Ongoing digitization on the way to the Silicon Economy requires individualization. This has an impact on production. Markets are volatile, making it increasingly important to produce small batches in a commercially viable way. The challenge is to produce multiple variants and models of a product in a flexible quantity. Matrix production is one way to implement a smart factory. In the future, it should enable connected and adaptable production across the entire supply chain. In the process, the plants are to automatically change over to alternating product types – without waiting times and without production downtimes.

Matrix production is based on standardized and categorized production cells arranged in a grid, i.e. a matrix. All cells are equipped with product-neutral equipment and product-specific basic functionalities. Depending on the production, the cells consist, for example, of robots, machines and autonomous transport units. Logistics is decoupled from production. This means that it no longer matters what is produced, it is only a question of “how”. In this way, companies can respond to changing circumstances within a short time and the resilience of production is increased.

Production planned this way saves space, increases flexibility and allows autonomous operations. This is made possible by central planning via a software system based on intelligent algorithms. The system plans automatically, taking into account cycle times and delivery times. The only decisive factor for implementation is which production resource is currently available.

Matrix production is thus a harmonious interplay of software, hardware, artificial intelligence, machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT). The machines gather their own experience, can detect potential problems at an early stage and independently develop existing know-how. This enables production to automatically make a suitable decision for any situation in a short time.

Want to learn more? Check out the Production Logistics website at Fraunhofer IML.