SmartF-IT: Cyber-physical IT systems to manage the complexity of a new generation of multi-adaptive factories

Problem definition and objectives

In order to survive in international competition, companies must meet a variety of challenges. The planning and operation of multi-variant assembly systems are particularly affected by this, as influences resulting from product variants, such as different components, processes and time spreads, must be taken into account. The result is a growing amount of effort in assembly planning, as an increasing amount of information has to be processed in shorter and shorter intervals in order to make the right decisions. In addition, changes are continuously being made to existing assembly systems. However, these are often not sufficiently documented and fed back into the planning process.

In order to meet the above-mentioned challenges, ZeMA is investigating in the SmartF-IT research project how digital planning tools can support employees in planning through the targeted and consistent use of information to describe products, processes and resources. In addition, it is also being investigated how this information can be transferred from the virtual world into reality so that product changes, for example, can be implemented more quickly on the assembly line. On the other hand, research is being conducted into how information about the current plant configuration can be fed back into the model in order to keep the planning basis up to date.

Therefore, the following objectives are to be achieved:

description of product, process and equipment (with regard to requirements and capabilities) in models
Demonstrating the effects of product changes on the existing assembly system
Consistent use of data from planning for the operation of the assembly system
feedback of real plant conditions into the planning for continuous improvement of the results
For validation, a close exchange with industrial partners and the construction of a cyber-physical demonstrator facility at ZeMA will take place.


In order to support the assembly planning and a consistent networking of reality and virtuality, methods and description models are first developed. On the one hand, this involves investigating what information is required and on the other hand how product requirements and equipment capabilities are to be described. In accordance with the description model, the data model of the planning software is adapted, in which the effects of product changes on the assembly line are shown virtually.

Agent-based and parameterised control systems are set up for the continuous use of information, which also take the description model into account, as well as technical systems for identifying the plant configuration status.

Current project status and results

At the end of the project in 2016, the main focus of activity was on the consistent use of information and the return of the current mounting system configuration to the planning environment. This feedback results in an update of the model in the planning. The verification of new variants is carried out on this basis and under consideration of the description model.

The SmartF-IT demonstrator system on the P4P

The demonstrator facility will map the existing challenges of the participating industrial partners. These include the assembly of different product types and variants with batch size 1 on an assembly system as well as rapid commissioning and feedback of changes to the system by linking the real and virtual assembly world.

The demonstrator line, on which a multi-variant control unit is assembled, consists of four workstations which are interlinked by their modular design and the integrated transport system. The product is assembled in the first three stations, while rework is carried out in the fourth station. Different assembly modules are located in the individual basic modules of the plant, which are either used by the worker for assembly and support him in manual activities. On the screens of the respective stations, the worker is provided with information on which assembly step is to be carried out next and which activities are to be performed. In addition, the worker is supported by various systems in the correct removal of components by displaying from which small load carrier a component is to be removed. A lightweight robot is also used to support employees during assembly. This can be used flexibly and temporarily for various tasks, such as the handing over of components or the removal of completely assembled products.

A virtual model of the assembly system and product variants exists in the virtual planning environment. By means of a requirements/capability comparison, adjustments to the product can be secured virtually and transferred to reality via an agent-based control system. If adjustments are made to the real system, the system configuration status is identified using a methodology and transferred to the virtual environment in order to continuously update the model. As a result, the planner always has an up-to-date status for his planning, so that the information cycle between the real and virtual world is closed and thus a cyber-physical assembly system exists.


Duration: 06/2013 – 05/2016
Supported by: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

Contact: DFKI
further information: SmartF-IT