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4 Benefits and 5 Challenges of Factory DX ≪Smart Factory≫|Introduction of case studies and seminars

DX transforms existing business systems and business models. Therefore, it will lead to the solution of the problems that have been faced so far.

Currently, there are factories facing various issues such as labor shortages. There are cases where these issues have been resolved by promoting DX and even more productive factories have been achieved.

In this article, we will introduce the current issues, the importance and merits of DX, and case studies regarding the promotion of DX in factories. Please use it as a reference!

Table of Contents 

  • “DX” “Smart Factory” | Glossary
    • What is DX?
    • What is a smart factory?
  • 5 Challenges Facing Factories
    • (1) Shortage of human resources
    • ② Lack of IT knowledge
    • (3) Succession of technological capabilities
    • ④ Response to demand
    • ⑤Productivity
  • The importance of promoting DX in factories and four benefits
    • Importance
    • 4 benefits
  • Educational methods for promoting DX at factories
    • seminar
    • books
  • 4 Successful Cases of Factory DX
    • Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. “Virtual One Factory”
    • Mitsubishi Electric Corporation “eF@ctory”
    • Fujitsu Limited “Local 5G System”
    • NEC “factory added value time measurement solution”
  • Let’s promote DX at the factory and lead to problem solving

“DX” “Smart Factory” | Glossary

What is DX?

DX is an abbreviation for “digital transformation” and is a concept that has become widely recognized in the “ DX Report ” announced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry . The purpose of DX is to use digital technology to reform business models and operations, and ultimately to achieve transformation of the organization itself .

What is a smart factory?

A smart factory is a factory that utilizes and analyzes digital data using advanced technologies such as IoT and AI to not only improve productivity but also realize DX from design to manufacturing .

The concept was proposed in the German government-led national project “Industry 4.0 (4th Industrial Revolution)” and is currently attracting attention around the world. By doing DX in the factory, smart factory is achieved at the same time.

5 Challenges Facing Factories

Factories face the following five problems.

  1. Shortage of human resources
  2. Lack of IT knowledge
  3. Inheriting technology
  4. Responding to demand
  5. Productivity

I will explain each.

(1) Shortage of human resources

Labor shortage is a problem in all industries these days . In particular, the manufacturing industry is suffering from a shrinking labor force due to the declining birthrate and aging population, and young people who are digital natives tend to be attracted to the IT industry.

In addition, small and medium-sized manufacturing industries have been supported by the specialized knowledge and advanced technology of craftsmen and skilled workers. However, due to the aging of craftsmen and lack of successors, it is becoming difficult to maintain high skills and knowledge.

In this way, the shortage of human resources is a very serious problem from the viewpoint of technology succession.

② Lack of IT knowledge

It is said that Japan is behind the rest of the world when it comes to IT. Even in the manufacturing industry, it is said that some manufacturers continue to use outdated equipment without introducing new IT. There are four reasons for this.

(1) There are few engineers who have the knowledge and skills to make full use of it (
2) Difficulty in securing costs ( 3) Lack of
understanding of the effects of IT such as productivity improvement (
4) Lack of clarity in the purpose of promoting IT

(3) Succession of technological capabilities

The high level of technological capabilities in the Japanese manufacturing industry is highly evaluated worldwide. However, as mentioned above, even highly skilled craftsmen are aging.

Since these technologies have been supported by the experience and intuition of engineers, a successor is necessary for the succession of technology, but it is difficult to secure a successor due to a shortage of human resources .

④ Response to demand

Recently, high-mix low-volume production that meets customer needs is becoming mainstream. In addition, demand fluctuates wildly, and misadjusting production and inventory can lead to excess inventory or, conversely, lost opportunities due to shortages .


At factories, there are still analog operations such as paper forms . Allocating personnel to analog operations leads to inefficient operations and lower productivity.

The importance of promoting DX in factories and four benefits


By promoting DX at the factory, these problems can be eliminated. In today’s society, where the birthrate is declining and the population is aging, the shortage of human resources is a serious problem. To get out of this crisis, we need to dismantle the existing system and transform it into a new form.

In order to inherit technology in the manufacturing industry, it is necessary to operate without relying on individual skills . In addition, due to the shortage of human resources, it is important to increase competitiveness by building a system that can be operated by a small number of people and aiming for a production line that can sustainably supply high quality .

4 benefits

The following are the four benefits that DX promotion brings to the factory.

  1. Visualization of data
  2. Cost reduction
  3. Productivity improvement
  4. Quality improvement

I will explain each.

(1) Visualization of data

DX makes it possible to “visualize” data.

By automatically collecting and analyzing equipment operation data, failures can be predicted and safe operation becomes possible . In addition, by analyzing data related to manufacturing, it is possible to reduce wasted time and discover the causes of quality deterioration, improving productivity and providing stable quality .

At one factory, a camera is used to detect the movements of on-site employees and compare them with the movements of skilled employees in an effort to eliminate unnecessary movements and improve productivity.

②Cost reduction

By analyzing data related to facilities and manufacturing, it is possible to discover current issues and improve them, thereby eliminating waste. This labor-saving and labor-saving means that personnel and costs can be allocated where necessary, leading to cost reductions .

(3) Improve productivity

By incorporating advanced technology through DX, you can streamline and automate your operations and significantly improve productivity. The probability of a stable production line is directly linked to profits.

④ Quality improvement

Human error can be reduced by automating some tasks . This enables a sustainable supply with stable quality. It also leads to a reduction in defective products, which is environmentally friendly and reduces costs.

▶︎The benefits of DX and the introduction steps are explained in this article>>

Educational methods for promoting DX at factories

In order to promote DX, DX education on the management side and the site side is essential. By having a wide range of knowledge from basic knowledge of DX to actual operation, DX promotion at the factory will be smooth.

This time, we will introduce “ seminars ” and “ books ” as educational methods for promoting DX .


Some of the DX seminars offered by companies are specialized in the manufacturing industry. The target industries are narrowed down, and the solutions introduced and the contents of the programs held are directly related to business, so it is useful in practice .

Many companies will hold online DX seminars in the manufacturing industry this year as well, and experts will explain the current situation and issues in the manufacturing industry, as well as DX solutions that can solve them.

From the finished DX seminars, we will introduce two that can still be viewed on demand.

  • SCSK Co., Ltd. “Manufacturing industry DX seminar starting now”

Delivery period: April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022
Participation fee: Free (registration required)
Sponsor: SCSK Corporation
Sponsor: Nvidia LLC SB C&S Co. , Ltd.

Click here for details

  • Panasonic Corporation “Manufacturing DX Seminar”

Delivery period: None
Participation fee: Free (Registration required to view full version)
Co-sponsored by: Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions Co., Ltd.
Asprova Co. , Ltd. WingArc
1st Co. , Ltd.
Simtops Co., Ltd.

Click here for details

▶︎Details about the DX seminar can be found in this article>>


Next, I will introduce two books on manufacturing industry and factory DX.

  • Shinya Amano “Manufacturing DX Introduction”

It consists of a trilogy of “Manufacturing DX Introduction”, “Manufacturing DX Practice”, and “Manufacturing DX Customer Success”, and you can choose according to your level .

The contents of the three books are as follows.

Introductory edition: Explanation of basic knowledge about manufacturing industry DX
Practical edition: Application edition for practicing manufacturing industry DX
Customer success edition: Application edition for those who support the realization of manufacturing industry DX

Click here for details

  • Toshiyuki Yamaguchi “Illustrated introductory business book that clearly understands the DX of the latest production factory”

This is a book that specializes in DX at a manufacturing site called a factory .
Everything from basic knowledge to promotion methods is explained, and can be immediately reflected in operations.

Click here for details

▶︎The development of DX human resources is explained in this article>>

4 Successful Cases of Factory DX

The factory DX introduced this time are the following four.

  1. Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. “Virtual One Factory”
  2. Mitsubishi Electric Corporation “eF@ctory”
  3. Fujitsu Limited “Local 5G System”
  4. NEC “factory added value time measurement solution”

Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. “Virtual One Factory”

“Virtual One Factory” is an initiative to virtually integrate two factories located in Honjo City, Saitama Prefecture and Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, which are under the umbrella of the Information and Communication Division, into one factory .

  • Issue/background

Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. was considering cross-divisional collaboration between factories in response to mass customization and a sense of crisis about the decrease in demand due to social changes . Also, each factory produces different products, but there are some common parts. However, the design department was designing for each factory, and had the problem of not being able to produce with common specifications .

  • Effort details

First, we organized information such as the characteristics of each factory’s production system, the way of thinking about manufacturing, knowledge, etc., and made it possible for each factory to receive design data, and took steps to standardize design information .

In addition, at the time of integration, there are “ inter -departmental integration” in which each department interacts, “ production integration ” in which factories help each other according to the fluctuations of the production status by visualizing the production status, and high- mix low-volume production without outsourcing trial production to others. We promoted mainly four stages of ” prototype process fusion ” in our own factory for production, and ” IT fusion ” to integrate the production management system ( ERP ) .

Due to the lack of human resources specializing in digitization at each factory, each factory contributed human resources for each project, and collaborated with the company’s research and development department to solve issues company-wide.

  • Outcome

By promoting efficiency while maintaining the total production volume of the two plants, we have reduced costs and activated the exchange of human resources and technology . We were able to build a production system that

In addition, by coordinating between factories, it has become easier to respond to changes due to external factors surrounding factories, such as responding to recent needs for high-mix low-volume production and distributing loads between factories in preparation for labor shortages . rice field.

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation “eF@ctory”

“eF@ctory” is a system that links production information and IT within the factory . You can acquire information on the manufacturing site with factory equipment IoT, and analyze and utilize the data in real time at a location close to the production site.

In addition, by linking with the IT system, we can analyze the entire manufacturing process, aiming to improve productivity and cost.

  • Issue/background

The company manufactures equipment (FA equipment) for automating factories in-house, and we thought that by linking each equipment, we could analyze data that had been overlooked until now, and aim for cost reduction and quality improvement.

  • Effort details

First, we started with the development of the basic technology required for the project.

Specifically, FA-IT cooperation technology for connecting and processing production site data and IT systems, control technology for collectively controlling robots and sensors required for automation, and collecting necessary data from the site, Industrial network technology that enables high-speed communication and efficient collection of large amounts of data in

Furthermore, by implementing “eF@ctory” at multiple in-house factories, finding and solving problems, we created a solution that can be provided outside the company.

  • Outcome

Through our eF@ctory initiatives, we have achieved the launch of the “eF@ctory Alliance” and participation in the “Edgecross Consortium .”

A smart factory requires a wide range of software and hardware technologies. Therefore, we launched the “eF@ctory Alliance”, a program in which the company’s FA equipment field cooperates with other companies that provide software and equipment. The program has enabled data collaboration not only in the field, but also in the engineering chain .

eF@ctory is an edge computing system that processes and analyzes data on a device or a server near the device . Therefore, it must be easy to collect data that transcends the differences in equipment and communication standards already in place.

Participating in the “Edgecross Consortium” has made it possible to build an open software platform in the edge computing area, enabling the development of compatible services .

Fujitsu Limited “Local 5G System”

In order to realize a smart factory, the company has started operating a local 5G system that realizes DX of operations such as automation of on-site work and remote support at its Oyama factory, which is a manufacturing base for network equipment .

Depending on the location and content of the work, such as transportation work or assembly work, we use different radio waves suitable for each. After repeated verification at the Oyama Factory, we aim to provide similar services to other manufacturing companies by the end of fiscal 2021.

  • Issue/background

5G is very important to tackle DX.

In 2020, local 5G, which can be used freely, has been institutionalized by companies and local governments acquiring 5G frequency licenses for their own facilities.

Conventionally, in the manufacturing industry, transmission of high-definition video and sensor data required a huge amount of data, resulting in delays.
It was hoped that the introduction of local 5G would solve these issues and improve productivity and remote control of equipment through real-time, high-precision analysis.

  • Effort details

The company implemented three main initiatives. First, remote support for work training .

By creating a 3D model of the product in the on-site edge computing environment and projecting the 3D model and work instructions onto the MR device, experts and developers can remotely instruct and instruct on-site workers. We can help.

Next is real-time work confirmation . A high-definition camera captures the state of assembly, AI recognizes the image, and determines whether the work is being done correctly.

We also worked on automating transportation work . High-definition cameras are installed in the facilities inside and outside the factory and in the unmanned guided vehicle that transports, and the images are transmitted to the edge computing environment and analyzed by AI.
This makes it possible to specify the position and drive control of the automatic guided vehicle.

  • Outcome

By utilizing local 5G, remote support for work training becomes possible, and the efficiency of support can be improved .

In addition, by analyzing work in real time and feeding back judgment results to workers in real time, it leads to a reduction in work mistakes, labor saving in inspections, and quality improvement . Automating transportation also reduces transportation costs .

NEC “factory added value time measurement solution”

The company has developed a “factory value-added time measurement solution” that measures the actual operating time, etc. from videos of employees’ movements and visualizes the operating status.

  • Task

In the manufacturing industry, there has been a demand for identifying locations where work is jammed from the shop floor. However, it was the mainstream to implement them visually, and the current situation was inefficient .

In addition, in the manufacturing industry, there is a process called a bottleneck to grasp the parts with problems that affect the whole because of productivity. However, the person in charge visually inspected these bottlenecks .

  • Effort details

In the “factory value-added time measurement solution,” a camera installed on the top of the factory captures the state of work and automatically detects the movements of workers. When a worker appears within the frame on the screen, it is automatically determined to be “operating”, and if it is out of the frame, it is automatically judged to be “not operating” and measurement is performed. Measured data can be used to graph and visualize operating rates and the status of each area .

  • Outcome

This system makes it possible to automate work that was previously done manually. In addition, bottlenecks can be found at a glance, making it easier to optimize staffing and train employees. According to the company, it has cut the time in half from traditional methods .

This system has also been sold to other companies, and is a system that is also active as a new product.

Reference: Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry|Manufacturing industry DX initiative case studies

   Fujitsu | Fujitsu Begins Operation of Local 5G System for Automating Field Work and Providing Remote Support at Its Own Factory

   Nihon Keizai Shimbun ” NEC and DX make factories more efficient, identify processes that are slowing down with video “

Let’s promote DX at the factory and lead to problem solving

What did you think. Factories are facing new challenges due to social factors such as the declining birthrate, aging population and natural disasters. These can be improved and resolved by DX.


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