"We Have to Tackle the System as a Whole"
In the interview, Jonathan Abbis, Managing Director of Bühler Die Casting, clearly demonstrates the relevance of Industry 4.0 in foundries. A so-called cell management system is supposed to increase the transparency of the die casting process and thus successfully digitize foundries.
Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things are widely discussed: In which development status is the die casting market today – with regards to Industry 4.0?
Jonathan Abbis: Industry 4.0 stands for efficiency, networking and data – also in the foundry industry this topic is widely discussed and being developed. We see, that die casting, which has started to adopt automation, has opportunities to further develop and to learn from frontline industries like automotive or food production. Many modern plants are almost fully automated today. A good example might be an automotive assembly line that runs with hardly any manual instructions on a 24/7 schedule.
By contrast, die casting has always been more of a ‘black art’. Controlling a complex process of heat and pressure required operator skill. Each process is unique to the foundry and the parts being cast. Rather than driving for a uniform production process, die casting has tended towards individual solutions for specific needs. The big leap to Industry 4.0 and full digital potential has not been realized until now.
Especially the machine-to-machine-communication and the collection and intelligent evaluation of data are in the center of the digitalized production. Which opportunities are there?
Today the die casting process is oftentimes depending on the skills of a technologist. We think that for making the die casting process as a whole more transparent and to improve it, it is not enough to focus on improving individual components. We have to tackle the system as a whole. Therefore we are working on a cell management system – the SmartCMS as a smart brain for entire die casting cells. This is the first step to connect components and peripherals in one digital system. One example of an advantage this offers is traceability. Getting the foundry industry closer to the OEM requirements of tracking production parameters of parts, even years after they have been produced.
Where to begin? Is the introduction of Industry 4.0 technology also possible for smaller foundries?
Moving towards a cell management system is relevant for all foundries – no matter of their size. The first step is always the availability of data. One possibility to start with, is the analysis of downtime – to better understand the process and identify improvement potentials. We are certain that Industry 4.0 will get more important within the next years and that there will be a high pressure to invest. Therefore taking the first steps right now is an important factor of future competitiveness.
Some foundries are unsure about cloud-based services on the basis of security. Is that a concern?
We understand the concerns. That’s why we have partnered with Microsoft to develop our cloud platform. It sets new standards in security, traceability, transparency and data availability on a global scale. We recently achieved ISO/IEC 27001 certification – the strictest international certification standard for security.
We affirm the industry is on the move. Which competences does the “foundry of the future” need to come through troubled times and to grow sustainably?
Finding skilled operators prepared to work in a loud and noisy foundry environment is one of the biggest challenges facing our industry today. The 3D phenomenon – Dangerous, Dirty and Demanding – is a barrier to recruitment around the world. Finding skilled people prepared to work through the night in this environment to support 24/7 production is a particularly difficult. Our vision of the Digital Cell could help solve this problem.
In a first step it will give operators and managers the best possible information when there is a problem that needs an intervention. This will include a clear explanation of what to do and how to do it, minimizing the skill level and training people will need. For the future we envision a die casting solution that enables a production with 0% scrap, 40% less cycle time and 24/7 uptime.
Thank you very much, Mr. Abbis.
* This interview is sponsored by Bühler Group.