It became apparent last year that there is no alternative to digitalization, including for the machine tool manufacturing sector and its customers. We spoke about the next 12 months in an interview with Tommy Kuhn, the Managing Director of DMG MORI Software Solutions GmbH.
Dr. Kuhn, how would you assess 2018?
Digitalization has gained enormously in momentum. 2018 was most certainly felt by many to be the fastest year ever. The discussion about the pros and cons has become more objective when you leave all the hype aside.
Digitalization is understood across the board as a continuous and above all a highly individualised transformation process – with far-reaching interactions beyond the company’s boundaries.
What does that mean exactly?
It means firstly that every company must design and accelerate its digital transformation in a way that is beneficial for its own company and its corporate aims. Digital applications for large companies with hundreds of machines and employees are quite different from applications suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises. But it also means that every company will successively become an interactive part of a collaborative, value-adding network of products, services and data as a result of digitalization – with connectivity acting as the “eligibility to play” for participation in the Industrial Internet.
How does DMG MORI support its customers in the digitalization environment?
Keeping a balance between the traditional and the modern is important for us as a machine tool manufacturer. The name DMG MORI will continue to embody perfect manufacturing equipment in the field of metal cutting and advanced technologies such as 3D printing.
However, our customers can expect the same high quality from us when it comes to holistic and extensive support of their digitalization processes.
What do you understand by “holistic” and “extensive”?
Firstly, as a bi-directional machine interface our IoTconnector plays a strategic role on the path to the digital era, one whose importance reaches far beyond the shop floor. Where the machine is concerned, we use it to transfer statuses and countless sensor data, analyze these and based on the knowledge gained, progressively optimize the process – already partly adaptively in real-time.
With regard to the interaction between machine and tool, we know in a networked production environment which tools are located where, where tools are needed next and what the actual status of the tool is. This gives the customer all the information he needs for perfect capacity planning and tool logistics.
Looking beyond the machines and tools, with digital value creation there is an increasing tendency to focus on downstream processes – through to perfect orchestration of people, services and data in a digital factory and beyond into digital value-adding networks.
So there is no networking or connectivity?
Exactly. Every application level has its own connectivity requirements. Level 1, for example, involves remote support in the event of a service issue. Pictures and video streams are shared and the customer receives the support of an off-site expert quickly. This minimizes downtime.
Level 2 is for integration. In this case, files are shared between software systems and machines – such as the transmission of NC codes from CAM systems to machine controls. This reduces manual set-up times and accelerates process cycles.
Level 3 is for automation. We record basic machine statuses from the control, i. e. the internal workings of the machine, at one-second intervals. Data planning systems, maintenance systems and monitoring solutions alone can significantly boost the utilization of the machine, respond immediately to unscheduled downtimes and create transparency for all manufacturing operations at a central location. Things get significantly more complex in levels 4 and 5. This is where we begin to call up more sensor and job data from the machine every 100 down to 3 milliseconds.
With the corresponding analysis software, this enables a large number of predictions to be made about machine statuses, so the customer can respond to unscheduled downtime even before it happens and thus prevent it, for example, or can measure a tool and adjust it adaptively while a process is running.
What should be the first step towards digitalization?
Important for getting started are a selfcritical analysis of the current status of digital maturity and step-by-step planning with realistic targets. Monitoring of machine performance is generally a good start with high utility because the collected information enables fast optimization of planning and maintenance processes.