Digital transformation How a medium-sized company goes digital

Author / Editor: Sandra Roth* / Alexander Stark

A tool and mould maker in transformation. What is changing at this medium-sized company as a result of the conversion to Industry 4.0 and digitalisation?

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Fischerwerke is going digital. Already in the first phase, advantages became visible.
Fischerwerke is going digital. Already in the first phase, advantages became visible.
(Source: Fischer)

Fischer is pushing ahead digitalisation by continuously improving all business areas. The tool and mould making division located in Horb am Neckar /Germany is also well advanced in the digital transformation. “The Industry 4.0 strategy of Fischer Tool and Mould Making pursues the goal of holistically tapping the potential of digital networking,” Bernd Ströhlein, Head of Tool Making, explains the strategy. “On the one hand, this enables us to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of internal processes and, on the other, generate additional customer benefits.”

Determining the current state

To prepare for the changeover, a project team had developed an Industry 4.0 strategy for our tool and mould making in cooperation with the industrial consultancy WBA Aachener Werkzeugbau Akademie. All those involved had first determined the current state and assessed the potential for improvement in the individual areas. From the insights gained, the project team developed a roadmap that included the fields of action and a schedule for implementing the individual steps. In the process, the freed-up staff capacities and the required investment expenditure were determined. “There, the promising potential of the identified solutions was confirmed,” says Bernd Ströhlein.

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The launch has consequences

It turned out that the digitalisation of the initial processes has an efficiency-increasing effect on the subsequent processes. If, for example, the enquiry is recorded with IKOffice (software especially for tool and mould making), the effort for the subsequent calculation is reduced and thus promotes the development towards a fully automated calculation. In general, data-supported work and automated processes are the basis for the introduction of Industry 4.0. In tool and mould making at Fischer, it enables the changeover to manufacturing without paper and drawings. Planning accuracy is increased when defining the manufacturing strategy and determining target times, and similarity-based work preparation ensures that production runs smoothly.

Reduced risk for errors

Digitisation helps to reduce the work involved in creating CAM programmes. And in the case of worker self-checking, manual documentation and time-consuming error documentation are replaced by digital error recording, for example with camera measurement in production as a control instrument. Industry 4.0 also facilitates and optimises the programming of the production cell, including job management: there, great savings potentials can be exploited through reduced manual activities as well as through the reduction of error possibilities and changeover times. The trend here is towards automation cells.

In patterning, the data-supported processes ensure improved data quality and unambiguity, which reduces the possibility of errors and speeds up the patterning processes. The optimised sampling process is thus a good instrument for conveying confidence to customers.

Knowing where the knowledge is

The improvements described so far also benefit knowledge management: because with the new structure, the existing knowledge is now documented completely systematically. This reduces search efforts for accessing the documented knowledge. Finally, digitalisation also ensures great progress in tool management, including tool life cycles. Digital tool tracking via QR codes makes the cumbersome search effort required to provide all necessary information on the tool superfluous. In addition, the automated tracking generates warning messages if tool movements are not acknowledged by employees.

The previous parallel existence of analog tools and individual, unconnected software solutions has been replaced by data-driven management of processes with automatic self-optimization. By the end of 2020, a large part of the measures was implemented.

* *Sandra Roth works at Fischerwerke in 72178 Waldachtal/Germany, Tel. +49 74 43 12-62 51, sandra.roth@fischer.de

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