Recently, Editorial Director Paul J. Heney had the opportunity to tour the igus International Headquarters and speak with company CEO Frank Blasé. The tour included an opportunity to see the 350 injection molding machines that put out more than 3 million pieces per day. igus runs approximately 10,000 mechanical and temperature tests per year on its products, as well as chemical tests that are done off-site. There are 600 customer-specific tests on the bearings product line alone.
The Internet of Things (IoT) appears to be new to many companies. However, if you have worked in manufacturing, the IoT is more of an evolution of data collection and connectivity that has been around for several decades. What’s new this time is using IoT to automate the processes that surround manufacturing—order entry, ERP systems and other parts of the total manufacturing system.
Here are the comments from Blasé and how igus is using IoT concepts to further improve manufacturing.
DW: How do you personally see the Internet of Things affecting igus?
Blasé: A little bit facetiously, on the one hand, as we have been doing it for many years. Not all the aspects, not all digitalized, but part of what the Internet of Things means, according to us anyway, is that customers can order online any kind of configuration or any kind of one-off and get it, quickly. That has been part of our business … for decades, and also online tools started early, but we have to make huge efforts, and we are doing that.
We invest in an unprecedented amount of IT right now, to digitalize the whole process. We call it “from contact to claim.” From the first contact that the customer has with us, on the Web, or we have with the customer, all the way to a possible claim, and digitalize everything in between, as much as is possible or adequate.[Imagine] making a CAD drawing that can be, should be, automated, with a few configuration tools; it should automatically go to the ERP system and then automatically go to the supplier, where automatically the CNC machine starts turning that part. We need to digitalize, quickly, and we have am ambitious plan for the next two years.
We see three aspects of the IoT: the one-to-one online ordering, the smart factory and the smart products.
For online ordering, we see ourselves quite well prepared. Smart factory, inside, we made a lot of preparations to do the one-to-one, and we need to digitalize more, for our customers. We have the cable developments, CAD 7 and so on, to make the data communication safe. Once it’s in motion, we believe, we can make some good contributions there. From the smart products point of view, we think that we will do more.
We have some smart products, a chain that tells the customer if it has worn to a certain point, and the new Web-based control might be interesting, but we think that we can do more. We need the overall investment in IT, like the Big Data foundation, so that we can do something with data if we want to. It is so difficult to integrate a sensor into something, but the software and what IT does with it and tells the customer what to do with it, is, we believe, a big part of the investment.
Filed Under: Bearings, Cables + cable management, IoT • IIoT • internet of things • Industry 4.0
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