CHARLOTTE -- Wood Pro Expo's keynote, Georg Frey, would like to take the mystery out of Industry 4.0.  Frey, the president of Lignum Consulting, Inc., will address the subject in his presentation, "How Industry 4.0 Can Optimize Any Size Plant," February 14 to launch the three-day event.  Frey will discuss the seven building blocks that are critical for organizations to enable a smart factory: Product, Technology, Strategy, Data Integration, Organization, Logistics, and People.  "It is important for companies to get out of the habit of running a small shop like a traditional cabinet shop whereby the thought process is 'give Joe a sketch and he’ll work it out,'" said Frey.  "Successful start-ups are more techie and do not necessarily come from a cabinetmaking background. But they understand e-commerce and integrated processes."
Woodworking Network caught up with Georg for a question and answer session:
WWN:  What are some common misperceptions about Industry 4.0?
Frey: That you can buy it in a box – you have to build up the entire organization to make use of industry 4.0.
It is not enough to buy CNC-controlled and integrated equipment, you need to build the internal processes and the data structure to support the equipment.
WWN:  Does my production have to be completely automated or can there still be manual workstations?
Frey:   There can still be manual workstations. The industry 4.0 theme is not only about fully automated machinery and equipment. It is also to bring the right information and materials at the right time to manual workstations, and can be used to optimize manual workstations, e.g. by displaying work-instructions on screens, or triggering pick-to light information for hardware to be used in assembly stations.
It can also be used to provide “work-lists” to machines and workstations that are not automated and allow feed-back via operator input into e.g. an MES system that gives feedback about the production status and meets up with information that is coming from fully automated machines.
Which machinery categories are best suited to make the most of Industry 4.0?
We see a lot of integration happening in the board-storage and retrieval area, like integrated board storage and retrieval systems that have integrated saws and or nesting operations. These can include automated remnant management for example.
Other typical production equipment is fully automated (CNC controlled)  edgebanding cells – with handling systems, sometimes connected to and integrated with the board storage and retrieval and cutting, all the way to drilling.  – or as stand-alone/island solutions.
CNC - drilling and routing equipment, all the way to semi-or fully automated case-clamps, sanding machines, etc.
Other equipment could be integrated picking systems, such as pick-to-light or carousel picking systems, or automated sorting systems for shipping.
WWN:  How does a company get started to take advantage of Industry 4.0?
Frey:   This depends a little bit where you stand with your organization and what you want to do. What I mean is:
Do you want to automate machinery and equipment?
Do you want to implement an internet-based sales platform?
Do you want to use data (MES) to drive your processes?
So first is to think about what you want to achieve with the connected factory. There is also no cookie-cutter solution for the companies, since everybody is starting at a different point, with different needs and different systems, etc.
WWN:  Can you give me some examples of how companies have improved their productivity utilizing Industry 4.0?
Frey:   People have automated the entire information process, using on-line POS tools where customers can specify their equipment all the way to generating the CNC- data, work-papers, material demands, etc. w/o somebody having to touch the order. Thus saving time and labor.
Utilization of fully automated equipment for case-goods from board storage to case assembly (through the case-clamp) – saving labor.
Are certain sectors of the woodworking industry more suited to take advantage of Industry 4.0?
We see sectors that have a more “standard” product like kitchen and office furniture being leaders in these concepts – it is harder still for true custom shops to take advantage of these principles, because sometimes the effort to create the required product/process data up-front can be a challenge.
Wood Pro Expo is the regional show that brings education, equipment, and supplies close to cabinetmakers and custom woodworking businesses around the country. It includes a strong educational program on best practices for shop production, and as well as an expo oriented to equipment and supplies geared to the small- and medium-size shops, including CNC basics, employee recruitment, finishing, lean manufacturing, business management, software, and shop safety.
Launched in 2014 in Baltimore, the show moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania last year, and returns to Lancaster in October 2018. To learn more, go to

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