Bosch intros Industry 4.0 plant in China, demos 5G factory with Nokia
German manufacturer Bosch has said it will open an Industry 4.0 reference factory in Xian, in China, by 2020. The new plant will produce control systems and linear motion technology, it said.
The announcement of the China initiative follows a parallel commitment to Mexico, last week, when it confirmed €100 million for a smart plant for electronic components in Celaya, central Mexico, to be completed by 2019. Mexico is the partner country for the 2018 Hannover Messe; German chancellor Angela Merkel praised Germany’s open trade with the country on Sunday, at the opening of the Hannover fair.
Bosch will create more than 1,200 jobs at the new location. “Industry 4.0 improves business processes and delivers higher productivity. That means we’re creating jobs, too,” said Stefan Hartung, member of the Bosch board of management.
Bosch also announced it will invest heavily in its Dresden plant, building a wafer fab that will start production by 2021. The plant will create 700 jobs and will be the company’s largest investment in company history of €1 billion.
At the same time, Bosch showed an extended smart-factory mock-up in Hannover, including a Nokia 5G network enabling real-time data exchange, and artificial intelligence (AI) pre-empting faults in industrial equipment and machinery.
Bosch used the Hannover event to present its new Nexeed software portfolio, which encompasses software and services for the entire smart factory value stream. “The factory of the future will get its intelligence from software – and from the brains of its workforce,” said Stefan Aßmann, who heads Bosch’s ‘connected industry’ unit.
The company said it has taken knowledge from its more than 270 plants and transformed it into software solutions. Its Nexeed ‘simplifier assistant’ connects multiple factories, production lines and supply chains. Its ‘production performance manager’ helps maintenance staff to make decisions quickly by gathering, ordering and rendering production and machine data from across the plant floor. Its ‘track-and-trace’ solution monitors the supply chain, with sensors fitted to the goods themselves reporting their position and condition via the cellular network to the cloud.
The company repeatedly emphasised the importance of human capital in machine-led future factory set-ups. “The factory of the future will get its intelligence from software – and from the brains of its workforce,” said Aßmann. “People, machines and data will make factories of the future.”
But process-driven menial tasks will go to machines, the company added, showing Pixar-style 3D avatars and 1.5 metre production robots at its booth in Hannover, alongside the Nokia 5G showcase. Bosch an AI-equipped version of table football, called KI-cker, where, apparently, “the intelligent interplay of drive and control technology with AI turns the goalkeeper and the field players into talented soccer pros.”
Machines will teach themselves new skills, said Rolf Najork, managing director of Bosch Rexroth. “We are already helping our customers optimise the management of their production lines and plants, but in the future, there will be even greater demand for flexibility, transparency, and speed.”
Bosch Rexroth, producing drive and control tech, has been a mainstay for the group, helping its parent to reverse two years of declining sales. The unit posted sales of €5.5 billion in 2017, up 10.4 per cent in the year.