Interview with Norican Digital “The Greatest Advantage for the Foundries is the Transparency Gained"
Established in 2017, Norican Digital develops digital technology solutions tailored to applications around the formation and enhancement of metallic parts. The company works with customers of DISA, Italpresse Gauss, StrikoWestofen and Wheelabrator, to help them leverage opportunities presented by the Industrial Internet of Things. At GIFA we talked to founders Rudi Riedel (President) and Dr. Dennis Janitza (VP Technology Development) about the impact of Industry 4.0 and its advantages for foundries.
SPOTLIGHTMETAL: Industry 4.0 is a major topic right now - this is certainly clear at GIFA. But what is Industry 4.0 and how far along are foundries with adoption?
Dr. Dennis Janitza: Everyone knows Industry 4.0 exists but not many people know how to leverage the opportunity. Most people find it hard to connect anything concrete with the concept but are very eager to find out what opportunities Industry 4.0 offers them personally.
The greatest advantage for foundries in this respect is the transparency they gain when their data is made easily available and usable. When you can collect and analyse data, you can make important comparisons to help see which processes are optimal and which are not.
Rudi Riedel: Crucially, the IIoT presents the opportunity to do this in real time. This is significant. Until now, foundries have had access to data but only tend to receive reports at the end of a process – when production has already taken place. By then it is too late for optimizations if it turns out the specification have not been met.
With Industry 4.0 solutions, customers can now connect their machines and communicate with them via the Internet in real time. As a foundry operator, that means if certain processes do not run correctly, I notice the moment it happens. In this way, we are moving away from constant control and monitoring via physical screens, towards proactive warning systems.
How might the warning systems work?
Rudi Riedel: Such a system could be set up to issue notifications via e-mail, SMS or a call if a pre-defined value is exceeded or not achieved. Then a countermeasure can be directly initiated. A relevant value is, for example, the quantity of liquid metal processed per hour, which is equivalent to the quantity of parts produced. Ultimately, the number of units sold is based on the price per mass.
If the customer wants to know at a certain point in time whether the specified quantity X is actually produced, the real-time analysis provides information at any time. If the value is above the defined limit, everything is fine. If the actual value is below targets, the customer can actively intervene and correct the error.
Dr. Dennis Janitza: Much of the data needed to do this is already available today, it just isn’t connected – pooled in a location that is accessible at any point in the process, from any location. With a browser-based IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) solution, the user can see all data at a glance, at any time. From anywhere.
Will the development of such solutions place increased demands on foundries in the future?
Dr. Dennis Janitza: No, not necessarily. Foundries already have to look at constantly optimizing and enhancing their processes in order to stay productive. Competitive. Profitable. Industry 4.0 solutions don’t change this challenge, they help meet demand for continuous improvement by allowing users to optimize faster and more purposefully.
What about security and data protection concerns for the foundries?
Rudi Riedel: The important thing is that foundries do not have to be afraid. Connecting data does not mean access to machines is opened up. What we're doing certainly does not mean we have the ability to intervene from a distance. For legal and risk reasons alone, it is far too dangerous to allow remote intervention. That's why "read only" applies. A pure visualization does not not have any influence on the systems. But it does allow foundries to know when and how they can, and should, take necessary action themselves.
Dr. Dennis Janitza: Adding to that, everyone who is willing to use online banking moves on the same level as our solutions do. There are the same security features and the same encryptions. We had our high safety standard officially tested last year in cooperation with the TÜV. The main advantages of a cloud solution are cost savings, easier access and centralization of data.
What is Norican Digital working on right now to support foundries even better?
Rudi Riedel: We are showing three main products GIFA. One is the Industry 4.0 basic product "Monitizer", which connects the machines to the Internet for the first time or is used to install additional sensors. This is an inexpensive entry-level product that can be tested with relatively low initial investment costs for one year. The installation is so simple that we don't even have to be on site.
Once it is online, we can provide the user with certain dashboards that will best support them. The solution is ‘agnostic’ so can be linked to any system.
As I said earlier, the main problem nowadays is that everyone talks about data and Industry 4.0, but nobody knows what they can do with it. With this product, we provide a cost-effective way to get started and try things out - without any financial risk.
We have had a very positive response to this at GIFA, with customers keen to try the technology, recognize an immediate benefit, and then invest in further development either financially or as part of technical trials.
The second product is the "Refill Monitor". Customers immediately understand what they can do with it, i.e. a significant logistical improvement of the metal supply in their aluminum foundry. Real-time data ensures that melt is always supplied at exactly the right time. This also ensures that each line is supplied with the right alloy.
The third product is the "Smart Service Plan". With this product, we are improving our service so that the customer - in addition to an audio call - can visualize the problem in a video-supported format.
The real technological innovation here lies in the platform that digitally visualizes the service. Our Norican expert can look over the customer's shoulder and give them optimal advice. The Norican engineer and the customer then no longer talk at cross purposes. A picture says more than a thousand words. We deliberately do not charge a usage fee per minute but offer a flat rate model. Within one year, the customer can then use the service as often as he wants. We believe that the products only become good when they are used a lot and the customer gains experience with them.
Thank you Mr. Riedel and Dr. Janitza for the interview.