e-FACTORY – Efficient Automation for Customized products in Swedish Industry


1. Background

A very large portion of Swedish industry offer Engineering-To-Order (ETO), customised and individualised products. Customized products undergo changes upon customer order and a considerable engineering activity is allocated for each customer. In order to stay competitive, the process for customised products needs to be rationalized and automated, and hence e-FACTORY integrates engineering activities from sales, through product and production development and to delivery of the final product.


1.1 Industrial requirements

An example of a customized product is the industrial stair systems from Weland and Häfla which have a well formulated modular structure with steps, stanchion and interfaces. However, the number of steps, floors, and railings differ considerably from one order to another.


Figure 1.1 The current manual process for customization of Engineering-To-Order products.

One main issues with today’s processes, see Figure 1.1, are the estimates the sales staff needs to make when it comes to both product and production development. The cost is too high to involve product and production engineers in each quote. Therefore, mistakes are sometimes made.

With an integrated product and production development and by using large amounts of data already existing in the company, many of these shortcomings can be addressed.


2. Project Goals

e-FACTORY will enable companies to utilize digital tools as a means to obtain a number of different production values. Our hypothesis going into this project is that two main enablers for such values can be achieved with e-FACTORY, namely:

  • the integration of sales, product and production development are expected to shorten lead time for ETO products by 50%
  • to reduce the number of product and production errors

To reduce errors and shorten lead time it is needed to (see, Figure 2.1.):

  • Increase information level at all stages possible in the process
  • Minimize repetitive manual operations

There are several technologies at hand to realize the project goals. The projected result is visualized in Figure 2.1. The following deliverables are expected within e-FACTORY:

  • 3D configuration: KBE and configurators are used to automate the process to make and configure 3D CAD models.
  • Optimized process for production: ML and MDO is used to manage big data in production when it comes to production planning. These technologies will help the industry to be one step ahead in planning and decrease the risk of non-profitable quotations to customers.
  • Automatic Production Data: ML will be used together with KBE to automatically generate the required production data as a way to integrate product and production development. See WP3 for more detail.
  • AR configuration: A possibility explored in the project is to use AR to allow customers to automatically configure the products with e.g. smart phones.


Figure 2.1 Proposed process where e-FACTORY integrates ERP, CAD and Configurators

Rationalizing and automating the product process will increases cost-effectiveness and strengthens competitiveness. This also allows engineers and sales staff to work with more advanced and creative tasks and be able to undertake more complex missions and further enhance competitiveness and thereby keep ahead of the competitors.