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Conquering new markets with the Smart Factory

Daetwyler IT Infra in Altdorf implements its smart factory

Daetwyler IT Infra AG is in a project to realize its own Smart Factory and at the same time is transforming itself into a global service provider. In a joint webinar with Eraneos, Adrian Bolliger, Managing Director Europe, Daetwyler IT Infra and Richard Scheiber, Head of Production Engineering,

Daetwyler IT Infra explained how the production company proceeded with the implementation of its Smart Factory.  

Why did Daetwyler IT Infra decide to digitize its production?
With the digitalization of production, Daetwyler IT Infra is pursuing a number of strategic goals. In addition to increasing competitiveness and securing long-term success, the following aspects were the focus for a smart factory:  

  • Securing the production site in Switzerland
  • Faster changeover times and less scrap in production
  • Responding more agilely and quickly to customer needs thanks to the smart factory
  • Bringing employees along on the transformation journey
  • Greater flexibility in production and fewer process errors
  • Lower manufacturing costs and fewer and shorter equipment failures  
  • Increasing production lot size to meet demand
  • Adapting the product portfolio from internal experience and thus expanding the future market offering

What specific steps did Daetwyler IT Infra take after deciding to set up a smart factory?
Building a smart factory is a complex project. It involves not only different technologies such as Internet of Things (IT), 5 G, etc., but also completely different departments. "This project arose from the need for data on the store floor," explains Richard Scheiber, Head of Production Engineering and Project Manager at Daetwyler IT Infra.
A smart factory involves different departments and technologies in a production company
For Richard Scheiber, it was clear that he wanted to use the existing data to control production more intelligently. In the old production setup, there were too many workarounds, coordination and meetings to produce an optimal production quantity. Thus, the need for more data and increased transparency in production processes arose, especially at the store floor level.  

This requirement was at the top level: with the smart factory, all raw material data, plant data and quality data were to be traceable throughout the entire process for each cable. It is true that a lot of data was already available in Daetwyler's production even before the introduction of a smart factory. But between the plants per process island and especially between the process islands themselves, it was not linked. "We had a lot of data islands and a lot of paper," Scheiber explains the initial situation.  

Another challenge was the dependencies between the process steps, which, instead of being documented, mapped in a process or analytically traceable, were mostly in the heads of the employees. Transparency and tracking of process steps between the flow of material over time throughout the manufacturing process were difficult and not traceable. These needs gave rise to the need to map the entire process as a data structure.  
"Cables are still an important part of our overall offering," emphasizes Adrian Bolliger, Managing Director Europe. "But today our company in Altdorf also offers complete IT infrastructure solutions, be it cable-based or wireless. Daetwyler IT Infra has changed from being a pure product seller to a use case in the context of IT infrastructure," says Bolliger.
How did Daetwyler specifically go about setting up the system landscape?
Richard Scheiber launched the project with a gemba walk through production, a methodology from classic lean management. In this way, it was documented where which data was available in production and where it should be in the future. Daetwyler IT Infra asked itself questions such as: "Which systems do we already have, and which new ones do we need to meet these requirements? For example, how can we link plant data with order data?"

In the video, Richard Scheiber explains how Daetwyler proceeded specifically in setting up the system landscape.
Evaluation of a MES (Manufacturing Execution System)

An important element in setting up a Smart Factory was the introduction of a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) as the heart of Industry 4.0. To this end, Daetwyler first evaluated an MES partner who had expertise in cable production and could optimally map its own production processes in the system. The following functionalities were in the foreground for Richard Scheiber:  

  1. Order management, material management (batch) in connection with the plant process data
  2. Equipment and tool management, quality management and maintenance
  3. Detailed planning

You can find out more about MES in the Eraneos e-paper "MES - Manufacturing Execution System - The key to highly agile production?

Establish connectivity to older machines in production

Another major challenge in setting up a smart factory is that industrial companies cannot usually renew the entire production facilities one-to-one (greenfield), but rather build the smart factory on an existing machine park (brownfield). In this context, Daetwyler IT Infra has so far equipped about 50 machines with connectivity in production. However, not all machines could be upgraded immediately. For example, there were various machines whose controls did not have an OPC UA interface. Here, Daetwyler worked closely with the respective machine and plant

manufacturers to be able to read out the necessary data from the machine control system. A great advantage for Daetwyler in this context was the availability of its own competent system engineers.

A learning from the management perspective: Constant involvement of employees during the transformation journey makes the project a success
In regular meetings, the project management involved the entire production team right from the start and "advertised" the potential benefits of a smart factory with real-time data. In this way, the project management was able to convince the employees that the transformation would create benefits for everyone involved. Go-live and training of machine operators occurred in December 2021.  

In the view of Adrian Bolliger, Managing Director Europe, a critical success factor for the success of such a project is the commitment and involvement of management. They have to find the balance between empowerment and self-commitment, allow mistakes and learn to deal with uncertainties and imperfections. In particular, they have to get out of their comfort zone and try out new things, as well as rethink existing business models.
A learning from a project perspective: tackle interface definition and the necessary master data at an earlier point in time.
Beim Start des Projektes für eine «intelligente Fabrik» empfiehlt Richard Scheiber als erstes die Stammdaten und Schnittstellen zu analysieren. Führt man neue Tools ein, hat man die Möglichkeit die Strukturen der Stammdaten zu hinterfragen und aufzubrechen.  
Conquering new markets with the Smart Factory | How did Daetwyler IT Infra calculate the ROI of the MES system to get the project approved?
How did Daetwyler IT Infra proceed? Which KPIs were compared with each other? Where was the focus?

You can hear the answer in the audio on how Daetwyler IT Infra went about calculating ROI.
Conquering new markets with the Smart Factory | How has Daetwyler IT Infra handled the issue of cyber security?
How important is cyber security for Daetwyler IT Infra? Why did Daetwyler IT Infra adhere to the internal guidelines when planning the Smart Factory?

Listen to the audio to hear how Daetwyler IT Infra approached the topic of cyber security.


Recommendation from the management perspective for a smart factory

Adrian Bolliger's recommendation for a successful implementation of the Smart Factory project in key points:  

  • Formulate digital vision and rethink existing business models
  • Get out of the comfort zone and try out new elements
  • Guarantee a good mix between empowerment and own commitment
  • High management commitment to the project  
  • Allowing for mistakes and simply trying things out
  • Learning to deal with uncertainty and "non-perfectionism".

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