Exor International showcases Industry 4.0 smart factory

by Joseph K. Clark

Intel has combined forces with hardware manufacturer Exor International and Telecom Italia to develop an innovative manufacturing facility that uses 5G networking and artificial intelligence (AI).

According to McKinsey, more than 50 billion devices will be connected to the industrial internet of things (IIoT) by 2025, generating 79ZB (zettabytes) of data annually.

Intel said manufacturers evaluated ways to utilize IIoT technologies such as AI and 5G to reduce maintenance and energy costs and improve workforce productivity. However, they were still trying to see the actual business benefits of deploying intelligent factory technologies.

International showcases

Intel, Exor, and Telecom Italia have teamed up to build an end-to-end smart factory in Verona, Italy, in a bid to showcase the benefits of Industry 4.0 digitization to manufacturers.

“We built this smart factory from the ground up to take advantage of the latest 5G and AI technologies from Intel and Telecom Italia,” said Exor International’s chief technical officer, Claudio Ambra.

“Our smart factory in Verona will demonstrate that digitization can happen at any scale. This is increasingly important for small and mid-sized manufacturers who are looking to stay innovative and competitive in the market,” he added. “We can’t wait to share what is now possible for manufacturers of all sizes with Industry 4.0 solutions.”

Through the collaboration, Exor said it would open a portion of its intelligent factory floor and 5G laboratory to other companies to prove how they can move to Industry 4.0 with wireless communication.

“Our smart factory in Verona will demonstrate that digitization can happen at any scale. We can’t wait to share what is now possible for manufacturers of all sizes with Industry 4.0 solutions.”

Claudio Ambra, Exor Internationa

Exor also plans to pilot a visual quality inspection machine based on Intel’s Movidius VPU (vision processing unit) and OpenVINO deep learning framework. This will be used to flag and classify defects, dust, and scratches automatically in near real-time.

5G will be used for internal communications in the companies described as an “extreme factory design setup”.  The 5G network will be used to test peer-to-peer communications via industrial robots. The impact of 5G on edge computing cluster connectivity versus wired connections will also be assessed.

Other Industry 4.0 application areas being piloted include autonomous human resources. Such technology aims to allow the factory to react to orders and employee availability in real-time.

Intel, Exon International, and Telecom Italia said they were also looking at innovative factory technologies to improve weekly planning and ensure that supplies, components, and documentation are in order and ready for production.

The final part of the intelligent factory collaboration is real-time updates on order status and work-in-progress advancements, regardless of order size. “We’re seeing Industry 4.0 adoption accelerating and hearing from customers that they are interested in understanding how 5G and AI can speed up their digital transformation,” said Christine Boles, vice-president in the internet of things group and general manager of the industrial solutions division at Intel.

“Exor’s new smart factory is a great example of how deploying solutions based upon standards with open architectures can help lower maintenance costs, increase productivity and take advantage of new business opportunities,” she added.

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