The real world and cyberspace are merging, huge volumes of data form the basis for accurate production decisions, and companies are growing together digitally, with products and production standing in digital dialogue.
This is Industry 4.0, which is set to have an impact similar to that of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago. It’s about a new way of organizing the value chain over the entire product lifecycle, based on connecting each link in the chain through real-time availability of all relevant information. In view of this radical transformation we are supporting the issue not just within the company but as part of the nationwide Industry 4.0 platform.
Connected value chains
At one of our hot strip mills we have implemented an Industry 4.0 solution that goes way beyond the boundaries of an individual company. The processes of the supplier, the hot strip mill as the manufacturer, and the customers are connected in a digital network.
Hot-rolled coil starts out life as a steel slab. Slab production at Hüttenwerke Krupp-Mannesmann is controlled by the hot strip mill around 80 kilometers away. That means we can respond quickly to our customers’ deadline requirements even with the starting material.
Conversely, customers can exert “just in time” influence on production at the hot strip mill. They can enter orders directly in the mill’s IT system in the form of fixed or variable material specifications and obtain information on the internal production process. In 65 percent of cases customers themselves determine when their material is rolled.
The advantages for the customer are clear: Flexibility in scheduling their own orders on the one hand, and the ability to change specifications such as width and thickness until just before production starts on the other. Greater flexibility is difficult to imagine.
For production and logistics at the hot strip mill this is a challenge that requires integration of commercial, administrative, and technical data. The advantages are space and cost savings for the storage of starting materials and finished products, freeing up capital for more productive purposes.
In our Ilsenburg plant, camshafts and the machines used to produce them are in active dialogue. Each camshaft has its own unique ID and passes through the production process almost as if it had a first and last name.
And it carries a large amount of data, such as the customer for which it is being produced, its current processing status, and in what condition it left the previous process step. This dialogue between product and production is based on interfaces to the Internet.
The camshafts also have a memory: the so-called recipe used to produce a specific type of camshaft for a specific customer. In Ilsenburg, the physical world of things is merging with data networks to form a “cyber-physical system.”
This is the future of industrial production. It requires all elements in the production process if possible to have a name, a history, and an interface to the web. The aim is the “smart factory,” capable of managing itself, learning, and operating flexibly.
Over twelve million elevators around the world move more than a billion people every day. That makes elevators the most frequently used mode of transport in the world – well ahead of cars, trains, buses, and planes. Measured in terms of daily trips, waiting times are already very low – but we want to improve them even further using a small, smart box called MAX that we developed in collaboration with Microsoft.
MAX continuously monitors and analyzes all the elevator’s data: How quickly is the door closing, how quickly is the elevator accelerating, what is the status of all its components? These data are sent to the cloud and analyzed there. If anything unusual is detected, the data are compared with all available data from thyssenkrupp’s entire elevator base. Have there already been cases where similar readings indicated that a component is about to fail? This all takes place in a flash – and our service engineers receive a message on their smartphones in real time, such as: “A component needs replacing in the elevator on thyssenkrupp Allee.”
This enables us to repair the elevator before it breaks down, thus minimizing down times. For the people waiting in the lobby, it means as many elevators as possible are in operation. Or to put it another way, no waiting around because one of the elevators is out of order. MAX allows us to carry out proactive maintenance – all thanks to a small, smart box that is clairvoyant, math genius, and engineer all in one.