Interdisciplinary Factory Planning

  Innovative factory Layouts - Vertical separation of office spaces and Shopfloor © L. Wieloch  

Innovative Interdisciplinary Planning and Design Factories


Germany as an industrial location faces significant changes that will result in new challenges in the conception, planning and realization of factories. Against the backdrop of today’s prevailing megatrends, the shape of factories will transform significantly and perpetually, which increases complexity in the factory planning process. In order to master these future challenges and decrease the coordination costs within planning teams, strategies to systematically reduce this complexity of the factory planning process have to be developed.

Major challenges for the factory planning will emerge from processes of social, political and economic change. These processes of change are characterized by an increased complexity and uncertainty. Even if it is possible to anticipate the direction of some influential developments today - as in the areas of economic globalization, demographic change or the threat of scarcity of resources – various unknown factors have to be reckoned with in decision-making and planning processes. Furthermore, developments within the framework of Industry 4.0, a project initiated by the Federal Government to promote the competitive position of Germany by fostering the digitalization and automation of the industrial production, will alter form and concept of future factories. 

For the planning and design of the factories of the future, this complexity means firstly that planning processes need to be made more efficient in order to respond to changing conditions, secondly, that planning processes need to be made more flexible in order to anticipate the changing environment, and thirdly, that the shape of new factories in terms of future needs must be versatile.

Overall, it becomes evident, that high and varied expectations, which go beyond a purely technical development of production technology, are placed on factories of the future. The realization of such plants therefore requires an integrative and interdisciplinary approach, with the involvement of different disciplines and thus a further specialization of planners. In particular, with regard to the demand for a shorter planning period, a stronger parallelization of planning tasks will arise. Thus, the factory of the future will be interpreted as a highly integrative system that is holistically embedded in the future course of the economy and society. The trends outlined require a new approach in factory planning in order to meet the demand for increasingly interdisciplinary and parallel planning as well as the reduction of coordination costs.

Visualization of a factory building  Course ‘Interdisciplinary Factory Planning”, Winter term 2015/16 © A. Willam, M. Fernandez Visualization of a factory building Course ‘Interdisciplinary Factory Planning”, Winter term 2015/16

Research Network “Interdisciplinary Factory Planning”

With the aim to optimally prepare the manufacturing industry for the challenges of global competition, an interdisciplinary research and teaching network has formed at the RWTH Aachen, which will develop a forward-looking, holistic plan of action for the design of the "factory of the future".

The cooperation includes selected disciplines of mechanical- and civil engineering and architecture.