time window. The result is a volume cycle (i.e. a production volume per time slice). This implements one of the key visions of Industry 4.0, namely „individualization (batch size 1) with the economic conditions of a mass producer.“ The planning scope in the production process increases again.

Series production based on the Internet of Things principle no longer has any production lines. Production and assembly stations are set up „in the open.“ Supply vehicles transport the components or parts to be fitted from a warehouse to the production stations. Depending on the assembly progress, part-finished orders are either moved on self-transporting platforms or by a driverless transport system. The numerous decisions that the autonomous units have to make are calculated based on KPIs using multicriteria decision optimization. The current KPI values are taken into account and decisions are based not only on the perspective of the global objectives of the production process but also on a local order, component and part view. Humans act as cognitive all-rounders that monitor the process and guarantee the flexibility of the entire system.

Industry 4.0 magazine 2016 

Industry 4.0 magazine 2015

Industry 4.0 magazine 2014