Hannover. The "Connect & Collaborate" lead theme for HANNOVER MESSE 2018 fits the industrial subcontracting sector like a glove. Subcontractors have always been integral parts of extensive value chains spanning multiple players from multiple industries. Their customers are their partners, and their core business is collaboration. And now, in the age of digitization, that's truer than ever. At the Industrial Supply show (halls 3, 4 and 5) at HANNOVER MESSE (23–27 April in Hannover, Germany), exhibitors from the subcontracting industry will present the current state of the art in smart supply.
"The industrial subcontracting sector has changed enormously in recent years. Subcontractors are now providers of solutions, not just products," commented Olaf Daebler, Deutsche Messe's Global Director Industrial Supply for HANNOVER MESSE. "Thanks to their immense capacity for innovation, they have rapidly transitioned from mere suppliers of parts to development partners for integrated solutions. And now, with the latest advances in digitization and Industry 4.0 technology, the way is clear to integrate, connect and transform collaborative processes across all areas, including development and production."
A good example of this cross-disciplinary integration and connectivity is the "e-WORLD" system developed by German steel provider Salzgitter Mannesmann Stahlhandel GmbH . The system comprises the e-CONNECT data exchange interface and the e-SHOP online ordering platform. It digitizes complex supplier-customer business processes. The e-CONNECT exchange gives customers direct access to the company's inventory data and enables them to order products as and when required.
ContiTech AG is another company that is leveraging connectivity and digitization to make its own products smarter. Its air spring systems are a good example of this. "Our air springs, which are fitted as pneumatic elements in items of plant, machinery, industrial vehicles and the like, are more intelligent now than they were just a couple of years ago. Thanks to Continental sensor systems, their height can be electronically adjusted, their internal pressure can be monitored, and their internal temperature measured," explains Lizette Granget, Head of Events, Brand and Central Business Unit Communications. Malfunction prevention and predictive maintenance are also high on the ContiTech digitization agenda, given the potential of unplanned outages to erode productivity. "Because they use digital technology, our air springs no longer need wear-prone mechanical feedback and control components," Granget explains. "The integrated sensor systems are so advanced that they can even measure the temperature of rubber continuous tracks and alert the operator to critical heat build-ups."
Meanwhile, German plastics specialist Pöppelmann leverages virtual product development and optimization tools such as 3D simulation and CATIA V5 to streamline the process of creating series production molds. As part of the process, CAD data is exchanged in real-time between customers and Pöppelmann engineers via an FTP server. This gives the engineers the detailed information they need in order to design special-purpose parts for optimal fitting in their intended installation locations. Pöppelmann uses simulation technologies such as FEM (finite element method) and Moldflow to ensure that correct functionality and maximum efficiency of production are built into its parts and tools right at the engineering design phase.
The big players in the industrial subcontracting sector are well aware of the benefits of digital technologies in terms of making their processes and solutions smarter. But that doesn't mean that all companies in the sector have embraced integrated industry. Far from it – as Jäger Gummi und Kunststoff GmbH director Hans-Ulrich von Tippelskirch explains: "Our business partners are generally all for proper digital processes, particularly when it comes to data exchange between company systems, but some of them are not quite there yet. We regularly come across SMEs that don't yet have the systems in place to handle digitized standard processes. In cases like that we use software robots that can convert analog data into digital data, ready for automated processing by our systems."
The digitization of the economy is also transforming relationships between corporate procurement and suppliers. According to Dr. Silvius Grobosch, Deputy Chairman of the German Association for Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME), close integration between procurement and suppliers promises enormous scope for added value. "Procurement departments should be doing more to leverage the benefits of cross-company integration and use cloud-based IT solutions in combination with big data and self-learning algorithms," he said. "That is the key to achieving intelligent, flexible integration across a wide range of partners and systems. Procurement departments that take the initiative and implement value creation networks in this way will become enablers of new directions in innovation, technology and quality."
These Smart Supply themes will feature alongside lightweight construction solutions at Industrial Supply 2018. As the leading trade fair for innovative subcontracting solutions, Industrial Supply is a wide-ranging show that spans all key industrial processes and materials, giving participants a quick yet comprehensive overview of all the various alternative and complementary technologies available to them.