Bye bye blackboxes – How to increase transparency in your production

Three questions to Bastian Schulz (Team Leader Industry 4.0, SCHULER Consulting) on Digital Value Stream Optimization

In Digital Value Stream Optimization, we use external sensor technology that makes it possible to collect production data regardless of machine type, machinery manufacturer, or area of application - and without large personnel expenses or high implementation costs. Based on the collected data, we identify redundant and cost-intensive processes, resolve "black boxes" in production and develop targeted optimization measures for your value stream. 

2021 Schuler Consulting launched the "Digital Value Stream Optimisation". How was the topic received by the industry?

We first approached selected production companies with the topic. But we can say that we met with a very high level of interest, also with the selected group of participants. Especially because, first of all, there are hardly any prerequisites for the IT infrastructure and, secondly, there are no compromises in production in terms of machine types, manufacturers, year of construction, etc. The digital value stream can be connected to anything - from the manual workstation to the machine line and from the material trolley parking area to the roller conveyor buffer.

The technology paired with Schuler's methodology is used by manufacturers who want to gain more transparency in their production. What are typical "black boxes" or "blind spots" in production that value stream optimisation can make visible?

First and foremost, the spotlighting of buffers is something new in the industry. Inventory in production is waste and therefore also has a high significance. In some cases, a lot of capital and space is tied up in circulating inventory, but no one knows where exactly. With our solution based on 'indoor tracking', buffers can be broken down to the individual part. In addition, there are older type machines in every production that do not yet have machine data collection or use old software. These machines can be quickly and easily integrated into the value stream via sensor technology.

As a manufacturer, how do I find out whether my production is suitable for the use of digital value stream optimisation? 

The only prerequisite is a clear organisation and structure in production. If everything can be located anywhere, it cannot be clearly assigned via localisation. Otherwise, there are almost no prerequisites, except for an internet connection and electricity. Digital value stream optimisation is therefore suitable for all manufacturers of all sizes who work with data from production and want to optimise their production. Existing data structures, such as an MES system, can be used as a basis, or an entire value stream can be made transparent and optimised completely independently.

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