Industrialization of the production

Article February 2020

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Logistics 4.0 and intelligent supply chain management in building industry

Have you ever asked yourself how 90 arriving trucks are handled in a factory every day and what a panel-transport to the site looks like? Our partner from Germany, the Department of Maritime and Logistics Studies of the Jade University of Applied Sciences deals with these and other questions relating to the inbound and outbound logistics organization that is needed for the design of our Smart Factory.

First calculations have shown that for the annual production of 15,000 elements 40 trucks per day will be arriving at the factory's incoming goods receipt, bringing the necessary inbound materials for the production machines. In the outgoing goods issue, there will be up to 50 trucks a day transporting the produced panels to the construction site. These enormous infrastructure conditions require precise planning and the latest logistics 4.0 methods in order to make the handling as fast as possible, sustainable and autonomous at the same time. The currently tested technologies include cyber-physical systems (software-driven mechanics, e.g. intelligent robots), the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

In inbound logistics, the challenge is to construct a separate transport and storage system for each material class, which connects the loading ramps to the warehouse and the production machines. The bundled materials have to be separated in the goods receipt and then stored individually in order to enable a just-in-sequence access from the production side. To make this possible, overhead crane systems, roller conveyors and pipelines should be used in the Smart Factory. It is planned that the transportation systems will be able to interlace with each other by using artificial intelligence and cloud computing technologies. This way the degree of production, the needed quantity as well as the stock requirements are known at any time and the flow of goods can be controlled.

In outbound logistics, much larger dimensions are considered for the already produced panels. This means that new transport and commissioning strategies have to be applied in order to handle all arriving trucks quickly and efficiently. To maintain a high degree of automation, it is also planned to abstain from manually operated forklifts. Currently, two methods are being analyzed. There is the possibility to use automated overhead crane systems for the truck loading, which transports the elements to the waiting trucks. The second option is that the trucks drive to the elements themselves and load them by using their own mobile cranes. We will keep you updated about which strategy and logistics will be chosen.

Contribution: Bennet Zander, Jade University of Applied Sciences, Germany

Article September 2019

Industrialization INDU-ZERO

Worldwide unique blueprint for industry 4.0 in construction

Artificial Intelligence provides unique opportunities to fully automate the work preparation process throughout the entire supply chain, making it possible to produce every home uniquely without failure costs and for substantially lower work preparation costs than with the current preparation of serial renovations. This is integrated in the industrialization process for the Smart Factory that INDU-ZERO is developing.

Industry 4.0 is seen as the 4th industrial revolution driven by 4 technologies: cyber-physical systems (software driven mechanics, e.g. intelligent robots), Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Computing and Cognitive Computing (driven by Artificial Intelligence, AI). The present construction sector is industrialized to a very limited extent and, where there is industrialization, it is limited to the level of the 3rd industrial revolution, that of digitization. This is a worldwide phenomenon. For the Netherlands and Europe and therefore also for INDU-ZERO, the 4th industrial revolution is a great opportunity to get hold of the huge competitive losses that have occurred in the internet age.

We have lost the battle for software to big tech in the USA and to Korea, referring to the sales ratios worldwide. We have lost industrialization to Asia. But Europe can win on the combination of the two: industry 4.0. Because in the EU we could be better at collaborating than in the USA and Asia. We have always been dependent on trade and cooperation in history.

With the Industry 4.0 drivers, we foresee that intelligent robotics, IoT and AI can play an important role in accelerating the energy transition. Intelligent robotics will ensure that failure costs are substantially reduced, waste is reduced to a minimum and production costs are substantially reduced. For IoT there are opportunities to substantially improve the residents' experience of a renovation, afterwards comfort is increased, energy and maintenance costs will be minimized and overdue maintenance prevented.

Partners in INDU-ZERO, Buro de Haan and Rc Panels, have already realized part of these developments at the factory in Lemelerveld in The Netherlands. In the factory highly efficient retrofit facades in a “file2factory” process are being produced. Each individual house is scanned in a detailed point cloud that is used in an advanced software system to manage the engineering, logistics and directly controlling the factories machines and robotics. This makes it possible to realize an upgrade of homes with an appearance that cannot be realized or is unaffordable with human masons.

Contribution: Lianda Sjerps-Koomen, RC Panels, the Netherlands 

Article June 2019

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The virtual reality component

Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) are used within the INDU-ZERO project in order to communicate designs, end-products and instructions with the right person using the right technology. Recreate (the Netherlands) is responsible for the realization of this aspect. It can be subdivided into the following five categories:

  1. Visualization of the end-products;
  2. Visualization of the production line;
  3. Instructions for operation of the production line and installation on site;
  4. Instructions for maintenance of the production line;
  5. Remote assistance.

The end-products refer to all elements that will be installed at the renovated houses. These include the elements which will be manufactured in the factory, but also the off the shelf parts such as solar panels and ventilation systems (to the extent that this is possible). Recreate has developed a platform for this purpose which needs to be tailored to the INDU-ZERO requirements.

The production line refers to the complete set of machinery which will be needed inside the factory in order to manufacture the facades and roofs. The (schematic) view of the production line in VR can be used to validate the layout, to test different setups and communicate designs. Recreate can accomplish these visualizations with the same platform, but further development will be needed. 

Operation instructions will be created in VR/AR/MR in order to prepare the work force for the operational tasks of the machinery. These instructions will allow them to get familiar with the machinery before the factory is realized. It is expected that a standard set of instructions can be developed in AR/MR for installation on site. These instructions will support the workers on site to install the renovation packages. In order to accomplish this, Recreate will develop a second platform.

Maintenance instructions in VR/AR/MR are required in order to prepare and support the work force for maintenance of the machinery of the production line. These instructions will make sure that the quality of the maintenance will be of a consistent level while also enabling a bigger pool of workers to perform the maintenance. Recreate will realize these instructions with further development of the second platform. 

Remote assisting functionalities will be explored in order to enable an expert off site to support the workers on site. This will start with video calls and several iterations will be needed in order to determine to what extent AR/MR can be added to this communication method. Recreate will develop an application which can be included in the previously mentioned platforms.

Contribution: Jeroen Schiphorst, Recreate, the Netherlands

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Article March 2019

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Smart solutions in logistics and assembly

Renovating buildings on a large scale requires a totally different way of looking at the production process. To renovate on this scale, we need to industrialize the production process. Despite the challenges, we, as Buro De Haan and RC panels, see opportunities to actively support and strengthen the INDU-ZERO project. We have become experienced in using Building Integrated Methods, connecting computer generated data directly to the building site and our production facilities and pull-production systems which enable us to produce large quantities efficiently on a small production floor space.

In our search for a solution, we are looking at production methods from other industries, such as the automotive industry, which has a long tradition in mass production and Lean production methods.

To make matters even more difficult, no existing house or building in the built environment is the same. The targeted buildings were built in a period when the dimensions were not all that accurate. Also, there is a big diversity in building style and external characteristics. 

Concluding, we need mass-production, but also customization. This is a great challenge, one which has not yet been tackled by the construction sector, a sector which is characterized by always being under financial pressure and strain to deliver positive results in time. 

At this moment we are working with our partners to find smart solutions in logistics and assembly to cause the inhabitants/users of the building as little inconvenience as possible. Already we are able to renovate the outer ‘husk’ of a row of houses in less than two days!

Contribution: Gert-Jan van der Veen, Buro De Haan, the Netherlands