Processes at our Graben-Neudorf location are evolving; mobile robots and assistance systems are intelligently linking the loose process modules. By implementing and genuinely using the principles of Industry 4.0, the production and assembly areas are becoming a cyber-physical production system.
For years, our factory in Graben-Neudorf has been a pioneer in Industry 4.0because, since 2013, we have been operating a production area there under real conditions that align with the principles of Industry 4.0. This is a place where real customer orders meet smart processes, intelligent assistance systems and mobile robots.
Our production and logistics concept is based on the Lean philosophy. It would be downright impossible to achieve intelligent processes, smart cyber-physical systems and autonomous assistants that are completely error-free, as defined in Lean. An efficient overall process is created when the individual production and assembly steps are perfectly interconnected. This ultimately delivers a measurable improvement in production time, productivity and, therefore, a competitive production area with better delivery and throughput times. An intelligent exchange of information across interfaces means that we can monitor the entire value-creation process - from the customer order to customer delivery.
Simulated and real routes
Simulations allow the routes of mobile assistance systems to be tested and optimized until they deliver the best results. Then, a few clicks will transfer them to the real systems and controllers. We guide the assistance systems in different ways. They can be guided inductively, via sensors, or automatically via the laser SLAM process. Assistance systems can be deployed with a high level of flexibility, depending on the guidance system.
In our cyber-physical production system, we use different assistance systems. For material delivery, logistics assistants are used. They can carry up to 1.5 tons and automatically route themselves through the production and logistics areas. Embedded systems, such as the controller, laser SLAM, and others, always navigate the assistant perfectly to the operation site, thereby keeping the production area up and running. If loads become heavier or certain tasks need to be completed more quickly, the logistics assistants can merge to form a swarm.
We use assembly assistants in the assembly cells. They assist the machinists with their work, by adapting to whatever height they are working at or by carrying important information, which they can provide to the machinist at the right time.
In the future, logistics at all factories will use our logistics capsules . In addition to the components to be installed, they also contain information on their content and place of delivery. Logistics capsules can travel autonomously on factory premises and independently find trucks or trains for loading.
Certain routine tasks in the factory are handled by mobile handling assistants . They assist the worker or automatically process certain tasks both in the production and in the assembly area. To do so, they simply travel to the particular work station, where they learn the task and are then ready to go. We currently use this assistance system for assembling lathes and milling machines. Here, the mobile assistant is loading a feed conveyor with shafts that are to be processed. Once it has completed this task, it automatically moves to the next station and removes the processed shafts. At the same time, it reaches into a box to pick up the arbitrarily placed offcuts for assembly. It positions the shafts in a curing rack when unloading the machine.
In this process, rather than doing the groundwork, employees are instead the key architects who link the various individual steps in the process, as required. However, easing the burden on production employees by no means indicates that humans will become unnecessary in the process. They are simply operating at a redefined level, with new tasks and competencies. Industry 4.0 is changing the role of humans in production. It is creating a human-technology collaboration.