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Review Status Quo - Digitalization in the Foundry Industry

Author Isabell Glöditzsch

What will the foundry industry of the future look like? Can production be increased by means of intelligent value creation? And how flexible can process management really be guided by Smart Data? All of these questions were answered at this year's symposium "Digitalization in the Foundry Industry" at the beginning of October, organized by Prof. Schlüter of Ansbach University.

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Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schlüter introduces to the lecture programme.
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schlüter introduces to the lecture programme.
(Source: Hochschule Ansbach)

The combination of production with modern information and communication technology is a major challenge for the industry. Due to the very long service life of the machines, the foundry industry with its predominantly medium-sized structure is characterized by a low degree of automation. Compelling concepts and visions are necessary to change processes that have been established for many years. At the symposium, experts from industry and research presented industry-specific industry 4.0 solutions for technology optimization and described how they have already been successfully implemented in practice.

Digitalization Roadmap

The roadmap digitalization with its five steps.
The roadmap digitalization with its five steps.
(Source: Hochschule Ansbach)

The Competence Center Industrial Energy Efficiency (in brief: KieFF) of Ansbach University hosted the two-day symposium from October 9 to 10, 2019 at the Energy Campus in Nuremberg. Its activities focus primarily on process analysis, process monitoring systems, data analytics and process and flow simulations. In close cooperation with companies from the industry, the Federal Association of German Foundries (BD Guss) and the Fraunhofer LBF, the Competence Center is regularly engaged in new research projects. This is also how the Digitalization Roadmap was created which is intended to help companies implement a digitalization strategy.

Right at the beginning of the event, Steffen Günther (Head of Business Development CAS/Foundry) and Dr. Christian Liedtke (Principal Consultant) from KUKA, the German machine manufacturer, started with future scenarios such as the programming of machines by humanoid robots. Even if this idea still seems far off, factories are becoming increasingly unmanned, contracts are being concluded digitally and the variety of products is becoming more diverse. Due to the successful interaction of artificial intelligence and industry 4.0 this idea can actually be realized. Because "digitalization is not a revolution, but a series of steps," Dr. Liedtke explained. The first step in digitalization is connectivity. In the private sector connectivity is already implemented through Bluetooth, in the industrial context through OPC UA. With connectivity as the key pillar, a basic structure comprising a shop floor, edge layer and cloud layer can be created.

Digitalized Light Metal Foundry at VW

Dr. Thomas Beganovic of Volkswagen AG showed how digital transformation can be successfully implemented in a foundry. In the Braunschweig light metal foundry, VW manufactures swivel bearings, subframes and wheel carriers. The impulse to reconsider an existing process was given by the result of a rather poor overall equipment efficiency. In order to optimize these values, the performance was to be improved with the help of assistance systems. A consistent link between the process and the product, be it by means of RFID or a data matrix code, was the first basic prerequisite for achieving this goal. How did VW realize the digital transformation of its foundry? "On the way towards industry 4.0, the first thing to do is statistics," says Beganovic. Data that has already been collected must therefore be analyzed, because only if the data and analysis results are prepared in a way that is appropriate for the addressees can it contribute added value. This is precisely where VW's assistance systems can be applied: They issue timely alerts based on historical data, but also provide forecasts and recommendations. Ultimately, an assistance system in production relieves the workers of their daily workload.

How Can Foundries Approach Digitalization?

VW recommends the following seven steps:

  • Definition of the objectives to be achieved
  • Identification of all associated processes
  • Digitalization of these processes
  • Acquisition of the associated (process- and component-related) data in a standardized form
  • Storage of all data in accessible, shared systems (database)
  • Use of a suitable software for the preparation, analysis and visualization of issues
  • Integration of assistance systems to achieve an added value

Digital Process Optimization in the Procurement of secondary Raw Materials

Scrappel GmbH showed how digitalization can also be an efficient lever in the procurement of raw materials. Digital solutions can help in product development and optimization, but above all in process innovation. The company wants to offer a B2B platform for metal recycling to digitalize predominantly analogue processes. Matthias Spanic, Managing Director of scrappel GmbH, considers platforms to be helpful in achieving a higher market penetration while at the same time reducing transaction costs.

Live at the Event: Flameless Gas Burner Technology

The highlight of the symposium was a visit to promeos GmbH in Nuremberg. The participants gained an insight into the special technology of the flameless gas burner technology. The company also develops individual heating systems and industrial furnaces, taking into account energy-efficient, climate-friendly and economic aspects.

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