Smart and intelligent into the future

SmartFactory model as an outstanding topic for the future for print

By Andreas Weber, CEO INKISH D-A-CH 

With the 'Learn-with-us' webinar series in mid-September 2020, the INKISH competence team for the Smart Factory not only set standards, but also opened up the most important topic of the future for the printing industry and printers in the context of Industry 4.0 for the production of printed matter of all kinds. 

Jacques Michiels, CEO INKISH BENELUX, who designed and executed the international webinar together with Yves d'Aviau de Ternay, CEO INKISH France, and Morten B. Reitoft, INKISH HQ, was especially available for INKISH D-A-CH in an interview

The aim of the discussion is to flesh out the results and, above all, to make them clear to print professionals and print shop entrepreneurs who have not yet been intensively involved with Industry 4.0 and smart factory issues.  

Smart Factory: What exactly does this mean?

The term Smart Factory concerns manufacturing technology based on Industry 4.0 standards, as they were defined programmatically in Germany some 10 years ago. This is the vision of a production environment in which production plants and logistics systems largely organize themselves without human intervention in order to produce the desired products. 

A definition commonly used in Wikipedia reads: "The networking of embedded production systems and dynamic business and engineering processes enables profitable production of products, even in the case of individual customer requirements up to batch size 1. The technical basis is cyber-physical systems, which means both physical manufacturing objects and their virtual image in a centralized system. In the broader context, the Internet of Things is often mentioned. 

Part of this future scenario is still communication between the product (e.g. workpiece) and the production plant." According to Jacques Michiels, this means for the printing industry that the focus is transferred from the usual optimization and digitization of internal value creation and manufacturing processes beyond the closed production environment to open, networked Industry 4.0 solution scenarios in the sense of Print 4.0. 

The following aspects are relevant:

- Printers are realigning with end-to-end connectivity and improving their flexibility, time-to-market and go-to market to meet changing customer needs much better and more contemporary. 

- All types of printers (small, medium and large) can create their specific smart factory solution. The starting point and basis is the introduction and optimal use of MIS/ERP systems.  

- There is no smart factory concept for everyone, but an unlimited variety of individually designed possibilities according to your own business principle. 

- It is possible to isolate certain operating divisions and switch to smart factory. 

- The type of products or market segments, the printers each produce or address, do not play a role at the foregoing. It is crucial to thoroughly evaluate in advance what makes the most sense for the respective print shop and thus is effective. 

- The approach to implement smart factory solutions must always be agile and iterative.  

- This results in 10 Building blocks or Fields of action (see Chart 1) 

- Functional technology offerings for the realization of the Smart Factory are available through a large number of providers from the hardware, software and cloud sectors. These include established press manufacturers (offset and digital printing) as well as newcomers, start-ups and platform specialists. 

- Digital printing offers the best prospects by using variable data at Smart Factory, as the principle of mass-customization can then be followed. In any case, Print 4.0 changes and optimizes value creation (see Chart 2)

The Print 4.0 concept creates the following opportunities for redesigning value creation in the sense of a value chain 4.0:

- Printing companies 4.0 recognize that their ability to constantly reinvent a competitive advantage depends less on their internal capabilities than on their ability to reach networks of business partners. 

- An isolated print shop will give way to virtual business networks. 

- Decentralized, digitized, but also autonomous printing companies 4.0 of the future will join forces with companies in other industries, often from the high-tech sector, to combine their key competencies.

In total: Print 4.0 offers the opportunity for print companies to redefine their organization and business model.

Jacques Michels and his INKISH colleagues will continue to follow the issue. A learn-with-us webinar series is planned for mid-November 2020 to present and discuss smart factory concepts specifically for requirements in North America as the largest print market in the world. Further impulses are provided and new insights are gathered from this. 

Note:  In any case, it is worth replaying on INKISH.TV to watch the previous webinar sessions.