Rittal puts Industry 4.0 theory into practice

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Rittal is creating a smart factory with a view to creating the world’s most advanced production plant for compact and small enclosures.

With a €250 million investment, the Haiger plant will cover 24,000m² of floor space and will soon house more than 100 high-tech machines. Around 9,000 AX compact and KX small enclosures will be manufactured every day, processing approximately 35,000 metric tons of steel annually.

In the past, individual steps such as cutting to size, edging, welding and painting were transactional, sequential and independent of one another. In the new era, Rital says all workers, machines and materials will be increasingly integrated into the manufacturing execution system. At the end of the process, the individual assemblies are automatically merged and a QR code is applied, for easy identification and onward processing by the customer.

Both the machines and handling systems communicate with each other and with higher-level control systems via modern industry 4.0-capable communication networks.

Materials and components will be moved using 20 automated, guided vehicles. Packaging, marking and transfer to the distribution centre are managed automatically. Knowledge-based “learning” systems will enable predictive maintenance, preventing faults from occurring and minimising downtime.

According to Rittal, automated order management and fulfilment will guarantee the ongoing availability of standard products and accessories in the nearby global distribution centre, creating an end-to-end digital process chain - from configuration and engineering on the part of the customer, to shipment of the end-product.

The new era of industrial manufacturing will also usher in major changes for the associated manpower, with fewer strenuous manual tasks. Instead, the focus will shift to controlling, monitoring and fine-tuning processes.

The Haiger facility will be also quiet, clean and energy-efficient, says Rittal. For example, waste heat from the new paint shop will be recovered and reused, e.g. for degreasing components or for heating the factory halls. Efficient use of water is also a high priority. Process water is managed within a closed-loop system, where it is cleaned and reused.

Rittal will be manufacturing its new AX compact and KX small enclosures at the plant.