“It works, and we’re open,” says Bert-Jan Woertman, Director of the Brainport Industries Campus. “And I’m not just talking about the Internet and the power.” About 300 people – from freelancers to employees of large corporations to civil servants – come to listen and see what is happening in the campus building during the first Technology Update in the Atrium. Some of the campus residents explain their ambitions and showcase examples of projects from the innovation programme on the campus.
The event kicks off with John Blankendaal, Managing Director of Brainport Industries, Michel Weeda, Programme Manager at BOM Renewable Energy and Bert Pauli, Deputy at the Province. Pauli: “The new industry is being developed in Brabant. Companies and knowledge institutions here on campus are working together on new production techniques. The knowledge they gather in this process does not remain within the walls of the campus. We want to put this knowledge at the service of the manufacturing industry throughout Brabant as much as possible. In this province, we know how to structurally strengthen the economy.
Woertman has an idea why: “It’s about Summa students having lunch with people from Anteryon and startups who come up with new ideas through meetings on campus. I’m talking about the ecosystem and working together.” Those meetings seem coincidental, but everything has been thought through. Woertman: “Collaboration has always been important in the Brainport region. The campus is the next chapter where we bring education, business and innovation together. In the Hague and the rest of the Netherlands, they are also closely watching what’s happening here.”
The symposium will focus on the seven different fieldlabs within the innovation programme ‘Factory of the Future’. Here, too, the emphasis is on working together, sharing machines, knowledge and talent. Eric Bakker of MKG, a software company that develops programmes for metalworking companies, talks about the fieldlab Smart Connected Supplier Network. MKG is one of the companies that, together with TNO and others, are looking for ways to digitise the supply chain further. According to Bakker, this is particularly necessary within SME companies: “Here, you can see that entrepreneurs are mainly trying to put their own processes in order. Developing IT solutions is not their most important task, which often means they lack the necessary IT knowledge.”
Designs, orders and other data happen through different links and many companies have their own digital processing system. That is where the problem lies. Bakker: “Due to the lack of a standard exchange protocol, suppliers have to enter data manually. This costs extra time and the chance of making mistakes is considerably higher.”
In this fieldlab, the participating parties work on a system that can be used by every company. “As if all connected companies are one company. Everything, from orders and packing notes to schedules and drawings, must be safe and easily interchangeable. This will allow us to improve productivity in the supply chain by 20%.”
Such an exchange standard has many advantages for the way of producing what the Brainport Industries Campus stands for: no longer pumping everything out of the factory in large numbers but producing much more demand-oriented products with different variations in low volume. “For a factory to run fully automatically 24/7, a standard is almost indispensable,” Eddie Mennen says. He runs Yaskawa in the Netherlands. The Japanese motion control giant supplies, among other things, robot technology for the packaging industry. Yaskawa also develops robots that work together with people to assemble a product. This is fieldlab Flexible Manufacturing, in which Yaskawa and another couple of dozens of parties are active. “Robotic systems that – without being programmed in advance – recognise parts and know where that specific part has to go, will be the future. But people are still needed in these systems, and robots cannot perform certain fine actions. I don’t think that robots will completely replace people, but the work that people will do will change.”