Industry 4.0 Smart Tooling – Smart Tools and Smart Services
The future of tool manufacturing is a smart one: Industry 4.0 is advancing quickly and demands not only smart factories but also smart tools. Data analysis and adaptability are key for keeping up to date.
Today, with high levels of digitisation and the possibility of almost unlimited digital networking, we envisage the future of tooling to be both highly interconnected and highly intelligent. In this vision, digitised technologies will provide a previously unknown degree of transparency regarding manufacturing processes and the value creation chain as a whole. Accurate key data, such as the current status quo of production and current productivity, will be available live and at all times, making possible new levels of optimisation and automation. This in turn will result in the creation of new and improved services for customers.
Permanent data transfer in serial production using self-predicting and self-optimising tools will raise the value performance of tools significantly, while maintenance costs will shrink remarkably. As a result, the tooling industry may well find itself being reinvented from the ground up. For the moment, however, this feels more like a vision from the far future, while current challenges seem to be far more important in the daily business of tooling companies. Why invest in new technologies whose business justification is yet to be proven and with, if anything, only long-term profit perspectives? Why risk beginning an uncertain technology implementation process that appears to be experimental while unable to provide a real-life example? Given these thoughts, it may seem more reasonable to dedicate a company´s resources to pressing, short-term challenges instead of long-term development. But is the investment in digitised technologies really that far away from the current challenges tooling companies have to cope with?
Tooling companies are currently facing a challenging business situation, one that has become increasingly competitive over the past few years. The reasons are simple – customers demanding highly complex products on the one hand and international competition fuelled by globalisation on the other. Global demand and tool complexity have increased in recent years in conjunction with shorter product lifecycles and growing derivatisation. This trend is best illustrated using the example of one of the most iconic cars of recent times, the VW Golf. The lifecycle of the VW Golf I, which first rolled off the assembly lines in 1974, was 10 years. Forty years later, the lifecycle of the VW Golf VII has been halved to five years.