Smart automation technology for both one-off and mass production

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Changing conditions are forcing the wood and furniture industries to adapt in many ways. For example, market demand for one-off production is on the rise, and industry needs to deliver on this without compromising quality, efficiency or flexibility. The same goes for optimizing resource consumption and the long-term traceability of the components and materials used. In order to meet these and other challenges, it is essential that wood and furniture industry professionals as well as mechanical engineering and automation specialists pool their expertise and together develop suitably networked and integrated approaches to manufacturing.

The place where it all comes together is LIGNA – the world’s leading trade fair for the forestry and wood industries. At LIGNA’s next staging (11 to 15 May 2015), exhibitors will be providing a comprehensive and revealing look at how cutting-edge networked production is already possible today. The most important innovations and solutions for smart manufacturing will be on display, giving tangible shape to the “Smart Factory” vision for woodworkers, wood processors and furniture makers.

Smart manufacturing at every link in the chain
Custom production of one-off furniture items requires a high degree of process reliability. System availability, throughput speed and processing performance must be in tune to ensure quality and efficiency. This requires very precise measurement technology as well as a high degree of automation. Each individual assembly needs to perform dependably, and communication between the various machines has to be seamless, also right on through to the planning and marketing phases.

Smart automation solutions in the wood and furniture industry can enable manufacturing facilities to autonomously predict tool wear in advance, reduce emissions, optimize energy consumption through tailored assembly control, and prevent production flaws. Downtimes, manual adjustments and scrap are minimized, machine operating convenience and service life are improved, through-times are optimized, and productivity and energy efficiency raised – all without higher automation technology costs.

PC-based control as the core technology
Smart automation technology thus contributes significantly to making furniture manufacturing more flexible, efficient and sustainable. Already today, existing and new plants can be equipped with the core technology, which is PC-based and open system. Thanks to advanced telecommunications, data from every link of the production planning and manufacturing chain can be seamlessly exchanged in real time.

So far, only applications of limited scale can benefit from the above technology. Currently available PC computing power cannot yet cope with the necessary volumes of data to control complex machines and systems. However, automation specialists are already working closely with their partners on promising new concepts, using a combination of leading-edge hardware and software to develop smart, high-performance system solutions that can connect to processing facilities with minimal custom programming.

Christian Pfeiffer, head of the LIGNA department at Deutsche Messe, explains the need: “The major challenge for the future is to create an optimal control architecture to meet the complex requirements of the Smart Factory. Ideally this means both the horizontal networking of the process parameters for each individual step – e.g. order receipt, planning, manufacturing, logistics and distribution – as well as vertical integration of all data flows, embracing everything from the raw materials used right on up to the end of the product lifecycle.”

Next May, international automation specialists and machine builders will be presenting their latest developments and pilot applications exclusively at LIGNA. This technology showcase for networked manufacturing offers practical guidance to companies of all sizes in search of the best ways to implement smart manufacturing. Smart, self-optimizing plant and equipment make it possible for the wood and furniture industries to score tremendous gains in terms of quality, competitiveness and flexibility.


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