The ALFING Automotive Division is by far the most potential division in terms of sales growth, but also the most volatile, cost- and risk-sensitive with its 24/7/365 production. This presented Thorsten Funk with challenges in the new production hall: Four production lines and around 50 machines. Even a cumulative machine downtime of a few hours per month means tens of thousands of euros in lost revenue, which cannot be made up in round-the-clock production.
Yet it’s not only about machines but much more about the people: A smart solution needs to integrate people and machines. It is about the creation of seamless workflows, transparency, and also ease of use for anyone involved. Considering this, a satisfactory solution must focus on the human factor as well. This especially applies to the employees working in shifts on machine operations and maintenance.
ALFING Kessler is a German machine factory that stands for highest competence in cranshafts. Since its foundation over 100 years ago, more than 10 million crankshafts have been produced. Crankshafts of up to 8m in length are manufactured on an large production area in Germany with state-of-the-art production facilities and excellent technological know-how. With around 1,150 employees, ALFING is a medium-sized company, globally oriented and has achieved a prominent position in the world markets.
The high precision, the constant changes through smaller series and just-in-time production as well as the high production volumes make them particularly susceptible to the 8 wastes of lean management that are defects, overproduction, waiting, non-utilized talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra-processing.
ALFING, therefore, invested in Industry 4.0 right from the start and cooperated with one of the world’s leading German solution providers in this area. Although all services were contractually agreed, they were not able to fulfill certain parts of the contract.
A new age arrived upon deployment. The whole production, all machines, are integrated into the ALFING office work environment. The production manager, as well as management, can now review production status in real-time. Auto-task allocation enables a more reliable machine management with less downtime. Also, the sales department now plans with the availability of the production capacities – even during the sales meetings.
Machine workers had shorter routes for machine management, which enabled more efficient deployment of resources. Overall transparency increased drastically, and core processes were available as cut-through processes for all involved parties.
As a result, Thorsten Funk searched for a solution at various trade fairs and evaluated various suppliers. So far, however, no one has been able to provide a solution with which he could achieve his following goals:
Upon contact by Thorsten Funk it turned out that his requirements were quite sophisticated in many regards.
For privacy reasons, it had to be an on-premise solution combining a variety of frameworks, technologies, and applications to bring machine status in real time to the digital workplaces of the parties involved. Also, the information had to be made available with single sign-on – on all devices, always in real time. Regardless of where they were – without using the cloud. User groups or individual users will receive automated tasks based on machine status and error code. They will see only the information related to the username and role, depending on the shift, and production line they are working on.
However, a role could work on multiple production lines, and a user could work on different production lines depending on shift and day. Also, it should be possible to hand over tasks or devices (tablets) from one shift to the next shift.
smartTiles is a pre-built Microsoft SharePoint platform solution. Especially the ready-made business applications HR Management, Shift Management, Portal Configurator, Cost center, Task Management, coupled with Intranet functionality covered most of his requirements
As a result, xspera APAC only had to focus on the ALFING-specific factors such as integration of the real-time signals of machine status to the platform, task-automation based on the status and error codes. Additionally, “only” a user interface with the factory hall and physical location of each machine was needed for machine status visualization.
The benefits for ALFING were striking. First of all, transparency enabled a whole new level of optimization for production machines and employees. Core advantages included:
Also, it is safe to assume that machine lifetime is overall higher in this environment. And additional features are planned most importantly in the field of AI for predictive maintenance, supply chain management, and production. An outright success.
all expectations were met both regarding time and cost. Promised delivery dates were met and, in some cases, even implemented before the due date.
the implementation time for such a project was unusually short, the duration was only 6 weeks and the quality delivered was very satisfactory.
— Thorsten Funk
Director Production | ALFING