Digitalization is a hot topic in the wood industry. While some companies work with tablets and adopt digital tools, others work with handwritten order lists. Every production process has its pros and cons, but how can woodworking shops find the optimal solution to take their production to the next level?

In wood working shops there are probably as many approaches as there are companies and this variation was researched and validated by the ‘proto-lab’ research project conducted by the Rosenheim University of Applied Sciences, in collaboration with HOMAG and other industry partners. The key question is: what concrete possibilities does digitalization already offer small and medium-sized businesses today and how will they develop further? One answer was the transferring of production data to machines. For example, a panel dividing saw in the form of optimized cutting patterns; already a reality for many companies. Many also use CAD/CAM software to create CNC programs and parts lists. Nevertheless, it is still common practice to print production documents and haul them through the machine room manually on a clipboard.

However, what would happen to the entire production process if these drawings and parts lists were one click away and available anywhere in a digital job folder? Suddenly, even manual and semi-automatic machines, or manual workstations in the bench room, could be supported by smartphones or tablets. Assistance systems are also simplifying work processes. These systems show the operators of panel dividing saws, edge banding machines and drilling machines the next steps to take and how to execute them. Even on construction sites, the drawings and part lists for a customer’s order would be available with one click. The data would be available everywhere and could be viewed by employees regardless of their location.

So, what will production look like in the future? To answer this question, a team of experts recently worked on the collaborative research project named “proto-lab” (production tomorrow laboratory). Over the course of the project, the experts experimented, analysed and predicted in order to develop practical digitalization solutions for assistance systems and semi-automation. The team for the interdisciplinary research project consisted of participants from the faculties of Industrial Engineering; Wood Engineering & Construction; Computer Science and Engineering, Research & Development. The HOMAG Group was also involved, as well as participants from other partners in the furniture industry. The research team sought to abolish the old, rigid and centralist organization of companies and thus many non-value-adding processes.

The key focus point for the research was the production cell of the future and HOMAG will present the ideas that have been developed, including concepts for individual machine modules, hardware, and apps that can communicate with each other at LIGNA 2019.