FRÄNKISCHE Rohrwerke Gebr. Kirchner GmbH & Co. KG develops and produces a wide variety of pipes, accessories and system components for building construction, underground engineering, automotive and industry. Especially in the automotive industry, access to all telemetry data of the producing machines is required. To remain competitive, networked plants and the analysis of individual processes with company-specific tools are required. A smart factory solution enables integrated working across the entire supply chain and brings a decisive advantage.
Challenge: Low investment in digital technologies to date
Precise tracking of all components produced is a prerequisite for FRÄNKISCHE’s customers. To meet these demands, companies are increasingly relying on monitoring through IoT technologies – including the family-owned company from Königsberg. One challenge here is often that there has been little investment in digital technologies, cloud solutions or IoT concepts. However, FRÄNKISCHE has recognized the potential through digital technologies. However, FRÄNKISCHE has recognized the potential enabled by digital technologies. The traceability of the individual parts should be possible from the start of the process to the shipment to the customer and accompanying tests, such as raw material testing, incoming inspection, internal tests and tests of the suppliers should be recorded and assigned to the batches of the raw material.
In order to implement these and other requirements, FRÄNKISCHE brought external expertise and experience in-house and, with the software company daenet – ACP Digital from Frankfurt am Main, a partner who is driving digitization forward.
Solution: Implementation of an IoT platform with daenet
Since not only machines but also other systems and devices have to be integrated – such as scales, cameras or scanners – FRÄNKISCHE and daenet decided to implement the ready-made IoT platform Microsoft Azure. The platform was set up in the company for planning, monitoring and recording of production processes. With this solution, it is possible to perform plant control across sites and track telemetry data from material through the thermal furnace to pipe assembly and delivery. It also ensures that the right raw material, with the right blend and the right preparation, arrives at the appropriate plants. Unlike manual solutions, every detail of an individual part can also be traced and captured with images.
By assigning a unique number, customers can view all recorded data on a platform created in parallel. In the event of a field failure, it is thus possible to trace whether the error occurred in production or with other parties involved.
User guidance is provided by various processes for material entry, which are possible, for example, with a barcode scanner or via a web app user interface. Due to the ease of use and little training time required, the acceptance of the employees increases. Ultimately, they must be able to operate the devices and to comprehend the mapped processes. Employees see lines and equipment mapped as if they were standing in front of them. Numbering and symbols facilitate the overview and with a few clicks all details of a component or diagrams and table views can be called up.
The platform additionally offers the possibility to configure the raw material flow via the pipe connections from the site to the machines. It also enables validation and tracing of current connections at the start of a production job.
To optimally configure the processes, the number of machines, stations, and distribution of sites can be specified. For this purpose, various production machines are connected using Azure IoT Edge Module (primarily by means of the OPC UA protocol). A raw material flow management user interface and a production feedback user interface were also implemented. It is also possible to connect industrial scanners to the platform using Azure IoT.
Result: Increased transparency and efficiency, optimization of processes
Smart factory solutions, such as data tracking through Microsoft Azure, provide detailed insights into conditions and processes of individual machines. This increases transparency and efficiency in production as well as in the entire business process. The analyses remain available for years to come for the customer, who can interpret them at any time and use them as an important indicator for production control. A UI interface maps all relevant key figures that can be used to optimize the production process. In this way, the number of production errors can be minimized, which in turn improves quality management. In addition, the IoT platform conserves resources and saves costs.
A data basis for resilient analyses was created, with which models for analytics can be built and trained, and valuable experience can be gained. In the future, the data can also be used as a basis for predictive maintenance and automatic fault detection.
A significant advantage for FRÄNKISCHE is the perception by customers: Digital innovation power is appreciated and customers perceive the company as a strong partner for current and future cooperation.