Sheet-metal processing firms are facing competitive pressure and increasingly customer-specific mass production. Industry 4.0 is an obvious means of optimising processes, but is no cure-all. Medium-sized businesses should be taking steps to become familiar with this topic. Fast and proven results can be achieved by, for example, digitisation in the logistics of B- and C-parts.
Although many firms know the purchase price of their connecting elements, they do not know the entire operating costs. In fact, around half of the individual parts of a product consist of these B- and C-parts. According to surveys by the Bossard Group, the price of these mass articles amounts to around only 15 % of the connecting costs. The remaining 85 % is used for development, purchasing, testing, inventory rising, production and logistics. If, however, a component cannot be installed during production because it is either missing, of inadequate quality or is faulty, there is a risk of delays or even a production stoppage. An article with a value of only a few cents then unleashes an exponential multiplication of the costs. On top of that, there is the possible negative bonus of loss of reputation due to a missed deadline.
It is a platitude that only those are successful, and remain so, who can fulfil the expectations of the customers and of the market while offering the best quality for the lowest price and the shortest delivery time. But harmonising these requirements with highly efficient manufacturing production is as unsolvable as squaring the circle. The first step towards Industry 4.0 can therefore begin with a detailed analysis of small component supply, starting with purchasing and going on to storage and production and the delivery of parts to the direct production environment.
C-parts – the more you have in store, the better?
Stocking up with C-parts purely on the basis of the cheapest purchase price in each case and without taking into consideration current and future requirements? With today’s short-lived trends, this is a pointless procedure. For as soon as the pattern of orders changes, not only is the invested capital frozen, but warehouse resources which could, under certain circumstances, be urgently required are tied up. In contrast, a new kind of factory, the so-called Smart Factory, is distinguished by start-to-finish optimised production environments. In these flexible production lines, cost-effective mass production of even the most complex individual products to individual customers’ specifications is possible.
This depends on intelligent logistics supported by IT systems. Such logistics ensure agility at every phase of production and with a fraction of the setting-up work previously acquired. For many manufacturing firms continue to spend much time on putting their own efforts into ordering B- and C-parts, filling up their warehouses, and organising the procurement processes with the various suppliers. A reduction of the overall costs and an increase in productivity are urgently required in these areas – but this is only possible if production operations are lean and, above all, “smart”.
The “Smart-Factory” approach used by Bossard and KVT-Fastening consisted initially of a comprehensive examination of the entire logistics management – starting with supply, going on to the consolidation of suppliers, and finally reaching the operation and maintenance of the systems. Personnel-intensive working steps were generally automated. If production information for a product is available in machine-readable form, this can be integrated, which enables path optimisation through the production installation and better control. In the warehouse and directly on the production line, intelligent C-part containers provide more transparency and security of supply.
The “Smart Bins”, already developed by Bossard in the 1990s, are based on the idea that each connecting element has a certain weight. Incorporated weight sensors detect the status of the small components in storage and transmit the information constantly. Each removal is detected and the information passed on to the Bossard analysis software “Arims” and evaluated. If the stock falls below a certain predetermined level, replacement supplies are ordered automatically. The containers can furthermore be fitted with a “Smart” electronic label which contains information on replacement orders, supply status and date. Even when stocks are low, this eliminates the need for constant enquiries concerning the purchase which are otherwise needed. ARIMS takes into account both current and future production orders.
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