The digital factory is a standard for the virtual planning and management of factories and plants. The fundamentals of the digital factory are defined in the VDI guideline 4499 sheet 1: 2008-02 as a “generic term for a comprehensive network of digital models and methods, including simulation and 3D visualization. Its purpose is the holistic planning, implementation, control and continuous improvement of all essential factory processes and resources in connection with the product. "
On the one hand, the digital factory is understood to be an image of the real factory in order to visualize, simulate and thus better understand the processes taking place in it. On the other hand, the digital factory is defined as the entirety of all employees, software tools and processes that are necessary to create virtual and real production.
Basically, a digital factory is roughly the optimization of the customer order process (KAP). The focus is on increasing flexibility, speed, efficiency and sustainability.
Digital factory vs. virtual production
Furthermore, a distinction must be made between the tools and methods of the digital factory and the vision of virtual production or virtual logistics .
The virtual production refers to the "[...] consistent, experimenting enabled planning, evaluation and control of production processes and systems using digital models." The concept of virtual logistics describes the software-supported planning of logistics processes and structures.
The scope of the digital factory is the production planning phase within the product life cycle. During this phase, the main operating cost blocks are determined.
Its purpose is the holistic planning , implementation, control and continuous improvement of all essential factory processes and resources in connection with the product (e.g. motor vehicle , aircraft ).
With the methods of the digital factory , the area of activity between product development and production control is closed.
The digital factory does not only consist of software . The digital factory must be seen in the overall context of the company and can thus be divided into four levels of the digital factory:
- Database / data core,
- Integration platform,
- Organization and planning workflow.
The aim of the digital factory is to standardize proven methods, processes and resources so that they can be used again as planning modules for another product or for the successor model. This usually requires a revision of the existing processes and organization.
The digital factory is characterized by data consistency based on standard interfaces. Another feature is the shared use of virtual factory models, which enables different departments to work simultaneously. With the help of digital tools, the process overview, costs, time expenditure and communication are improved. The smart factory is a further development of the digital factory.
The goals and methods of the digital factory support the goals and methods of the Lean philosophy.
Thrusts of the digital factory
When redesigning processes, the four thrusts of the digital factory should be addressed :
- the common database to reduce redundant data,
- the standardization of processes, resources and equipment,
- the consistent clarification of task, competence and responsibility across the process chain in a cross-trade, integrating process, as well
- the possibilities for automation are respected.
The tasks of the digital factory
The tasks of the digital factory include:
- Transfer of product planning data,
- Process time planning,
- Planning of production processes,
- Planning of the equipment (design proposal, determination of the number),
- Resource planning,
- Layout planning of the plant and the workplaces,
- Cost assessment, as well
- Securing the planning results,
- Transfer of planning data to the company.
The added value of the digital factory is not only that the costs of purchasing parts and systems are reduced, but also offers considerable advantages in terms of maintenance, flexibility and reliability. Routine planning activities are transferred to the software .
All those involved in the planning process carry out their tasks on the computer and are networked through workflows . Progress in the planning process is made measurable at specified times. This ensures the availability of the required data at the right time, in the right detail and in the right context.
All relevant planning data (product, process, resource) are only recorded once by the departments involved and managed by a database . They are always available in the current form for every planner, and in the future also for suppliers , equipment suppliers and service providers . The main objective is to be able to use the data for new models very early, for example to make a cost estimate.
However , today (mid-2006) the digital factory has not established itself as a planning system across the board in the manufacturing industry. So far, only large companies have trusted the new technology. The reasons for this are too high costs and the unclear benefit. Furthermore, there is a lack of user acceptance in many areas in day-to-day operations.
The prerequisite for the success of the digital factory is the unrestricted support of the entire management management and the use of the DF as a company philosophy.
Some examples of digital factory applications are the following programs. They are currently used in industry and try to do justice to the model of the digital factory as much as possible.
Requirements for the digital factory
The fundamental requirement for the digital factory is its versatility. In the context of this, however, the requirements of the elements involved must be taken into account:
- Production and value creation system
- Uwe Bracht, Dieter Geckler, Sigrid Wenzel: Digital Factory - Methods and Practical Examples , 2nd edition, Springer, 2018.
- Uwe Bracht, Thomas Pauleser, Arno Filter, Carsten Böhle, ( Heinz Nixdorf Institute ): Planning and changing system data in the context of the digital factory. in: ZWF magazine for economic factory operation , pp. 194–199. 2009.
- Tanja Mansfeld: Simulation: technical and professional didactic innovations in metal and electrotechnical domains , Berlin 2013, full text online ; PDF, free of charge, 269 pages, 4 , 52 MB)). (Dissertation TU Berlin 2013, 269 pages, reviewers: Friedhelm Schütte and Alfred Riedl (
- Planning of machines and systems for the digital factory: Article at the Chair for Factory Automation and Assembly / University of Siegen ( Memento from December 19, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
- 20 years of the digital factory - anniversary colloquium at the TU Clausthal. Retrieved June 5, 2019 .
- Smart Factory: What will tomorrow's production look like? Retrieved October 9, 2019 .
- VDI: Digital Factory Basics VDI Guideline 4499, Part 1, VDI GUIDELINES February 2008, p. 3.
- See Michael F. Zäh, Christian Patron, Thomas Fusch: Die Digitale Fabrik. Definition and fields of action. Magazine for economical factory operations. Vol. 98, No. 3, 2003, , pp. 75-77.
- Gunther Reinhard, S. Grundwald, F. Rick: Virtual production - producing virtual products in the computer. In: VDI-Z integrated production. Vol. 141, No. 12, 1999, , pp. 26-29.
- VR glasses accelerate auto development - auto. Retrieved June 5, 2019 .
- Cf. Markus Schneider: Virtual logistics in the automotive industry. Software-supported planning of logistic processes and structures (part 2). In: magazine for economical factory operation. Vol. 102, No. 3, 2007, pp. 164-168.
- Digital factory and industry of the future. Retrieved February 20, 2020 .
- Clausthal University of Technology .: The Lean Factory taking into account the digital factory . Aachen, ISBN 978-3-8440-4934-3 .