Deloitte to build robot-powered smart factory at Wichita State
Deloitte and Wichita State University are building a new 60,000-square foot (5,500 square metre) smart factory showcase facility on Wichita State’s Innovation Campus, already sponsored by Deloitte, to include a full-scale production line, along with a partner space and lab facility.
The new facility, dubbed The Smart Factory @ Wichita, is presented as a ‘learning environment’. It will be integrated into the existing Innovation Campus, which includes 40-odd robots and cyber applications, 26 augmented and virtual realty (AR and VR) ‘assets’ and data visualisations, and 10 ‘types of’ 3D printers.
A statement also claims the campus hosts nine ‘reverse engineering machine types’ and 21 ‘professional engineering software programmes’. The new smart factory setup will bring together “the digital, physical, and experimental” for “educators, collaborators, and clients”, and “spark a dialogue” about Industry 4.0 viability.
There is no mention of cellular technology – whether LTE or 5G, either sliced from public networks or deployed in private spectrum – in the announcement. However, cellular connectivity is expected as part of the construction, which is scheduled to open it doors to clients, partners, and students next year.
A statement said: “A smart factory is a highly digitised and connected production facility that uses technologies such as AI, IoT and robotics to manufacture products. Working alongside humans, smart factories can self-adapt and autonomously optimise manufacturing operations.”
Deloitte said 86 percent of manufacturers reckon Industry 4.0 will be the main driver of competitiveness in five years. A recent study by the consultancy firm said early adopters of smart factory initiatives are seeing double-digit improvements in terms of labour productivity, factory utilisation, and production output.
The new building, at the Kansas based research institute, shown in the mockup-image at the top of the page, will be net carbon neutral, said Deloitte, without revealing precisely how its energy impact will be zero-rated.
The new production line at Wichita State will demonstrate the “art of the possible”, it said. STEM education interactive kits will be donated to local organisations in support of the firm’s STEM education initiatives, it said.
Nishita Henry, chief innovation officer at Deloitte Consulting, said: “Smart factory solutions are becoming even more important as companies re-evaluate the resiliency and agility of their supply chains, which can determine an organisation’s success in the marketplace and the success of entire ecosystems. Together with Wichita State, Deloitte will create a unique experience that captures the innovation, value proposition and disruptive technological capabilities of the smart factory.”
Jay Golden, president of Wichita State University, said: “Wichita is a cutting-edge hub for precision manufacturing and technology. By collaborating with Deloitte, we will be able to bring together the organisation’s experience with our educational, research and innovation capabilities. The [new facility] is the future, offering endless technological capabilities for organisations, as we believe it’s critical to provide a hands-on learning experience for our business and academic communities.”