The plastics specialist Pöppelmann is a good example of successful integration and illustrates the involvement of external suppliers in the development process. "Close networking with partners and suppliers is an important factor in offering quality goods and services," emphasizes Thorsten Koldehoff, Sales Manager for KAPSTO(R). "We use portals in order to swap digital information with our customers – for example, requests, price quotations and production-part approval data." Software streamlines the entire product development and optimization process. Pöppelmann deploys CATIA V5 software at more than 40 CAD workstations. An FTP server provides the basis for exchanging CAD data in real time between the customer and the company's design department. This enables the products to be tailored to specific applications. FEM and Moldflow simulation ensures that the components and tools are both functional and easy to manufacture.
During the ordering process, EDI (electronic data interchange) facilitates the automatic transmission of order quantities and delivery dates from the OEM or external supplier. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) systems keep track of the products during the shipment process. "We are already highly digitalized," says Koldehoff. "But we also maintain close personal links with our suppliers and customers. In addition to our sales team, our engineering and quality assurance staff pay regular visits to our customers in order to spearhead innovations and identify potential improvements."
Dr. Silvius Grobosch, Deputy Chairman of the Association for Supply Chain Management, Procurement and Logistics (BME), has a different perspective, yet still draws the same conclusion: "Industry 4.0 will be impossible without Procurement 4.0, as all corporate divisions are affected," Grobosch explains. "Digitalization represents a historic opportunity for strategic supply chain management. The goal is to integrate enterprises and technological innovations within a unified value-adding network."
Customization is a further key issue in the context of Integrated Industry. Pöppelmann uses rapid prototyping and 3D printing techniques to create individual product samples. In addition, the company now specializes in rapid tooling. In this case it is not the component which is printed but the tool. Following insertion into an existing master mould, this tool is then filled with the injection moulding material. This is faster and more economical. Less material is required, various types of material can be deployed, and existing cooling resources are available.
Closer integration is delivering clear benefits in terms of speed. For Salzgitter AG rapid deliveries are one of the most important results of its networking efforts. According to Frank Seinsche, a member of Salzgitter's corporate communication team, "large contracts are handled automatically – orders, production, shipment, plus follow-up deliveries when stocks fall below a predetermined threshold. All this is made possible by digital data exchange. Our future goal is to also implement this system with our smaller customers."
Salzgitter's optimization strategy does not just centre on individual processes, methods and tools. The complexity of a major steel and technology group such as Salzgitter demands a whole array of different procedures, processes and tools. Thanks to its enterprise-wide IT solutions, Salzgitter is in a position to integrate and centrally manage different processes and systems along the entire value chain. The IT systems for production planning and logistics are especially important, given the sensitive interplay with suppliers and customers. In this area the Salzgitter Group is undergoing a transformation – from a technology-driven manufacturer to a service-oriented partner whose products and services have a determining influence on the customer's supply chain. Looking ahead, Salzgitter predicts that self-organization and decentralization will acquire increased significance. This will create the basis for increased flexibility and shorter delivery times, especially in relation to custom-designed products.
Synergies with Digital Factory
The close proximity of Digital Factory pays dividends for the visitors and exhibitors at Industrial Supply. These two flagship fairs profit enormously from each other. The integration of plant, machinery and consumer goods necessitates the seamless digitalization of the value chain. The exhibitors at Digital Factory showcase a complete array of software for industrial applications – e.g. CAD, CAE, PLM and ERP.