Monday, 12th February 2018

Industry 4.0 and smart factories. Are we there yet?

Industry 4.0 and smart factories. Are we there yet?

If not, how close are we?

“When talking about Industry 4.0 and the concept of smart factories, we need to take into account that there are no standards in this field that would define how close we are, while some enterprises and providers of these services offer just questionnaires that serve as orientation on the level of achieved digitalisation,” said Robert Rošer, Production Manager for the Cooking appliances Programme in Gorenje Group.

We are already in the final stage of preparing our strategy and further steps need to be taken with a lot of deliberation and caution. While we are already using a fair amount of elements that make up the so-called Industry 4.0, all further actions are aimed at upgrading these elements and connecting them into a smart whole.




Many guidelines and key elements for the realisation of the concept of a smart factory have already been implemented in Gorenje Group, including:

       - smart tools: with sensors on tools we achieved better productivity and reduced wear and damage on tools, and smart assembly line with smart sensors (e.g. RFID Tags and 'reading heads'), which are integrated on the palette on the appliance assembly line;

       - autonomous robots, which are already parts of some production processes;

       - AGV system for internal logistics, the automated guided vehicle that moves on a certain logistic trajectory and transports materials from point A to point B. The vehicle moves autonomously, and uses magnetic bands for guidance or is guided by means of laser sensors. The vehicles are also equipped with optical sensors that ensure maximum levels of safety.

       - AR / Augumented Reality: implementation of technology for augmented reality in production and product development is especially useful in pre-development as it provides a better visual picture of products, visual control over work processes, remote access, early detection of weaknesses and deficiencies in the work process, savings in time and costs etc.

      - 3D print: a centralised prototype workshop with 3D printing technology is already in use at Gorenje in Velenje.

      - Plant simulation, i.e. computer animation programme which enables modelling and simulation of production systems and processes. 

       - An important element that we have been using since 2017 are the so-called digital twins, which enable simulation in a digital environment (e.g. simulation of planning of implementation of new production, simulation of logistic processes, planning of operational production etc.) thus reducing costs, error occurancies, and contribute to greater productivity in production.

      - Collaborative robots: robots, equipped with special safety protocols that work side-by-side with a human and ensure effective support for easier and faster work.  

By including others and encouraging open innovation we strive to continue paving the way for Industry 4.0.

In the future, we want to see more robots working side-by-side with people and to implement robots for high-precision assembly operations, where nowadays human labour is still indispensable.

We would like to implement robotization and automation in as many work sub processes and assembly lines as possible – we want robots to replace human manual work on difficult operations. This does not mean that there will be fewer jobs for people. On the contrary: in the future, robots will take over the strenuous manual work and assembly operations, while people will supervise their operation. This will help us improve productivity and increase added value. By involving and opening innovation, we wish to continue to play a pioneering role in Industry 4.0.