OMRON creates ‘The Factory of the Future’

OMRON Corporation is a global leader in the field of automation, and its business fields range from industrial automation and electronic components to social systems, healthcare, and environmental solutions. In the field of industrial automation, OMRON supports manufacturing innovation by developing and manufacturing advanced automation solutions. Industrial automation is one of the largest business units at OMRON, and the company aims to further develop its Den Bosch plant to serve the needs in the EMEA region. The goal is to create a facility where the company not only demonstrates the ‘Factory of the Future’, but also puts it into practice in real life.

16 December 2021

OMRON has its European headquarters in Hoofddorp, while Den Bosch in Brabant is the main central European location for operations, including the factory, the European distribution center, research & development (R&D) and repair services. The combination of these four disciplines provides services to 18.000 European customers, and where applicable also to customers in other regions including Japan and USA.

From a local to global factory

The OMRON Den Bosch site was established in the early nineties. Initially with a factory, and shortly thereafter R&D was added to support further development of the European market. Until about ten years ago, Den Bosch produced a small standard controller portfolio dedicated for the European market, in parallel with the main factories in Japan and China.

In the past ten years, Den Bosch was able to re-shore high demand product portfolio from China to Europe by applying Lean manufacturing and assembly process innovation. In addition, it developed, the high-end controller product portfolio including solutions for Human Machine Interface (HMI) and Industrial PCs (IPC) for the global market. Both developments gave a boost to the site’s business volume which expanded 4-5 times. This was important for OMRON in Europe and but even more for their customers. Some innovations that have been developed for customers, have also been implemented in OMRON’s own processes and vice versa.

The latest addition to the portfolio is the manufacturing of robots. “As a team we are proud to have been earmarked as the global factory for fixed robots,” says Paul Sollewijn Gelpke, OMRON’s site manager in Den Bosch. “Against the trend in the Netherlands, we are actually expanding production, thanks to a combination of the efficient way we produce and the innovative solutions we add. Keeping the cost competitive and quality high, meeting our customers’ expectations.”

Innovation for customers and society

As people and companies nowadays want to order unique products that should be delivered instantly, the biggest challenge for the likes of OMRON is to switch from standard mass production to customized mass production. Den Bosch has a dynamic assembly line, powered by software innovations, which adjusts itself to the product it is manufacturing. That way, the site can already deliver an Industrial PC within two weeks, completely custom-made.

This efficiency will come in handy. At present, there are more vacancies than people looking for a job in The Netherlands and, because of the further aging of the population, this number is due to increase. The company’s mission is to contribute to the wellbeing of the society.

“If you keep our philosophy in mind in whatever you do, innovation is the name of the game,” says Tim Foreman, head of R&D. “With automation, OMRON aims to provide intelligent solutions, such as robots or smart self-learning production systems, to relieve humans from repetitive manual tasks. That way we also contribute to society.”

High-tech ecosystem

Sollewijn Gelpke, who is also President and Managing Director of OMRON Manufacturing of the Netherlands, expects site Den Bosch to grow further as a competence and service center. It is part of a high-tech ecosystem, that for example includes the Technical University in Eindhoven (Tue), Data-University JADS in Den Bosch and Brainport Industries in Eindhoven.

All of the data scientists in the R&D team are graduates from JADS. Other highly skilled employees mostly have a history at the Tue but also at Universities of Applied Sciences Fontys Avans, which are based across Noord-Brabant. The company offers internships to students from universities and other educational programs. In its factory, OMRON also has production staff from Den Bosch and the surrounding area.

This entire ecosystem is, according to Sollewijn Gelpke, a “huge resource” for further development. So is the Brabant Development Agency (BOM). The BOM really invests in its stakeholders and is very active in organizing events, to which OMRON is often invited, as well as in nurturing the network of contacts that is important for the company. The BOM once invited the new Dutch representative of its consulate in Japan to Den Bosch to talk about the Dutch-Japanese relationship. This is just one example of several useful connections initiated by the BOM, according to Sollewijn Gelpke.

Factory of the Future

OMRON’s ecosystem also comprises of customers that have their headquarters in Brabant. Den Bosch, the southern province’s capital, is very well positioned, with many highways, all the main ports of Western-Europe, and Germany nearby. That enables the company to deliver its products sustainably, with less transport costs, faster and therefore more efficiently.

Delivering quality in a timely matter- at a competitive price – whenever the customer asks for it, is one of the main features of the Factory of the Future (FotF) but also to set that up in a smart augmented way, as there might be a shortage of workers in the future. The FotF will be very much data-driven, to be more efficient per square meter, expects Sollewijn Gelpke, who also stresses the importance of its partners who will be invited to jointly think about the future of manufacturing.

“As there is a real need to expand our plant, we are already looking what the conditions should be for the next 10 years,” he says. “We have quite a large, estate which gives us the chance to double or triple the factory space. And fortunately we also have support from the municipality of Den Bosch.”