Traverse City, Mich. — The internet of things has arrived at the factory.
French supplier Faurecia has invested $64 million to install a digital manufacturing system in a new factory in Columbus, Ind., said David DeGraaf, president of Faurecia Clean Mobility North America.
The 400,000-square-foot factory produces up to 880 emissions control systems per day for commercial trucks, said DeGraaf, who spoke July 31 at the CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
The factory, which opened last year, is the most digitally advanced facility in Faurecia's global network, DeGraaf said.
It is not an automated factory — but it is getting closer to it.
One hundred robots weld, move and scan components, while 30 autonomous vehicles move materials around the building. But perhaps the most important upgrade was the installation of 1.3 miles of fiber-optic cables.
The plant, which DeGraaf dubbed Industry 4.0, allows machinery to upload a stream of production data to the "lake" — a data storage system like the cloud, but controlled by Faurecia.
Faurecia monitors the data to control quality, schedule maintenance and spot potential problems before a breakdown occurs.
The plant, which has 450 employees, requires fewer unskilled workers, but more skilled people to monitor the machinery.
"We require a different skill set to operate a plant," DeGraaf said. "We have less direct labor, but more indirect labor. We are shifting from unskilled workers in manufacturing to the service industry."
Industry 4.0 already is established in some areas of the auto supply industry, said Rose Ryntz, vice president advanced development and material engineering for International Automotive Components. For IAC, 4.0 principles are well established for injection molding, but it's more complex when requirements for auto interior skin products comes into play. The process of adding a variety of skins, from natural leathers to thermoplastic polyurethane and curved shapes can be complicated.
"Think about sewing machines," she said. "When you think about a needle going up and down 10 times in a second, what kind of maintenance does it need for different materials or shapes?"
Rhoda Miel, news editor for Plastics News, contributed to this report. Automotive News is a sister publication of Plastics News.