Zwerenz, 12.04.2023, 4 min.

Smart Factory Trends 2023

  1. What does Smart Factory mean and what constitutes a "smart factory"?
  2. How has the smart factory developed in recent years? What are the current trends?
  3. What role does the concept of the digital twin play in the context of the Smart Factory?
  4. What is the significance of the Smart Factory at susietec®?
  5. How important is the Smart Factory concept in the future? What opportunities/challenges does it create?

What will the modern factory look like in 2023? In this interview with Frank Tannhäuser, Senior Sales Manager Manufacturing Automation at Kontron AIS, we take a closer look at the Smart Factory: we not only talk about current developments and trends, but also look in particular at the key factors of Industry 4.0 – in order to be able to survive in a world of growing challenges.


Frank Tannhäuser


Literally interpreted, Smart Factory means something like "intelligent factory". What does that mean in concrete terms? What constitutes a smart factory?

The Smart Factory is at the heart of Industry 4.0 and refers to a production environment that organizes itself without human intervention. This includes manufacturing machines and logistics systems in particular. Compared to conventional production processes and manufacturing facilities, the smart factory offers various advantages: In addition to leaner processes, lower production costs and shorter production times, these also include a transparent supply chain and lower warehousing costs. This results in greater flexibility in production and the ability to quickly make adjustments to new or changed product requirements. Smart factories typically rely on intelligent components and subsystems that already pre-process data independently to take action. This not only ensures higher machine availability and productivity, but also enables direct exchange and networking with systems for quality assurance. Early control in the value chain thus prevents cost-intensive rejects in later production steps.


How has the smart factory developed in recent years? What are the current trends?

The vision of Industry 4.0 – and the Smart Factory – is to further advance digitalization in industry and manufacturing. In particular, the focus is on the connectivity of various devices in production – in the sense of the Internet of Things (IoT) and intelligent algorithms. 

The pure "digitalization" of the factory already began with Industry 3.0 and was predominantly characterized by automation using electrical and information technology. So while Industry 3.0 was still geared toward a "self-regulating factory," Industry 4.0 is aimed at a "functionally networked factory" in the sense of the smart factory. This networking takes place primarily within the company between production machines and software systems instead of between the various levels of the classic, hierarchically structured automation pyramid. The machines can even communicate independently with various supplier and customer systems and based on this exchange of information, the factory itself can make appropriate adjustments in production and logistics. In this way, bottlenecks as well as their origins are detected at an early stage and free resources are used as efficiently as possible. This is where the possibilities of cloud services, AI and Big Data applications come into play.

Among the most important trends of the current year are:

Low-code software for rapid customization without high-level language programming (e.g., for easy logic or interfaces to existing machines)

Data archiving in the cloud (low-cost storage with easy scaling)

Hybrid systems (local software for production control and cloud services for data analysis and cross-site communication)

Cloud-based analytics for monitoring and optimizing production and logistics


Digital twins are one of the leading concepts among smart technologies. ResearchAndMarkets platform forecasts that the digital twins market will reach an estimated value of USD 156 billion by 2030. What role does the concept play in the context of the Smart Factory?

A digital twin is a virtual model designed to simulate the behavior of a physical object. In this process, a digital twin is created in the context of a production machines already at the time of its design and used for the simulation of the production processes as well as the development and virtual commissioning of the control and interface software. This can shorten development times and ensure that production starts on schedule. 

Another application is for existing production machines, for example. These are equipped with various sensors that relate to important functional areas. The sensors record various parameters of the physical object such as power consumption, temperature, or vibrations. The acquired data is then stored and transferred to a mathematical model. After the virtual model has been trained with the data, a simulation is performed. This provides the behavioral data, which can be used for performance analysis or anomaly detection, for example. The results can then be used for production optimization or predictive maintenance.

In addition to the Digital Twin of production machines, the model is also available for an already manufactured product. This is therefore the image of a real product, which is particularly useful for use in simulations and testing under extreme conditions. For example, the digital twin of a circuit board can be tested for thermal bridges and overheating by simulation. The data required for this comes from production control systems, i.e. software solutions such as line controller or MES.


The Smart Factory with solutions from the Kontron susietec® Toolkit.
A look into the future: building a smart factory in 2025

What is the significance of the Smart Factory at susietec®?

susietec® supplies important components for data acquisition, processing and provision in a factory. The kontron susietec® toolset is based on the idea of a continuously networked factory in the sense of the Smart Factory: The linking of hardware (gateways) and software (control systems, interface connections, data visualization and analysis in real time) makes it possible to accompany the digital transformation in the industry from the first digital steps to the factory-wide roll-out.
By including the framework conditions inside and outside of production, an agile overall concept is created that can be optimally adapted to individual customer needs. 


More about the idea of the Smart Factory at susietec®.


How important is the Smart Factory concept in the future? What opportunities/challenges does this create for susietec®?

The Smart Factory approach provides important impulses for the standardization of data acquisition. Digital twin simulations pave the way for the forward-looking planning of new machines and processes. In contrast to large monolithic system solutions, the combination of configurable (and expandable) subsystems offers significantly greater flexibility and future viability. However, this also requires the combination of different systems of local software and cloud-based management, which must be secured. Furthermore, cross-manufacturer collaboration on standards such as OPC UA is necessary.

In summary, Industry 4.0 offers the overarching opportunity to empower people in production to take important actions and decisions – and not to replace human intelligence with automation. For the development of new solutions, this results in the challenge of consciously distinguishing between empowerment and automation.

Learn more about the Smart Factory solutions from susietec®.