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Industry 4.0: era-contact organizes fourth working group meeting

International market leader era-contact, a subsidiary of the aichele GROUP, hosts the government-sponsored research group Intro 4.0

On 18th and 19th September at its headquarters in Bretten-Gölshausen, era-contact GmbH welcomed around 35 participants to the fourth official working group meeting for the Intro 4.0 project group. Sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and in collaboration with the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), selected companies have been invited to help develop intelligent Industry 4.0 solutions and strategies. The working group meeting provides an excellent opportunity for in-depth discussion of research progress and different approaches within each company. The objective of the Intro 4.0 project team is to devise ways to strategically and efficiently introduce information and communications technology into production facilities.
era-contact's guests included other innovative companies from all over Germany: IFA, Festo didactic, GTT and ITK Engineering, Arnold AG, Infineon, Sartorius, Sennheiser and STIHL.

Industry 4.0 – Production process digitization at era-contact

Back in May 2017, era-contact was named one of the "100 places for Industry 4.0 in Baden-Württemberg" by Allianz Industrie 4.0 for developing and implementing the "Paperless production" software solution. The working group meeting host is now offering a comprehensive insight into the ongoing work on implementing digital management for the production process. The "Paperless production" solution has already played a pivotal role in paving the way toward greater efficiency: Depending on the dynamics of change processes at the customer's site, before the "Paperless production" solution was introduced, long-winded logistical procedures were required to provide each workstation with an up-to-date drawing for the production process. If an employee noticed a problem during a production step, the drawing would have to be amended by a design engineer. It was necessary to ensure that the amended drawing was immediately available in paper form at all relevant workstations. Using the advanced "Paperless production" solution, which makes digitized data available at the workstation, employees can electronically access the most recent set of drawings for the production step in question directly. This user-friendly system then displays the drawing on the screen. The use of digital media in production thereby eliminates the laborious task of manually amending paper drawings. Because the design data is available in digital form at the workstation, each employee can view the technical drawings themselves as required. In addition, the software documentation ensures that only the current version of the drawing that is being used is available to every employee. Any changes are clearly identified and can be traced.

Next step: Workflow management

The next phase in era-contact's production process digitization endeavor is the implementation of a workflow management system, which will allow virtually all aspects of the change processes in production to be automated using information technology. This integrated digital change management concept is being developed to reduce processing times and further increase process transparency for everyone involved, thereby improving change documentation and change archiving. This cuts down on operations and intermediate stages that are not relevant and that do not add any value to the change process; document processing times are shortened, and the communication of daily updates significantly reduces potential sources of error.

The introduction of a system that achieves these things and enables a largely automated, digital workflow to be mapped is a welcome addition to the programs that are currently in use at era-contact but which have only limited suitability for use as part of the digitization required to successfully implement Industry 4.0. The individual requirements of the process owner and process participant are the building blocks on which this kind of workflow model is based.

Research is conducted through close collaboration between employees

era-contact sets great store by close collaboration and ongoing dialog between employees to facilitate the effective development of new, smarter solutions that are fit for purpose. The pooled experience of all of these employees, which has already borne fruit in the form of the "Paperless production" solution, is used as the basis on which to analyze and evaluate the actual situation and identify areas with the potential for optimization. era-contact has found organizing workshops and training sessions to be an effective way of bringing people together to exchange ideas and information. "With people as the foundation!" is the motto of era-contact's holding company the aichele GROUP; in line with this philosophy, era-contact takes an approach to implementing digital solutions that not only involves working with employees, but also works for employees. This is why all the courses of action and development phases that form part of the Intro 4.0 project – not just individual steps – are conducted in close collaboration with employees.

For 90 years, era-contact (formerly FABEG) has been successful in the railroad, automotive, utility vehicle, and construction machinery sectors, as well as in the measuring and medical equipment, machine and plant construction sectors. In 2000, era-contact was incorporated by the Herrenberg-based business owner Erich Aichele into the aichele GROUP of companies in Gültstein. As a world market leader for electrical rail couplings and an innovative system supplier of high-tech products and solutions for cable manufacturing, UIC connector systems and contact systems, era-contact engineers projects on a local basis and supplies its partners in many sectors worldwide.

Photo © era-contact GmbH

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