For decades, the vast majority of consumer products have been produced in high volumes, using well-proven mass production techniques to help ensure lowest unit cost. Most manufacturing equipment was designed to maximize overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), rather than production flexibility. As a result, even “customized” products today are produced in batches numbered in the hundreds or thousands of units.
But increasing consumer demand for highly customized or even individualized products is driving the need for production runs as small as a single unit (“batch of one”). Also, the execution times between ordering and delivery are getting much shorter than in the past. For example, rather than having to wait several months for your individualized car to be produced, thanks to the emergence of new cyber-physical production systems, in the near future you should be able to pick up your custom-configured car at the dealer just a few days after ordering it.
RoboFill 4.0 Research Project
As we learned in a particularly interesting presentation on the RoboFill 4.0 research project at the recent ARC European Forum in Barcelona, a similar concept applies to more mundane consumer products, such as beer and other beverages. The multi-agent control concept plays a key role here for the automation side of this cyber-physical challenge and provides a glimpse of future applications across industry.
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Keywords: Manufacturing, Customization, Individualization, Multi-agent Control, Beer, Beverage Filling, RoboFill 4.0, ARC Advisory Group.