Digital manufacturing comes in many shapes and forms. What is decisive is not just the size of a company or its budget, but above all soft factors such as creativity and entrepreneurial thinking. One thing is clear: Smart factories are built piece by piece, not by flipping some switch. Most companies choose to first focus on pilot projects. The projects are in areas where they expect real-time information and automation to bring a high level of economic utility value. Our use cases show you what can already be done today.
Challenge: Unit costs are often high for small runs and single orders. One reason: the costs for conversion and production are distributed over a comparatively small production volume. Because it is often not possible to maintain high prices in competitive global markets, contracts often go to others - even though capacity is available.
Solution: "Lot size of one" is synonymous with maximum flexibility in networked manufacturing. This requires flexible machines and systems that can adapt quickly and independently to new demands. Because machines, components and production planning are constantly communicating, the product finds its own way through the manufacturing process. Small batches and even individual pieces can be produced at low unit costs.
Advantage: Manufacturing companies are able to take on small orders to fill spare capacity. They acquire additional customers, increase sales, reduce dependency on major customers and benefit from higher profitability.
Challenge: Parts that wear out are replaced either when there is an acute need or at fixed intervals. This reduces unplanned downtime for machines, but cannot completely prevent it. There is also the risk of parts being replaced prophylactically, although the end of their life cycle has not yet been reached.
Solution: "Predictive maintenance" is aimed at taking care of intelligent machines and systems. Because they are equipped with sensors, they can monitor themselves and report maintenance-relevant events. They are not serviced at fixed intervals, but in case of acute need.
Advantage: New market opportunities are created for machine manufacturers and plant manufacturers: For example, by providing additional services for products. Manufacturing companies avoid unplanned shutdowns and save on production costs to a certain degree, because parts subject to wear can be used for a longer time.
Challenge: Sometimes it can be difficult to locate goods and equipment, whether you are looking for partially finished products in a large interim storage facility or vehicles on the confusing premises of a company. Companies lose a lot of time looking for things. In the worst case, assets are written off that actually still exist.
Solution: Objects such as tools, materials, machines and vehicles are tagged. "Dead" assets become objects that communicate an interact autonomously with related systems. The tags send time and location data to the cc|smart cloud platform. The objects can be located via smartphone or tablet using the mobile web app cc|object tracker.
Advantage: It takes users only a few simple steps to securely locate objects on the factory premises. They save time and can optimize their routes. In addition to this, movements can be tracked. The movement profiles allow conclusions about the progress of projects or state of the objects.
Challenge: How competitive vertical supply chains are depends on factors such as production time, quality level and overall process costs. For that reason, coordination between partners at every stage of production plays an important role. Gaps in processes and system discontinuity along the supply chain often mean that a lot of manual effort is required - with a correspondingly high error rate.
Solution: The goal of process integration is to remove system discontinuities in data exchange and communication along the supply chain. Either with integration solutions such as the cc|data integration suite or with portals that provide invoices, shipping notifications, orders and confirmations online.
Advantage: Digital technologies are easing administrative burdens along the supply chain. Staff devote less time to routine tasks, mistakes are avoided, and relevant data is available more quickly. This reduces process costs while increasing process quality.
Challenge: Contractors, visitors and suppliers must successfully complete a safety briefing before entering the factory premises. In many places this leads to long lines at the safety services office. In case of a dispute, the operator of the system must prove that the safety check has actually been completed.
Solution: With the cc|safety instructor app, employees of the contractors can learn about safety precautions and rules of conduct on their own. When they have done so, a multiple-choice test ensures that the rules have been understood.
Advantages: Using the cc|safety instructor efficiently provides training to your own staff and external employees . Because the safety briefing has already been completed before arrival, there are no long waiting times at the entrance. The presentation of the information is available in several languages and the material is explained in a simple way using appropriate teaching methods. Operators can document in detail who has completed the mandatory safety briefing and when they did so.
Challenge: To service machinery and equipment, technicians need one thing above all: Information. But finding technical data and the maintenance history requires a lot of effort.
Solution: Via QR codes placed on machines and equipment technicians are able to access relevant information using smartphones or tablets. Service technicians then have direct access to parts lists, operating instructions, exploded-view drawings and graphs of characteristics.
Advantage: Rather than having to search for information in different databases, just a few simple steps are needed to retrieve relevant details. That saves service technicians time. You can also access data in situations where carrying around a laptop would be impractical.
Challenge: Service technicians cannot have perfect knowledge of every machine from the bottom up. When working on things they are not familiar with, the amount of effort that goes towards research is therefore often considerable. This makes the time required to complete service assignments longer.
Solution: Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality glasses project interactive, three-dimensional objects and information directly into the user's field of vision. Technicians are able to rotate models with gestures, head movements, or speech. They can view them from different perspectives and separate them into their component parts.
Advantage: Being able to clearly visualize equipment, parts and components improves technical understanding. Expert information is actively displayed while the service work is being done. Technicians do not have to stop working to do research. Three-dimensional models help them directly apply what they have learned.
Systems used: Microsoft HoloLens.
Challenge: Today, measures from the field of maintenance and the integration of investments (new construction and expansion of plants and factories) are increasingly shoehorned into shorter and shorter shutdowns for general repairs. As a result, the operators of production facilities have to deal with technical projects on which external service providers often do more than 90 percent of the work. The situation is similar in the field of traditional plant engineering, where plants have to be designed and built in shorter and shorter periods of time. Given the shortage of skilled workers, companies are increasingly using foreign staff from abroad. Safety has to come first. However, the foreign staff is not familiar with the construction site and nevertheless has to fit in well in the environment.
Solution: The cloud-based cc|vendor & contractor portal makes it possible to interact with all external partners digitally. It is possible for them to authenticate themselves via the portal and receive role-related assistance apps, such as cc|safety instructor for mobile safety briefing or cc|object tracker for tracking components, equipment, spare parts, tools, machines and people. Using the team site app, they can access the project management and construction site documents in Office 365, and thus find the site information they need.
Advantage: The proportion of unproductive time on industrial construction sites, which can be up to 40 percent, can be significantly reduced using digital technologies. Being able to clearly visualize equipment, parts, components and the construction field improves technical understanding. Additional expert information is actively displayed while the work is being done.