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SmartFactoryKL Initiative: Developing the Manufacturing of Tomorrow

SmartFactoryKL Initiative: Developing the Manufacturing of Tomorrow
The SmartFactory is a non-profit organization that was established in 2005. Its objective is to work with industry specialists to develop the manufacturing and the factory of tomorrow. (Credit: SmartFactoryKL)

The German SmartFactoryKL network stands at the forefront of revolutionizing manufacturing processes. But what exactly is it, and how does it impact the future of production? We spoke with Teresa Petzche, Researcher at SmartFactory.

The SmartFactoryKL is a non-profit organization that was established in 2005. It is based at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence in Kaiserslautern. Its objective is to work with industry specialists to develop the manufacturing and the factory of tomorrow. It currently consists of 45 members including Siemens, Stäubli, B&R, Fujitsu, Rexroth, Makino and Yaskawa.

This initiative paves the way for a future where collaboration, efficiency, and sustainability converge.

Understanding SmartFactory

The SmartFactory initiative represents a collaborative effort to transform traditional factories into intelligent, interconnected hubs. Spearheaded by researchers, industry experts, and forward-thinking organizations, this initiative aims to address critical challenges faced by manufacturers worldwide.

The Challenge: Data Overload

Every company grapples with an overwhelming amount of data. From production metrics to supply chain information, the sheer volume can be paralyzing. The SmartFactory initiative recognizes this bottleneck and seeks to streamline data management. At Hannover Messe Press Preview, we met with Teresa Petzche, Researcher at SmartFactory. She told DirectIndustry, 

“Many companies face the challenge of managing vast amounts of data and diverse production processes. Our goal is to foster connectivity among factories, facilitating seamless integration across the company’s value chain and supply chain. We prioritize secure and trustworthy data sharing among stakeholders, which remains a significant challenge today. To address this, we’ve developed a concept of data spaces that enables efficient communication and sharing of data among stakeholders.”

Imagine a seamless network where factories communicate effortlessly. The SmartFactory initiative focuses on bridging the gap between a company’s value chain and its supply chain. By establishing secure and trustworthy data-sharing mechanisms, stakeholders along the entire production continuum can collaborate effectively.

Data Spaces: The Key to Collaboration

One of the cornerstones of the SmartFactory initiative is Gaia X. This European initiative aims to ensure trustworthiness and secure data exchange. It provides a framework for creating data rooms where sensitive information can flow seamlessly and safely between stakeholders. Whether it’s a product request or production insights, data spaces facilitate seamless and safe interactions.

Catena X and Manufacturing X are complementary concepts that enhance the entire manufacturing community. As an administration shell, they enable efficient data exchange, empowering stakeholders to make informed decisions.

Sustainability Also Matters

SmartFactory isn’t just about efficiency; it’s also about sustainability, and how sustainable practices can be seamlessly integrated into production processes. 

Resellers and Circular Economy

The researchers want to demonstrate how product resellers can reintegrate their products into the production cycle, explains Teresa:

“In our network, we offer a truck as an example product, allowing customers to select different components such as cabin color. Now, customers can also opt for reusable products with a smaller environmental footprint. The key opportunity for material reduction and enhanced sustainability lies in product reuse, eliminating the need for new production.” 

Digital Passports

The project focuses on both the circular economy and digital product passports. The digital passport showcases the product’s journey from inception to reuse.

For this part of the project, SmartFacorty is collaborating with Greenable, a German company that developed a Product Carbon Footprint Software.

For Alexander David, Co-Founder of Greenable,

“We are integrated into the Smart Factory network and specialize in calculating product footprints using our proprietary software. Specifically, we contribute to projects by providing product footprint data for inclusion in the digital product passport. Our focus lies within the automotive and manufacturing sectors, where we have developed tailored solutions to meet industry needs.”


During Hannover Messe Press Preview, we met other researchers working on eco-manufacturing and circular economy.

The AgiProbot project, led by the German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) aims to automate the disassembly of components for remanufacturing purposes.


Who Benefits?

The manufacturing world is the primary beneficiary of SmartFactory innovations. However, its impact extends beyond factories. Automotive and energy sectors, too, recognize the value of data-driven excellence.

The SmartFactoryKL will be demonstrating some of their solutions at Hannover Messe Hall 8, Stand D18.