With the FlowFactory, a new PTW learning factory on an area of 500 m2 will be built on the Lichtwiese campus from summer 2021 until the beginning of 2023. The FlowFactory combines research, teaching and industry by means of applied research, practice-oriented teaching as well as knowledge transfer and cooperation utilization with industrial partners. Furthermore, the FlowFactory offers an innovative supply infrastructure, which enables flexible layout usage. In addition to a seminar room for students and industry partners, a Makerspace will be integrated into the learning factory. This offers an open teaching and research environment for students and researchers. All in all, the FlowFactory will provide an excellent infrastructure for exploring new technical and organizational implementation options for digitalized, lean production and logistics.
The logistical consistency of a multi-variant environment with customer-specific orders from goods receipt to goods issue is a unique selling point of FlowFactory. The focus is on customized one-off and small batch production and its research and improvement on the real process. As a complement to the Process Learning Factory (CiP), the focus is not on the transformation from workshop production to lean production, but on the further development of lean production systems for future requirements using the latest technological possibilities. Key topics here are the challenges of process and product standardization in make-to-order production, circular economy and Lean 4.0. In addition, end-to-end digitalization concepts for production, a lean logistics concept and the integration of a high-performance value stream are being pursued. The learning factory location Darmstadt is specifically strengthened by the FlowFactory. To design a realistic production environment with practical data for research there will be a weekly production.
The FlowFactory is currently being built based on three grants from funds of the IWB-EFRE program Hessian. First, the infrastructure of the FlowFactory is being created in the construction project Innovation Factory 4.0. Since 2021, the project core team has received EFRE personnel funding for the concept development of the FlowFactory. To design the interior of the FlowFactory, subprojects in the CiP and MiP research groups started at the beginning of 2022. The interior design of the FlowFactory is funded by the EFRE project InFlow. Central to the design of the production environment is the selection of a suitable product, which has already been carried out methodically since the beginning of 2021. Based on the research goals, an own product was developed at PTW – the so-called Smart Office Station. This is an organizer for the desk, which is intended to facilitate everyday office life through various modules. In addition, the product can be customized. The value stream of innovative single-item production can be mapped with this product. It includes machining processes such as sawing and milling, laser processing, additive processes and assembly. Also integrated into this value stream is a flow of materials and information through forward-looking methods of storage, transport and provision of materials. Artificial intelligence and automation applications support the production process.
The project is supported by the three projects Innovation Factory 4.0 (FPG992 0003/2019), personnel funding for concept development for production research in the Innovation Factory 4.0 (FPG990) and infrastructure for the FlowFactory (REACT-EU: Development and expansion of research and innovation infrastructure at universities and non-university research institutions, FPG968).
The projects are supported by funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union within the framework of the IWB-EFRE Hessen.
REACT-EU Project Infrastructure for the FlowFactory – This project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Union's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We gratefully acknowledge the funding of the FlowFactory project based on these projects.