Presented by trade journal Produktion und ROI Management Consulting, this award recognizes SEW-EURODRIVE’s holistic approach and future-focused lean smart factory activities.
The basic idea of using IT to network production is not a new one. The concept of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) dates back to the 1980s. The CIM philosophy involved full automation – everything from planning to production was to be controlled using computers. The human factor was forgotten to some degree. This is not the case in the fractal factory, which comprises several production cells in small "factories within the factory" that are called small factory units. Industry 4.0 is the continuation of this fractal approach. Production set up using lean principles is complemented by intelligent automation. This enables the perfect collaboration of man and machine.
Taking into account the "one piece flow" and "small factory unit" value creation principles, SEW-EURODRIVE has started implementing the vision of Industry 4.0 at its own factory in Graben-Neudorf and developing concepts for logistics, assembly and manufacturing tasks.
In Graben-Neudorf’s gear unit assembly section, the family-owned business has already implemented a concept using mobile logistics and assembly assistants as a showcase factory. Autonomous, intelligent, self-organizing logistics assistants take over the just-in-time delivery of material for the workstations. Workers and assembly assistants already share the U-shaped gear unit assembly cells. The assembly workers receive information from these mobile, intelligent workbenches that also provide ergonomic support.
The machining production section of SEW-EURODRIVE now uses an intelligently linked production system with closed quality control loops. Complete processing enables short order throughput times, which ensures high productivity while also maintaining a high level of flexibility. Mobile handling assistants are used for assembly and workpiece removal to lighten the workload of employees. In the worm manufacturing section, a specially developed mobile handling assistant with a magnetic grab takes care of bin picking – taking the unsorted unmachined parts out of the line bin and placing them on the feed conveyor. After machining, the handling assistant lifts the finished pieces from the delivery conveyor and places them in a comb frame for the hardening process.
In addition to quantifiable effects such as increased cost-efficiency, improved quality and far shorter throughput times, the concept’s success is above all demonstrated by its flexibility in responding to fluctuations in incoming orders.
Taking the approach of "action, not just words", SEW-EURODRIVE has used the development of its showcase factory in Graben-Neudorf to set standards and is now making a name for itself as one of the pioneering companies in Industry 4.0. Further specific solutions are now being implemented at the company’s own factories around the world. Given the huge interest and demand on the market, SEW-EURODRIVE is already planning and implementing Industry 4.0 applications and factories for intralogistics, automotive and other customers.
"This award confirms we’re on the right track and we’ll systematically be continuing this approach," says Managing Director Technology Johann Soder, who accepted the award on behalf of the international family-owned business based in Bruchsal, Germany, at the 4th Industry 4.0 Convention in Ulm.