"With a little luck, you could win a one-day training course for six people using the Industry 4.0 model at our Graben-Neudorf showcase factory." That was the message from SEW-EURODRIVE at HANNOVER MESSE 2017, referring to the top prize in the competition, which had attracted over 380 entrants by the final day of the trade fair.
The top prize went to Markus Schremmer, who works in project handling and production management at KHS GmbH.
On July 27, the day the prize was redeemed, the weather was so-so. The expectant participants, on the other hand, were in a terrific mood. Things got underway early in the morning at 8.30 with a get-together and a brief introduction to SEW-EURODRIVE. Jens Kohlhaas, Consultant der Inhouse Beratung WIEPRO at SEW-EURODRIVE, ensured everyone was kept entertained at all times in the eight hours that followed, despite the demanding program.
"At SEW-EURODRIVE, the workplace culture in selected areas has already been converted to Industry 4.0."
Following a workplace design session in the Sm@rt Factory, the day continued with a fascinating look at assistance systems and their potential applications, focusing on the intelligent combination of people and technology.
After a tour of the Graben-Neudorf production plant with the 4.0 showcase factory, the participants were able to get hands-on experience of the production work in the future in the Sm@rt Factory "learning island".
Everyone was fascinated by the fact that Industry 4.0 doesn't play a marginal role in the showcase factory at the Graben plant by serving solely as a demonstration facility, but is instead already being fully embraced by it and is firmly integrated into the existing production operations. "It's interesting to see how the workplace culture at SEW-EURODRIVE has already been converted to Industry 4.0 in selected areas," says Schremmer.
"Industry 4.0 doesn't mean destroying jobs but providing support in the workplace."
With this comment, Schremmer is also addressing another issue that is the subject of a great deal of controversy in the public arena and in the workplace: "I thought it was good to see for ourselves that automation isn't the ever so feared nightmare destroying all jobs." Loss of jobs weighs heavily on people's minds. "Are we doing away with ourselves?" Questions like this can also be heard at KHS, yet they reflect the worries about the future among employees at many companies. However, the participants went away from the training at SEW-EURODRIVE knowing that this isn't the case: "Industry 4.0 doesn't mean destroying jobs but providing support in the workplace."
"It's good that SEW-EURODRIVE has done the planning and development work in-house. Many other companies would have called on some consultancy firm or engineering company to do this. But now SEW-EURODRIVE has the expertise itself in-house," says one of the other KHS participants, adding: "An external consultancy firm would now have the know-how itself and could sell it on. For the exact same reason, product optimization at KHS is implemented by the specialist departments and the cross-departmental team of Industrial Engineering; all within the framework of the KHS production system.
"Thanks to information via a tablet, if an employee is sick, a colleague can take over quickly."
The KHS employees were also impressed with the way work is supported by machinery and information technology – that is to say, the pioneering technology that, for instance, enables employees via a tablet to see directly on the assembly assistant what they need to do, how and in what order. "That's much more reliable. If a colleague has an accident or is sick and production is at a standstill, it's easier to deploy another employee instead. Although he isn't quite as fast, he can handle the work thanks to the step-by-step support," says Schremmer.
This, too, shows that at SEW-EURODRIVE Industry 4.0 isn't making jobs disappear, but is instead increasing the variety and quality of work. "At our company, employees need to master various jobs, and that's also one of the challenges of the work of the future," explains Kohlhaas.
"SEW-EURODRIVE may be seen as an example to follow."
What are the top prizewinners taking away from their training? Schremmer is in no doubt: "The approach that SEW-EURODRIVE has taken is something that can be used as a guide – and that includes us. For example, assembly in our bottling plants involves a high level of complexity with a great many variants – similar to the gearmotors manufactured at SEW-EURODRIVE. This overlap means we can in fact follow SEW-EURODRIVE as an example."
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