Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) employ about two-thirds of the Norwegian workforce, and about half of the industrial value creation in Norway takes place within SMEs. SMEs are important for safeguarding employment and local communities throughout the country, and large industrial companies are reliant on their local SME suppliers.
Furthermore, the trend within most industrial segments is that as customers are demanding more and more customized products and services, the time frame for product and process development and the product lifetimes are getting shorter. The time pressure throughout the value chains is high, and traditional production principles are challenged.
Earlier, responding quickly to customization demands was one of the major strengths of smaller companies, which often operated based on craftsman principles. However, in recent times the competitiveness of many Norwegian SMEs has been challenged by increasing globalization, mass customization and environmental requirements.
Thus, in 2017, the Government launched a strategy to make the Norwegian industry 'greener, smarter and more innovative' - often referred to as 'digitalisation'. The Norwegian industry is facing a shift towards a higher utilization of cyber physical systems and sustainable development.
SmartFab develops solutions that are based on state-of-the-art principles and methods within digitalisation, mass customization, circular economy and value chain management. This defines the concept of Smart SMB Factory. The industrial partners in the SmartFab team are Haugstad Møbel and Norgesvinduet. The R&D partners are SINTEF Manufacturing, SINTEF Digital, the Institute of Mechanical Engineering and Manufacturing at NTNU, and the software supplier, Jærtek.
SmartFab focuses on the following innovation solutions for a sustainable development of SMB factories and their value chains to an Industry 4.0 level:
- Circular business model for Smart SMB Factory, based on principles of circular economy, mass customization and digitalization
- Product development and logistics methods for the implementation of Smart SMB Factory
- Warehouse management method for the implementation of Smart SMB Factory
- Data-driven decision support system for real-time monitoring and value chain management, based on artificial intelligence
- Demos at the industrial companies
The Smart SMB Factory strategy means that manufacturers will achieve a high degree of customization with a similar or better response time, cost-effectiveness and quality as through traditional mass production. The project will strengthen the position of Norwegian SME producers as suppliers of exclusive and high-quality products on the national and international markets.