Digital Economy Mar 02, 2017

Industry 4.0 in Bavarian SMEs – a successful example at Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen

What makes companies in Bavaria so successful? Besides the hard and soft location factors that the Free State features, it is mainly the ability of the firms based here to recognise and implement digital transformation processes. We want to know what exactly is happening in practice and therefore let Bavarian companies have their say in our series on Industry 4.0 in Bavaria.

Having already gained some insight into the digital strategy at the automotive supplier Schaeffler, Johann Hofmann, Head of “ValueFacturing®” at Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen GmbH, shows us how digitalisation works in SMEs this month.

Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen produces on-load tap-changers for power transformers and is one of the best pieces of evidence for small and medium-sized enterprises also being able to tap into the potential of digitalisation for themselves.

Everyone is talking about Industry 4.0 – what does digitalisation specifically mean for your industry?

Paperless processes already mean entering the digital age for many companies. Digital transformation goes one step further as it fundamentally changes a process and new business models squeeze older ones out. First the process becomes paperless (digitalisation) and then the process changes because things are possible now that did not work beforehand.
Digital transformation also requires high-quality data in all the sub-systems concerned. For digital transformation to be successful in discrete manufacturing, all the production resources and tools have to be entered in the ERP system on the one hand and all the information has to be entered digitally and error-free in the downstream systems (tool database, NC database, etc.) on the other hand. Paper documents or employee knowledge prevent automatism like data enhancement and are no longer up-to-date in terms of Industry 4.0. Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen set up a separate business unit, ValueFacturing®, for their Smart Factory strategy. In this we have constantly further developed and improved an in-house assistance system which allows for the intelligent networking of all plants, systems and people involved in the chip machining manufacturing process. The aim is to implement the considerable challenges of Industry 4.0 and potential for improvement associated with it.

Which specific advantages does your branch of industry and your company specifically benefit from as a result of technological process?

With our in-house developed assistance system no manual data entry is required at all. The major advantage of ValueFacturing® lies in the bi-directional online communication in real time with all machines, plants, systems and people involved in the manufacturing process and the ability to smartly enrich information. The result: manufacturing is more economical, reliable and transparent. ValueFacturing® improves the grade changes above all (= set-up of machines). Without the support of an assistance system, the production worker would have to waste a great deal of time and resources with this complex process and make less than optimal decisions. The system is a data hub and enables the employee to set up and operate the machines much more effectively and productively.

How are you dealing with the change internally and how has the weighting of individual departments shifted?

The change is mainly taking place in digital expertise. At MR this situation has grown continuously though because the employees from ValueFacturing® were and are in constant contact with the manufacturing employees and therefore transfer digital expertise every single day. However, with our customers’ projects we occasionally experience that there is lack of expertise. To increase this we offer our customers the option of working in the high-performance manufacturing facilities at MR for a few days. By them being able to directly talk to and work with our extremely competent machine operators their digital expertise improves relatively quickly.

As one of the first SMEs to have got to grips with Industry 4.0 – what experiences have you had over the last few years?

The path towards a digital factory has to be taken in almost every company to be able to produce competitively in Germany. Small and medium-sized enterprises in particular have the major advantage of being able to make quick decisions. However, they often lack the courage to tackle digitalisation. There is no reason to wait any longer though. German companies have to change their attitude. From the role of a spectator to a driver. With Industry 4.0 technologies we could bring about a second “digital” economic miracle in Germany where companies form alliances and cope with the digital transformation together.

Innovative SMEs in Bavaria

SMEs and Industry 4.0 – the traditional company Maschinenfabrik Reinhausen proves that small and medium-sized enterprises definitely do not lag behind the big players when it comes to innovation. Quite the opposite: now is exactly the right time to conquer markets with digital concepts.

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