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E-mails to the turning lathe

When is manufacturing finally going online? Inventory management systems, e-mail communications or costumer relationship management - computer networking has revolutionized business processes in a multitude of areas. This is totally different, at least with regard to production. Yet here, an enormous amount of potential therein for industrial companies remains to be discovered. Especially in Germany, companies must take advantage of this opportunity.

The intensive use of EDP systems has completely revolutionized the working environment in offices all over the world. It's hard to imagine daily office life without Internet research, online ordering and, foremost, e-mail communication. The computer, as a working companion, has opened up the potential for growth and savings that even the most optimistic experts wouldn’t have dreamed possible. The speed of many processes has also been radically accelerated. Ordered today, delivered tomorrow - this applies in the meantime to books as well as to complex assembly parts in the automotive industry.

Against this background, it is much more amazing that, in most companies, the networking stops where the actual value creation begins: at the threshold to the manufacturing process. A few key figures illustrate this: While the proliferation of computers into German offices is determined to be at over 90 percent, a total of only 53 percent of the employees in industrial companies even use a PC. In plain English, this means: Whoever is working in production, is working offline, as a rule.

Yet, one gets the impression of being involuntarily transported back to the beginning of the 1990's in the last century when pleading that it is high time for production to dock onto the Internet or Intranet. Back then, those using mobile telephones in public had people of that era just shaking their heads on every street corner. This is very similar to what went on with the Internet. Why do we need e-mail? After all, isn't there the German postal service.

The rest is history. And there is only one realistic prognosis - when production does finally go online - that here, as well, a completely unique dynamic with, in part, developments that can't even be imagined to unfold, just like the rapid fusion and dissemination of mobile telephones and the Internet into all areas of our daily lives.

After all, the overall experience from industrial practice today is more than explicit: With consequent networking, or the so-called FactoryNet, production processes can be accelerated even further while costs are reduced and customer service is enhanced. A decisive advantage can be found, above all, in the transparency of networked manufacturing. For example, using the network, the plant supervisor may trace how many parts have already been produced in a machine and when the order will be complete. This allows for the optimal prognosis of available production capacity based on of real-time data. In the way, idle times and production bottlenecks can be minimized in this way.

If all machines and production halls are connected via a common database, raw material management can be optimized easily. The master technician gains a view into his workplace, as to which machine has how much raw material at its disposal and when its supply will be exhausted. In a further step, even the ordering process can be automated.

The professional management of maintenance intervals or repair work is easily handled with FactoryNet. Many machine manufacturers already offer remote servicing. The technician can access the defective machine via the Internet or a so-called P-to-P connection. Many problems can be solved even without a service call. If the technician does have to respond, he will already know the problem exactly and is prepared accordingly. In this way, downtimes and maintenance costs can be reduced to a minimum. This is a decisive advantage, especially with increasingly intense competition.

FactoryNet considerably simplifies the day-to-day processes essential for production. A good example of this is acquisition of the quantities produced. In many companies today, the machine operator still writes down the quantity of parts produced onto a sheet of paper and hands it to the production supervisor. He has to laboriously enter the numbers from all machines into the PC. That not only takes time, but can lead to mistaken data acquisition due to illegible (machine operator) writing or false entries - with uncontrollable risks.

With FactoryNet, quantities produced are recorded automatically at the machine and clearly compiled in a table for production control. The ProductionMonitoring tool, eR5, from BRANKAMP is a practice proven system offering just such a scope of performance. It even provides for the essential production data to be called up via a secure Internet connection and a simple Internet browser from anywhere in the world - for example, also during a presentation at the customer's facilities. The customer also profits during his daily business: Capacity and delivery deadlines can be determined quickly with a precision hither to unknown. This can be a decisive advantage in the hard competition for orders.

As opposed to the 1970's, when the thought of networked manufacturing was, perhaps, an electrifying thought for the engineers, the Factory Net is no longer merely just a theoretical concept still to be developed. The applications and technologies are available today and already in use at such innovative companies like Vosseler Umformtechnik. As a pioneer and world market leader in ProcessMonitoring systems - meaning sensor-based measuring systems for machines - BRANKAMP will show the FactoryNet in action at the EMO in Hannover in September. The next step in the „eVolution“ is close at hand and the companies that react quickly will have a significant advantage in the marketplace. After all: Networking of the manufacturing process will trigger a reformation of the industry - just as it happened in the office.


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