Focus on output and process reliability: Supplier MAT relies on I4.0 solution from EMAG and perfects housing production
For many production planners, “Industry 4.0” is the vision that helps guide them: machines forming an integrated system that is monitored, controlled and evaluated from a central location by production planners. An impressive production solution at MAT Machining Europe GmbH in Immenhausen, Germany, shows that this approach is no longer the stuff of dreams. The automotive supplier makes complex differential gear housings on fully automated EMAG production lines – a process that includes capturing and evaluating large amounts of machine data.
The goal: significantly increasing the output of the lines and improving the process reliability. The overall system is already firmly integrated into the workflow.
The production process implemented at MAT Machining Europe GmbH for the differential gear housing is impressive: the company has a total of five large production lines, each with seven EMAG machines, interlinked using EMAG’s TrackMotion system. A TransLift unit runs through the machines on a rail system and transports the component from one pick-up station to the next. Thus a variety of preparatory processes are carried out on the gear housing: turning the first side including machining the fits and bore holes, turning the second side and outer contour, as well as, in the final clamping operation, internally machining the spherical shape and locating holes. This is followed by the final stages of washing, measuring and marking. In total, MAT produces almost 2 million differential gear housings, annually, at the Immenhausen site alone.
Taking advantage of a win-win situation
So, why has the company decided to digitize this highly automated solution and put the production data that is generated to an innovative use? “We generally rely on highly efficient state-of-the-art production solutions that we are continuously advancing. Digitization is obviously an important topic in this context,” says Axel Dräger, head of engineering at MAT Machining Europe GmbH. “At the same time, we know that EMAG has put an enormous amount of effort into Industry 4.0 in recent years and is very interested in testing new IoT solutions with users and getting qualified feedback. It is a win-win situation for both companies.”
With this partnership as foundation, the project was initially launched in spring 2019 with workshops: MAT subject area experts presented the production processes for the differential gear housing to the IoT experts from EMAG as well as the partner companies EXXETA, intuity and anacision. Together, the stakeholders then defined possible use cases and developed technological solutions, which included the software, EDNA Cortex, as well as various prototypes of the apps used today. The system is similar to the basic principle of smartphone operating systems. At the same time, the EDNA Core – an industrial PC – and the acceleration sensor EDNA Neuron 3DG were installed on each machine. It was important that EMAG’s solution has a completely modular software and hardware architecture that could be easily implemented into the users’ IT infrastructures and the majority of EMAG machines, including older types. Connecting additional sensors is also no problem.
Substantially increasing output – improving process reliability
The users can handle the data in the EDNA LIFELINE DASHBOARDS, on which the apps mentioned above for various applications are installed. Here the users can decide for themselves exactly what is shown and how the display is arranged. In the case of MAT, this includes the Part Quantity Forecast for the predicted output quantities per shift, the Cycle Time Monitor with details of current cycle times of machines or lines, the Smart Tool Change with information about the remaining tool life, the OEE Monitor for a detailed breakdown of the current OEE and the Health Check on the machine status. “All in all, the volume of data is actually so versatile that we currently only analyze part of it,” explains Dräger. “Nevertheless, the initial results are impressive. For example, we’ve already eliminated a number of ‘time sinks’ and are well on our way to increasing output by eleven percent. This is an enormous value, of course.” Moreover, the specialists at MAT benefit from the ongoing monitoring using sensors: the system determines a precise “health score” for the drive and spindle and points out any wear at an early stage – a big plus for the process reliability of the production lines. The same goes for the precise forecasting of the right time for tool changes.
Moreover, the EDNA system is firmly integrated into the workflow at MAT: on the one hand, production planners or shift supervisors use the dashboards to calculate the currently produced quantities. On the other hand, operators can better schedule their workflow using the software and be back at the machine, on time, after a break They also can always have the “right” tools to hand when a tool change is coming up.
MAT is setting the course for a digital future.
“Many are talking about it, but we’re already busy building the digital factory!”
“This sums up one of the main issues that concerns us. While everyone is talking about digitization, MAT is actively putting it into practice and making sure that machines communicate with each other. The only way of keeping production costsin the automotive sector in line with market conditions is through systematic automation and autonomization of the production processes,” explains Ingo Bitzer, the managing director of the MAT Transmission Division and CEO of MAT Europe.
Focus on further use cases
Taking stock, neither of the partners regard the overall project as being over – on the contrary: the digitization of the MAT production continues to progress at full speed, confirms Dr. Andreas Kühne, lead data scientist at anacision, in which EMAG has shares: “Our common goal is to equip more lines with this IoT solution. On top of this, we want to implement new use cases like tool breakage detection. We continue to exchange ideas closely relating to this.” In the end, the question about the workload involved in such a project remains – and here the IoT specialists at EMAG have a surprise up their sleeves: hardware retrofitting for large production lines – for example, integrating the IPCs, including wiring – can be completed in days. For an individual machine, a single day is enough. This is possible because all the prep work is done at EMAG, where the system is custom-configured for the desired solution and prepared for connection to various machine controllers. Once the desired functionalities and process improvements have been implemented into the machines, the user quickly reaps the benefits.
“The EDNA Industry 4.0 solution, consisting of IoT Core, software and dashboards, has been available to all customers for some time, is impressing more and more users and is continuously being enhanced,” reports Kühne in summarizing the status quo at the machine manufacturer from southern Germany. “According to initial feedback, EDNA increases the OEE and we even estimate that a return on investment is possible after about a year, if the data collected is evaluated and used to derive actions.” Furthermore, users benefit from a comprehensive, open and future-proof Industry 4.0 ecosystem. With EDNA, EMAG is laying the foundation for the intelligent production of the future.