The design, development, and manufacture of a new electric vehicle (EV) is a time consuming and costly operation. The vehicle itself needs to be developed on a digital drawing board before a prototype must be designed and go through extensive feasibility testing. Even if you are working at a relatively rapid pace, this process could take months at the least to be completed. The next stage is to develop custom pressing tools before mass production can begin and once you have started up your production line, any tweak to the design or change in hardware can be costly, potentially setting a project back weeks and months.
What if you could undergo this entire process at a much faster speed, reduce traditional development times up to 90% and incur just one tenth of the usual investments in factory and production technology? Sound impossible? The majority of articles you will read around the topic of Industry 4.0 will probably tell you that’s it not. They’ll probably tell you that it can be achieved – but they’ll probably tell you that the manufacturing industry is 10-20 years away from this being a reality – not this article.
For that’s exactly what German e-mobility start-up e.GO has achieved with its unique urban EV which weighs less than 900 kilos and is just three-and-a-half metres long. What makes this project so significant is the use of Industry 4.0 manufacturing methods which enabled agile production with relatively low capital investment.
Bridging the gap
On the face of it, e.GO has the same manufacturing software available to it as any other business and is an avid user of systems for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), CAD (Computer Aided Design), CAQ (Computer Aided Quality Management) amongst other things. However, too often software, machinery and equipment are operated in isolation, making it a challenge for plant managers to identify any loopholes affecting production. While data may be collected and analysed from disparate systems, rarely if ever is it pooled together to present one holistic view of the production environment, bridging the communication gap that is so far holding up Industry 4.0 progression.
e.Go adopted the Elisa Smart Factory solution to overcome this challenge and streamline the production process. The solution obtains data from various sources, analyses it in real-time and optimises it to identify any potential problems or production bottlenecks. It can then perform predictive maintenance or predictive failure detection. The next step is to use this newly created virtual data lake to create a digital twin of the production environment. The twin can be used to make real-time decisions affecting logistics and process optimisation driven by the Internet of Things (IoT), helping e.GO reach new levels of efficiency and productivity.
Streamlining complex operations
For e.GO, this bridge in device communication is essential to operating a complex production line in the leanest and most effective way possible. The company follows a multi-stage production process which is carried out in discrete steps, with the final end product having significant quality variations.
By creating a digital twin of the factory, the company is able to perform more advanced traceability, connecting process measurement data to individual projects, with Elisa Smart Factory utilising machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to more accurately forecast outcomes and establish the best operational processes for the production line. This enables e.GO to flex and adjust production as it needs, without incurring significant extra costs and extending production times.
For many across manufacturing, true realisation of Industry 4.0 is still considered some time away, with lots of businesses still operating labour-intensive, manual processes to plug the gaps in shopfloor communication. However, as e.GO’s use of Elisa Smart Factory demonstrates, bridging the gap can not only drive efficiencies and production improvement, it can also significantly accelerate time-to-market, even for upcoming challenger brands.
Inspired? To find out more about Elisa Smart Factory and how it can help bridge the communication gap in your factory, send me a message today.