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How production in Germany can remain internationally competitive with artificial intelligence is the task of the ‘Datenfabrik.NRW’ project of the leading-edge cluster it’s OWL. It has a total volume of 14.5 million euros and is being funded with 9.2 million euros by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

It is supported by a consortium formed by CLAAS, Schmitz Cargobull, NTT Data, Duvenbeck Kraftverkehr and MotionMiners, as well as the Fraunhofer Institutes IEM, IML, IOSB-INA and IAIS.

The Data Factory NRW is a flagship project of the leading-edge cluster it’s OWL and – according to those responsible – is of great importance for the industrial location of OstWestfalenLippe. “Artificial intelligence has enormous potential for making machines and plants more efficient and productive. With the data factory, we want to completely rethink production – and consistently record and utilize data from factory planning to manufacturing to logistics. Manufacturing companies throughout OWL can benefit from the results and experiences. it’s OWL will organize workshops, tours and transfer projects for this purpose,” Günter Korder, Managing Director of it’s OWL Clustermanagement GmbH, is quoted as saying in the press release.

Group picture without lady. The consortium of Datenfabrik.NRW (Image it’s OWL)

New production facilities at Claas and Schmitz Cargobull

According to Claas, the project comes at just the right time and fits in with the plant modernization currently underway. Claas has invested 44 million euros and is building a completely new 15,000-square-meter hall at the heart of its combine harvester production. The ‘Synpro’ project will create the conditions for the production of the high-end combines of the future. Digital solutions will then be developed to further safeguard the quality of the machines and increase efficiency in the factory. For example, automatically controlled driverless transport systems are already in use today, traveling between the individual assembly stations with the harvesting machines that weigh several tons.

Schmitz Cargobull, the second key consortium partner, is a European trailer manufacturer that is driving digitalization both in production and in its product and service offering. The industry is highly dependent on economic fluctuations, which requires rapid adaptation to rapidly changing conditions, especially in production. Schmitz Cargobull’s main production sites are in the Münsterland region – the plant for semitrailer bodies in Vreden and the plant for curtainsiders in Altenberge.

AI.NRW lead project

CEO Andreas Schmitz: “We will test the knowledge we gain from our participation in the Datenfabrik.NRW project for production, production planning and production logistics directly at the Vreden plant site. The Vreden plant will then take on a model function in our international production network for the further development of production as a whole.”
The data factory is also a flagship project of the AI.NRW competence platform, which aims to develop North Rhine-Westphalia into a leading national location for applied artificial intelligence (AI) and establish the state in international networks. The aim is to accelerate the transfer of AI from cutting-edge research to industry, to establish a lead region for professional qualification in AI and to provide impetus in social dialog.

“The manufacturing sector is a key economic factor in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Datenfabrik.NRW project is intended to ensure that this remains the case in the future and that our economy is best equipped for the digital transformation,” said NRW Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart during his visit to Harsewinkel.