In Germany, Industry 4.0 – or the fourth industrial revolution – is one of the hot topics of the day. By connecting the virtual and the physical it promises to open up a whole new world of possibilities for manufacturers to do things better, faster and more efficiently.
Industry 4.0 is part of the German Government’s High-Tech Strategy and a focus for The Federal Ministry of Education and Research whose priority it is to define standards so that SMEs can start adopting it. One company that is ahead of the curve and already testing out the principles of Industry 4.0 on the factory floor is Kutzschbach Electronic GmbH & Co. KG (Kutzschbach).
This automation and IT systems house has applied its knowledge of the worlds of both IT and manufacturing. Using Paessler’s PRTG network monitoring tool, it has helped deliver process and productivity improvements for Weisser Spulenkörper (Weisser), a manufacturer of coil forms.
Established 60 years ago, Weisser is a global manufacturer of coil forms. Weisser’s products are typically used in the automotive industry as well as in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and medical technology – wherever there is a need for electronic components of the highest quality. Weisser uses injection molds in its manufacturing process, which enables it to produce bespoke coil forms to meet customers’ individual requirements.
This is a time-consuming process, the main issue being that it is impossible to know exactly when the machine has actually finished making them. In the past, this has meant a specialist checking the machine regularly – often through the night or over the weekend so that as soon as the machine has finished one job it can move on to the next, for maximum efficiency. However, even with regular checks there was always a period when the machine was out of action.
The solution seemed clear: the machine simply needs to notify the operator as soon as the job is complete. However, the traditional separation of IT and manufacturing, further complicated by safety issues and lack of standards, currently make this difficult to achieve, which is why the uptake of Industry 4.0 is so slow in some areas. Fortunately Kutzschbach was able to apply its expertise to Weisser’s problem.
It developed a PRTG-based application which makes it possible to connect machines to the world beyond the production floor. The core client reads the signals sent by the production machine and “translates” them into XML. This information is sent to the PRTG Probe and from there to the central PRTG installation. PRTG can then show the status of the machine and provide alerts in a variety of formats such as email, SMS and push notifications.
Tobias Schiffelholz, head of Service and Support at Kutzschbach Electronic said, “We’ve been using PRTG Network Monitor as a Unified Monitoring solution for years, and it has delivered huge benefits both for us and for our customers. Thanks to the API and the architecture of PRTG, as well as our own expertise and strong relationship with Paessler, we were able to combine the Kutzschbach Connection Wizard and PRTG to create an “Industry 4.0” application. We now have the perfect solution for bringing together IT and production.”
Optimised production processes
At Weisser, PRTG has helped take the pressure off staff and has led to better and more efficient use of the machinery. In a pilot project, Kutzschbach connected PRTG to the company’s mold-making machine. Now the operator is notified immediately by an email on his mobile as soon as one job is finished – and he can then start the next production process.
Rainer Gschwendtner, head of IT at Weisser Spulenkörper, is delighted with the results: “No more visits to the factory in the middle of the night, no machines resting idle! This takes the pressure off our team and helps us optimise our processes. Thanks to PRTG, Kutzschbach has very successfully put into practice what industry 4.0 promises in theory.”
The Unified Monitoring value-add
Following Weisser’s success with PRTG, the company has decided to adopt it for its entire IT infrastructure. PRTG’s comprehensive features set mean it can be used across the business in virtually all areas. In addition to monitoring the machines used for manufacturing, PRTG is now used to monitor the company’s hardware including network devices, servers and printers, software such as database applications, complete business processes, as well as virtual environments (VMware, DataCore). As a result Weisser now has a Unified Monitoring solution that offers a single overview of production, IT, and engineering. This is Industry 4.0 in the making.
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