The challenges facing companies today have rarely been so immense. War, crisis, the high cost of energy, and stringent emissions caps present particular hurdles in the manufacturing sector. Realizing efficient, flexible, and economical usage of production resources is therefore a top priority for most management boards, directors, and department heads. The ultimate question is how to achieve these high-stake goals and ambitions on the shop floor—where energy is necessary in day-to-day operations.
Matthias Weigold and his team of 20 scientists at the Technical University of Darmstadt’s Institute for Production Management, Technology, and Machine Tools, are investigating exactly this. They work under quasi real-world conditions at the ETA Factory (ETA: Energy Technologies and Applications in Production), a specifically designed facility at the Darmstadt campus, to determine not only the necessary steps, but also the most sustainable, to increase efficiency and neutralize carbon footprint in industrial production. One focus of their research is on digitalization and how it can help optimize operational efficiency, energy flow management, and production plant planning. Software AG is a participating research partner. According to Weigold, Director of the Institute for Production Management, Technology, and Machine Tools, “We established a process chain with different machines designed to meticulously monitor workflows and rethink factories.”
Control plates, like the ones used in machinery and car manufacturing, are produced at the ETA factory, and all the necessary steps are carried out by the machines such as turning, drilling, cleaning, tempering, and sanding. Data from approximately 3,000 points is continually being collected, stored, and analyzed. The basis for this is provided by Software AG.
According to Dr. Stefan Sigg, Software AG’s Chief Product Officer, “You can only improve something that is measured continually. Here, measuring means collecting data.” He continues, “Our products are installed in the ETA Factory and are connected with the machines and components via IoT. They form the digital backbone that enables seamless monitoring and in turn ongoing optimization of the production of the control plates.”
The range of data collected is broad: energy consumption, machine performance and speed, water use, sanding pressure, and cooling and hydraulic system metrics. “The exciting part begins as soon as we have data,” says Sigg. “We apply process mining to production reality in the factory and by extension could use it in highly strategic areas such as an industrial company’s value chain.”
Dr. Stefan Sigg
Chief Product Officer
Director of the Institute for Production Management, Technology, and Machine Tools
What findings is the project delivering? Process analytics are providing valuable insight on the timing of sanding. In the original process, sanding took place after tempering. But process mining is allowing researchers to prove in detail that the other way around is actually more efficient and model an alternative and better process with minimal effort. Applying this digital model to real-life production would pave the way to a long-term reduction in electricity consumption and better utilization of waste heat.