DFA: the status half-way into the programme

Driving digital transformation: reflecting on the progress from the Digital Factory Acceleration Programme

The second quarter of 2023 marked the closing of the first half and the start of the second half of the Digital Factory Acceleration (DFA) programme. This gives us a chance to look back at what has been achieved so far and how the programme, co-financed by Industriens Fond and executed by FORCE Technology and Aalborg University, is generating change for Danish small- and medium-sized production companies.

The programme aims to help improve production performance

The Digital Factory Acceleration (DFA) is a three-year program that supports Danish small- and medium-sized production companies (SMEs) in improving their production performance – whether related to cost reduction or capacity increase - through digital innovation.

The programme consists of two phases: the Digital Factory Mapping phase – focused on identifying production improvement opportunities, quantifying potentials and formulating an activity plan to capture them - and the Digital Factory Realisation phase – focused on finding technology solutions to implement the activity plan and on coordinating the implementation activities if needed.

Digital Factory Acceleration phases
Digital Factory Acceleration phases

The programme is co-financed by Industriens Fond, which covers 60% of the cost of the consultancy hours they received from all 21 companies in the programme. FORCE Technology consultants execute the two phases, while Aalborg University is responsible for translating the experience gained from the programme into generalisable knowledge to better understand and support digital innovation in SMEs.

What is the status after 1.5 years?

The current status in numbers

250+ decision-makers have been personally exposed to the project and its learnings through six events organised or performed in collaboration with external partners

60+ key company people have actively participated in the project through Digital Factory Mapping activities - mapping, analysis and roadmapping

8 roadmaps – including activity plans and potentials - have been made, enabling practical change for the respective companies

6 implementation projects have been started after the Digital Factory Mapping activities through Digital Factory Realization activities co-financed by the programme

250+ students have been listening to the project, its approach and current findings through 4 university lectures

1 scientific paper collecting key learnings from the programme has been published and presented at an international conference

The first eight production companies have completed their Digital Factory Mapping activities. A systematic mapping and analysis of their production operations, both from a material flow and information flow perspective, led to identifying their most significant production improvement opportunities, quantifying their impact, and formulating an activity plan - summarised in a roadmap - to address them.

A part from the highly company-specific issues identified through the different analyses, a number of production opportunities were common for most of the SMEs that have joined the first half of the programme. These concerned:

  • Production planning and scheduling activities, often done manually with the support, for instance, of Excel
  • Order dispatching activities, mainly consisting of the manual printing and distributing production order papers across production
  • Order control activities, generally including the manual registration of order information at the end of each production station or production area (e.g. order processing times, quality issues, etc.) to support the traceability of the order
  • Warehouse management activities, generally done manually by periodically updating the stock levels on an internal document (whether the ERP, an Excel sheet or a paper) with issues related to the non-real-time overview of the stock and the low reliability of the stock level data
  • Manual repetitive activities across bottleneck processes, often significantly reducing the production capacity

Several of these opportunities have often been linked to the (only) partial adoption of the ERP system functionalities.

Roadmap: summary of the activity plan formulated to address the identified problems (example)
Roadmap: summary of the activity plan formulated to address the identified problems (example)

Starting from the findings from the Digital Factory Mapping activities, six of the eight companies have planned or already started Digital Factory Realisation activities, aiming at supporting the implementation of the activity plan.

This enabled change has been focused on the investigation of available technology solutions to support the execution of the projects identified in the activity plan as well as in the actual performance of some of the identified activities. So far, these activities involve:

  • Multiple investigations of ERP systems and related characteristics and functionalities for supporting paperless production solutions, integrated production planning, and a warehouse management system
  • An investigation of Warehouse Management Systems requirements in a production facility and of available Warehouse Management Systems matching such requirements
  • Two investigations of solutions for automating specific manufacturing processes
  • The analysis of production data and the development of a dashboard to enable an overview of production performance and for supporting demand forecasting

In addition, FORCE Technology and Aalborg University have built a significant amount of knowledge concerning the mapping and analysis of production operations and the most recurrent and valuable improvement opportunities to be identified in small- and medium-sized Danish manufacturing companies through the collected experiences. This knowledge has been shared through:

  • Six events (together with IDA, EGN, Rotary Club, Dansk Industri, Trifork, Business Esbjerg)
  • Four lectures (Aalborg University and VIA University College)
  • One scientific publication and conference presentation (9th Changeable, Agile, Reconfigurable and Virtual Production Conference (CARV-MCPC-2023), at the University of Bologna, Italy)
  • Ongoing online project updates
Lecture at Aalborg University
Lecture at Aalborg university
IDA Industri 4.0 conference
IDA Industri 4.0 conference

Several of the activities, including some of the events and the conference presentations, have been an excellent platform for discussing the learnings from the programme together with other production companies, consultants and academics. This provided further inputs and perspective to the knowledge being generated and shared through the programme and good practical suggestions for improving its execution.

These activities generated additional interest in the project, resulting in new companies joining the programme, in demand for further knowledge dissemination events and lectures (together with IDA, EGN, Dansk Industri, Effektivitet.dk, Aalborg University) and two student projects.

What are the next steps?

The main activities over the next months are the performance of the Digital Factory Mapping activities with the remaining companies (with 9 spots still available), the continuation of the current Digital Factory Realization activities supporting the implementation of the activity plans – and the starting of additional ones when relevant – as well as further knowledge dissemination activities, including the last events and lectures and two additional scientific publications and presentations.