Smart Factory: making a factory future-proof

Client situation and approach

In just four weeks, a pharmaceutical & life sciences company wants to plan the main focus for the Smart Factory Transformation of four plants.

Workflows and key performance indicators varied by line and plant, with various digitization needs and priorities. Therefore, at beginning of the project, it was necessary to get a clear picture of the actual maturity and requirements for each location. To this end, the project team developed a scalable approach for lean transformation of the plant.


After starting in individual pilot areas of assembly, it transferred the improvements to the current line and finally, with further lessons learned, to the ramp-up of the two new models.

After assessing the digital maturity level of the existing production system, the project team held a joint workshop with the plant management to determine the main directions for each site.

The result was a big picture that ensured a common understanding among the workshop participants as to where the journey should take them. The commitment for the joint next steps was correspondingly high.


Besides that, the participants also determined the different directions of digitization of the respective locations including topics such as data transfer, advanced analytics, digital twins or autonomous transport systems (AGVs).

So-called “deep dives” were then made to explore the technological and economic details of the defined directions identifying for example areas with high potential for driverless transport systems, the size of the investment needed and the economic benefits.

From this, it was possible to derive very precise statements regarding profitability / pay back of individual business cases.

At the end of the project, the project team for each location arranged approx. 40 key topics and initiatives from the previous weeks into a portfolio with three structure criteria:

  • How large is the existing efficiency lever and how high are the possible cost savings?
  • How much does the whole thing cost in the end?
  • How quickly can the topic be implemented?


Among other things, three key topics were identified, that fulfil three requirements: quickly realizable, low deployment cost and great benefits.

The other focal points from the portfolio were added to the “open items” list in order to implement them later. After a portfolio evaluation of all decision-making instances in the company, the implementation of the following actions was started:

  • Deployment of driverless transport systems for smart material flow
  • Implementation of cobots (collaborative robotics) to support employees
  • Realization of real-time tracking systems for more data transparency and a more precise knowledge of the current stocks

With these digitization initiatives, the company has been optimally equipped for further Smart factory transformation at all locations. Already in the planning phase, it was thus possible to improve the quality of the process and operational excellence at the sites.

To know more on this story, please get in touch with EFESO Consulting