The Italian Flagship Project Factories of the FutureFootnote 21 (La Fabbrica del Futuro – Piattaforma manifatturiera nazionale) is one of the 14 Flagship Projects (Sect. 1.4.1) that started in January 2012 and lasted till December 2018 with a total funding of 10 million euro. CNR was the coordinator of this flagship project and played a key role both as research body and also as facilitator and integrator of the various actors involved in the activities: research institutes, universities, government institutions, manufacturing companies and industrial consortia.
The flagship project defined five strategic macro-objectives (Sect. 1.5.1) for factories of the future to be pursued thanks to the development, enhancement, and application of key enabling technologies (Sect. 1.5.2). The strategic macro-objectives took inspiration from the research priorities identified at international level (Sect. 1.3), while considering the evolution of the global industrial contexts (Sect. 1.1) and, above all, the peculiarities of the Italian manufacturing context (Sect. 1.2).
The flagship project was organised into two subprojects to create a stable national community characterized by scientific excellence of research. Subproject 1Footnote 22 aimed at establishing a multi-disciplinary cooperation among research organisations operating in specific scientific domains to exploit synergies for the development of integrated solutions. The goal of Subproject 2Footnote 23 was to strengthen the systemic cooperation among national research centres and universities with complementary competences.
Each subproject published a call for proposals based on the strategic macro-objectives to increase the competitiveness of the Italian manufacturing industry, paying particular attention to Made in Italy products in the global context. Section 1.5.3 presents the calls for proposals and the evaluation process that led to the selection of 18 small-sized research projects. The key results of the funded research projects together with the main dissemination activities of the flagship project are presented in Sect. 1.5.4.
Five strategic macro-objectives were defined for factories of the future:
Evolutionary and Reconfigurable Factory (Sect. 184.108.40.206)
Sustainable Factory (Sect. 220.127.116.11)
Factory for the People (Sect. 18.104.22.168)
Factory for Customised and Personalised Products (Sect. 22.214.171.124)
Advanced-Performance Factory (Sect. 126.96.36.199)
These objectives are not disjoint and must be intended as complementary perspectives concurring together to build the holistic concept of Factories of the Future.
Evolutionary and Reconfigurable Factory
A relevant characteristic of high-tech Made in Italy products (e.g. machinery, medical equipment, mechanical products, textile and wearing apparel) is the continuous reduction of product life cycles, because of the fast innovation of materials, ICT, artificial intelligence, mechatronics, and the fast evolving needs of the client.
Complex and variable market demands combined with the technological evolution of products and processes lead to the need of factories that are able to react and evolve themselves by exploiting flexibility , reconfigurability , changeability [30–32], and scalability  to stay competitive in dynamic production contexts .
Enabling technologies (Sect. 1.5.2) such as high automation, ICT tools, digital twins, and an integrated and efficient logistics can provide factories with the ability to change processes and configurations in a fast and cost effective way.
Hence, production systems must be endowed with operational flexibility and a high reconfigurability to cope with the co-evolution of product-process-manufacturing systems . Production systems will be required to evolve and reconfigure themselves at various factory levels, from the global logistics network to the single production resource. The factory evolution will consists of changes and reconfiguration of production resources and system layout, and changes in planning and production management policies.
Specific research and innovation topics for evolutionary and reconfigurable factories will cover:
Development of new methodologies and tools to model and design flexible and reconfigurable production systems , control systems, automation systems , machines and fixtures .
Development of methodologies to support the integrated design of products-processes-systems in evolution .
Design of optimisation approaches to reduce set-up and ramp-up times in production systems .
The concept of green products has a strong impact on the global scenario and involves also Made in Italy products. According to the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach, green products must be characterized by a limited environmental impact during their whole life cycle, including the production phase [39, 40]. Therefore, sustainable production requires factories to guarantee limited energy consumption of industrial plants, systems, and processes, while producing limited industrial waste and consuming a reduced amount of natural resources .
Factories will have to be compliant with stricter and stricter energy consumption and emissions regulations, considering both the consumption of the workstations and the lighting and conditioning systems of the building. Factories will be able to reduce their environmental impact also by exploiting clean energy sources, cogeneration, industrial symbiosis  as well as re-using any available source. In addition, factories will have to be sustainable also from a societal perspective, integrating worker skills and contributing to the growth of the local economies . Furthermore, besides being sustainable in the production, there is the need of a new generation of factories able to manage the final stages of the product life cycle by implementing product de-manufacturing, re-manufacturing, reuse, recycling and recovery, thus generating new opportunities and resources (de-production factories) . Both production and de-production factories must be part of a network that is sustainable as a whole in terms of supply chain management and overall business model .
Research and innovation lines for sustainable factories include:
new materials and production technologies exploiting renewable and green sources of energy and wastes of production processes ;
ICT tools and digital twins supporting the integrated control and management of factories, considering energy and environmental aspects of both productions systems and buildings ;
methodologies and tools for the modeling, design and management of processes, machines, systems and factories characterized by an efficient consumption of resources ;
methodologies and tools to model and design new products endowed with many lives since their conception;
human-robot interaction and artificial intelligence to disassemble products after their use ;
new business models for an efficient exploitation of production resources, through the offer of targeted services ;
methodologies and tools for the modeling, design and management of factories for de-manufacturing able to regain the functions of the products and their components .
Factory for the People
Factories of the future must be designed and managed taking in due consideration societal and demographic changes such as the increase in the retirement age of workers and the global aging of the population (see Sect. 1.1). Technologies, machine tools and workplaces will be designed not only for young employees but also for workers with relevant accumulated knowledge . The complexity and evolution of the working environment will require continuous training of the workforce .
Indeed, manufacturing history show that culture, know-how and skills of the workers play a key role in the success of manufacturing companies. Therefore, decisions regarding the factory design and location cannot be taken while considering only short-term cost minimisation, but it is necessary to fully evaluate the socio-economic impacts of phenomena like industrial de-localization .
The continuous improvement of robotics and automation technologies will make human-machine interaction even more relevant in the future of manufacturing. New forms of interactions must be investigated to better exploit human-machine cooperation in a shared and safe manufacturing environment .
Safety and ergonomics have a strong impact on productivity and profitability, therefore they should be addressed in a proactive way and not only in reaction to regulations .
New factories will provide an environment where people can face difficult production contexts characterized by products with short life cycles and high variability, thus requiring a quick adaptation of the production systems and the generation of new knowledge. Operators must be trained in a multidisciplinary way to flexibly manage the planning and execution of complex production plants. Furthermore, the high rate of technological obsolescence requires more and more attention to the ease of use of production resources, placing people in a central position within the factory environment. Specific research and innovation topics to develop factories for the people will include:
study of socio-economic aspects to assess the impact and exploitation of knowledge and technology, considering standardisation and ethical issues;
development of technologies that can improve working conditions thanks to ergonomic studies, reduction of risks related to dangerous processes by means of higher automation and remote control , more effective training using augmented and virtual reality , reduction of noise emissions  and air pollution, and telework;
interactive human-intelligent machines cooperation in the factory environment to better exploit human intuition and skills in changing working conditions ;
development of adaptive and reactive human-machine interfaces (voice recognition, gesture recognition, autonomous moving machines) to better support an effective collaboration.
Factory for Customised and Personalised Products
The offer of personalised products and services that are difficult to replicate allows competing with high value-added products in the global market. This represents an important strategic opportunity for the Italian manufacturing industry that is traditionally focused on meeting the customer requirements by exploiting process and product know-how together with an attitude for innovation. This is particularly relevant in sectors such as textiles, wearing apparel, footwear, glasses and accessories, luxury goods, and furniture.
A full personalisation based on the specific customer needs (e.g. biometric characteristics, non-standard size and shape) represents an evolution of the mass customization concept offering products in pre-defined variants . This asks for shifting the focus from high production volumes, process capability, component standardisation and modularity to factories able to offer one-of-a-kind products . The production of personalised products asks for factories implementing fast innovation cycles thanks to modern technologies and approaches that can further increase flexibility, efficiency and ability to offer highly personalised products in a very short time .
Customer-driven factories can be designed thanks to a close cooperation with end users. Indeed, the collection and analysis of customer preferences through innovative technologies and the testing of product prototypes can help to improve the customer experience along all the phases of the product life cycle .
Factories for customised and personalised products will have to address the following research and innovation lines.
ICT tools to support product personalisation (e.g. augmented and virtual reality , design and simulation of human-product interaction);
new business models to optimise production and logistics supporting the one-of-a-kind paradigm;
new approaches for the design, management and cooperation of supply chains and single manufacturing companies aimed at the production of personalised products ;
new tools and services based on innovative monitoring and maintenance techniques to support the use of products along their life cycle .
The production of customised and evolving products in a sustainable and human-oriented way poses serious challenges for the factory performance. High-performance factories will meet the demand by minimising all the inefficiencies associated with internal and external logistics, management of inter-operational buffers, transformation processes and their parameters, management and maintenance policies, software and hardware tools, quality inspection and control techniques. Both production systems and production processes can concur to increase the factory performance if monitoring data are properly collected . Necessary enabling technologies include advanced sensors, innovative mechatronic components, ICT platforms , and digital twins [67–69].
The elaboration of data collected from the field with innovative techniques including data fusion and artificial intelligence, will enable advanced-performance factories to autonomously identify the causes of anomalies, failures and disturbances, implement adaptive strategies (e.g. predictive maintenance) modify operating modes so that the factory can constantly operate in conditions of high efficiency and zero defects .
Increasingly efficient transformation processes will reduce cycle times of the transformation operations, thus improving also the factory service level. New transformation processes will be needed to produce new products making use of innovative materials.
Specific research and innovation topics to develop advanced-performance factories will include:
new high-performance transformation and transportation processes and systems;
digital twins of processes, machines and systems  together with model predictive control and multicriteria optimization.
models and platforms for the collection and fusion of shop floor data aimed at improving the technical efficiency of the production systems also by means of artificial intelligence ;
methodologies to support the design and modeling of quality control systems, management policies , and maintenance policies;
new hardware and software solutions, data fusion, digital twins and artificial intelligence to continuously monitor and optimize manufacturing systems performance.
Enabling technologies are technologies with a high content of knowledge and capital that are associated with intense research and development activities, involving highly skilled employment . These technologies are characterized by rapid and integrated innovation cycles and enable innovation in a wide range of applications involving products, services, processes, and systems. Enabling technologies are of strategic importance at the systemic, multidisciplinary and trans-sectoral levels, because they incorporate skills deriving from different scientific-technological areas to induce structural changes and disruptive solutions with respect to the state of the art.
The list of enabling technologies has evolved during the last ten years depending on the technological progress. The list proposed by EFFRA in 2013  included:
advanced manufacturing processes;
information and communication technologies;
mechatronics for advanced manufacturing systems;
modelling, simulation and forecasting methods and tools;
Enabling technologies represent the basis for the innovation of Made in Italy production, providing solutions for a large number of applications and sectors that will offer new products and services. Herein, the following enabling technologies have been identified as relevant for factories of the future:
Artificial Intelligence, digital twins, and digital factory technologies for intelligent factories;
de-manufacturing and material recovery technologies;
factory reconfiguration technologies;
control technologies of production resources and systems;
resource management and maintenance technologies;
technologies for monitoring and quality control;
human-machine interaction technologies.
The wide adoption of ICT in manufacturing industry can help to improve the overall efficiency, adaptability and sustainability of the production systems. The interoperability among software tools and digital twins [67, 69] is crucial for sharing and transferring data along all the phases of the factory life cycle. For instance, integrated and interoperable solutions could include software tools for:
Product Life-cycle Management (PLM) and platforms for Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA), at product level ;
wireless sensors and solutions for remote resources monitoring , CAD (Computer Aided Design), CAE (Computer Aided Engineering), Computer Aided Process Planning (CAPP), Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM), at process level;
evaluating the production system performance , multi-level simulation of reconfigurable factories, collaborative factory design in Virtual Reality (VR)  and Augmented Reality (AR) environments, ontologies for the conceptual modeling of the factory and its elements , at production system level.
Modern ICT offers new solutions (e.g. Cyber Physical Systems—CPS , Internet of Things—IoT , and Big Data Analytics ) with high potential impact on manufacturing. However, new digital technologies are associated with relevant challenges and risks for manufacturing companies because it is necessary to acquire or outsource advanced services, cyber security is under threat , and reference technical standard are still under development.
Factories of the future will have to adopt production technologies that enable the efficient use of resources  and are based on clean processes. Therefore, it is necessary to search for new processes characterized by low energy consumption, exploitation of renewable resources, increased efficiency and reduced emissions. New modular and flexible technologies will be needed for the production of non-standard products, even in small batches. Examples of enabling production technologies are high-speed machining, high performance tools, modular and reconfigurable handling technologies, non-conventional manufacturing processes (e.g. water jet, plasma, laser, ultrasonic machining—USM), micro-machining, micro-assembly and micro-factories .
Sustainable manufacturing involves both the production process and the management of the life cycle and reuse of materials and components . Production technologies will have to minimise energy, materials’ use, as well as the production of waste. The contribution of robotic disassembly technologies, advanced automation and human-robot cooperation will be fundamental to enable efficient re-use and re-manufacturing applications . Finally, a key role is played by advanced technologies for the shredding and separation of materials to recover and recycle materials with commercial value.
New system and machine architectures enabling fast hardware and automation systems will provide competitive advantages to the factories of the future. Methodologies and tools to support the reconfiguration of machines and production systems will have to model uncertain information about the production context.
The design of control systems distributed over a network of heterogeneous devices is enabled by the introduction of advanced fieldbus communication techniques and intelligent devices endowed with microprocessors and programmable hardware. Traditional modelling techniques (e.g. based on IEC 61131 standard and programmable logic controllers - PLCs) are inadequate for distributed systems, since they can hardly meet the requirements of reusability, reconfigurability and flexibility for the development of control applications. Research on distributed and reconfigurable controls will rely on technical standards such as IEC 61499.
Production planning, scheduling and maintenance planning will have a strong impact on the performance of the factories of the future that are coping with changes in the market (e.g. demand) and the production environment (e.g. reconfiguration of the production system, availability of resources, etc.). An effective management of production resources can be supported by techniques such as reactive and robust production planning [81, 82], preventive and predictive maintenance , integrated production and maintenance planning, condition based maintenance (CBM), self-learning and self-organization algorithms for self-repair of systems.
Zero-defect production will enable factories of the future to increase their efficiency thanks to proactive improvement processes and intelligent measurement systems. The acquisition of data from the field requires designing accurate and low-cost sensor networks, whereas the elaboration of monitoring data asks for multi-resolution and multi-scale algorithms. Factory operations will be assisted by integrated methods that are able to process monitoring data and evaluate the system performance depending on possible adaptive reconfigurations.
Factories of the future will need to cope with the continuous increase of factory automation. Efficient and reactive technologies for human/machine interactions in advanced production environments will guarantee employment levels and ergonomics . Innovative industrial robots will perform a wide range of tasks in spite of significant knowledge gaps. Advanced graphical interfaces will enable the use of increasingly complex software tools. Virtual and digital environment will be used to support training and enhance human skills .
Calls for Proposals and Research Projects
Each call for proposals of the two subprojects included four macro-objectives selected among the ones defined in Sect. 1.5.1 to demonstrate how enabling technologies (Sect. 1.5.2) can be developed and applied to innovate manufacturing processes. The project proposals had to follow a template consisting of project description, partnership, and impact. An additional call for proposals was published to enhance the result of the previously funded research projects through the development of hardware/software prototypes.Footnote 24
Table 1.2 reports the summary of the three calls for proposals, pointing out the total cost of the research projects (including co-funding), the number of submitted and funded proposals, the duration of the projects and the admissible participants. Manufacturing companies could not be funded, but each proposal had to include an Industrial Interest Group to prove that manufacturing companies are interested in the proposed research topics.
Table 1.3 and Table 1.4 report the topics included in the call of Subproject 1 and Subproject 2, respectively.
The submission and evaluation of the project proposals were managed through a third-party informative system provided by CINECAFootnote 25 (Italian consortium of universities and research centres) to guarantee robustness and maintain anonymity along the process. The proposals were evaluated by a set of independent national and international reviewers selected from a pool of 167 experts registered in the MIUR database. The reviewers for each proposal were automatically selected by an algorithm based on matching between the call topic and the expertise of the reviewer, both of them identified by ERC (European Research Council)Footnote 26 keywords. Three reviewers (two national and one international) were assigned to each proposal and each reviewer evaluated a maximum of three proposals (Table 1.5).
The project proposals were evaluated by the reviewers according to the following criteria:
Technical-scientific quality (max 5 points, threshold 4 points)
Project organization and planning of activities (max 5 points, threshold 3 points)
Scientific and industrial impacts (max 5 points, threshold 3 points)
Finally, the Executive Committee (consisting of Director, vice-Director, Subproject 1 coordinator and Subproject 2 coordinator) of the flagship project approved the ranking of the proposals based on the evaluation of the reviewers and published the list of funded projects. Table 1.6, Table 1.7, and Table 1.8 report the list of funded projects after the Subproject 1, Subproject 2, and Prototypes calls, respectively.
Results of the Flagship Project
A total of 21 CNR institutes and six universities participated in the 18 funded research projects. In addition, 55 private companies joined the various Industrial Interest Groups, thus effectively creating a large community working on topics for factories of the future.
The main scientific results of the research projects are summarised in Table 1.9 in terms of publications on international journals, proceedings of international conferences, and chapters of international books. The citations of the journal articles demonstrate how the results of the research have already achieved a scientific impact, even though the publication date is still recent. In addition, two patents were successfully published.
The flagship project as a whole was disseminated during more than 20 national and international events related to manufacturing industry and research. In particular, synergies were established with the Italian Cluster Intelligent Factories (Sect. 1.4.2) and with European initiatives such as Manufuture and EFFRA (Sect. 1.3).
The flagship project participated in the BI-MUFootnote 27 2016 exhibition in Milan. BIMU is the largest Italian fair of machine tools and other capital goods related to manufacturing and is the second largest exhibition in this field in Europe. The Flagship Project Factories of the Future presented the results to the selected public attending the exhibition by organising a stand (Figs. 1.2 and 1.3) of 170 m2 dedicated to the 14 prototypes (Table 1.8) resulting from the activities of various research projects (Fig. 1.4).
Four conferences of the flagship project were organised in 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2018. During these conferences the calls for proposals and/or the results of the research projects were presented.
The Final Event of the Flagship Project was conceived as a one-week national research road-show (26–30 November, 2018) visiting laboratories of institutes and universities that are active on advanced manufacturing research. Forty young researchers participated in the final event to work on new ideas for factories of the future in a creative and multi-disciplinary environment.Footnote 28
The flagship project promoted an international collaboration with Automotive Partnership Canada after a memorandum of understanding between CNR and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). In this framework a concurrent call for joint research projectsFootnote 29 was launched in the area of manufacturing research, with the Canadian side focusing on automotive manufacturing. The collaboration resulted in one joint research project .
Finally, this very book represents a contribution to the dissemination of the whole flagship project. The following chapters will present in details the scientific and industrial results of the 18 research projects (see Tables 1.6 and 1.7) [84–101]. Grounding on the experience and results of the flagship project, the final two chapters of this book present an outlook on future manufacturing research by proposing missions aimed at fostering growth and innovation  and discussing research infrastructures and funding mechanisms .