SYN] Magazine
#3 | 2019

Data is the new Gold

Atlas Copco Tools has consistently continued to develop its vision of the smart factory. The company’s roadshow “Smart Connected Assembly – Powered by Data”, with 44 events in September 2019, showed how production can be taken to a new, higher level with a holistic approach. Industry 4.0 is forging ahead towards the future with the smart acquisition, analysis and utilization of data.

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Most of the visitors to the roadshow confirmed that data is the new gold for manufacturing industry. From the development and design phase via prototype production to serial manufacturing and maintenance, more and more data is continuously being generated. “It is therefore hardly surprising that there is a gold rush in the positive sense among developers, production and assembly planners, quality managers and maintenance personnel,” says Henning Appiß, commenting on this extremely important trend. “More and more manufacturers want to make the best possible use of the data generated by their production operations,” adds the Business Manager Software of Atlas Copco Tools.
The objectives are to ensure the global optimization of increasingly global market processes, to safeguard quality and to benefit from tailor-made service and maintenance activities. Appiß summarizes what he learnt from a large number of discussions with roadshow visitors: “Assembly offers the greatest potential for added value but companies often lack the operations analysis functions needed to integrate the data generated in their business processes in a beneficial way.”

Roadshow 2.0

Following the successful start to its roadshow activities last year, Atlas Copco Tools launched its second roadshow campaign on the topic of Smart Connected Assembly (SCA). In line with the subtitle “Powered by Data” the company showcased a holistic data-driven concept going far beyond the Industry 4.0 offering for tightening systems presented in 2018. Together with group affiliate Atlas Copco Industrial Assembly Solutions (IAS), the entire portfolio of joining solutions for the fourth industrial revolution was highlighted in September. Visitors to the 38-ton road truck were able to gain an in-depth impression of the smart assembly world of the future. In this world, smart tools and solutions from Atlas Copco continuously generate data which is evaluated and utilized with the assistance of data analytics and machine learning.
Hundreds of visitors to the 44 cross-industry events at 17 venues in Belgium, the Netherlands and the German-speaking region wanted to learn more. They took the opportunity for intensive discussions among specialists and were inspired by the huge untapped economic potential offered by production data that has not yet been processed.

Information Interchange across all levels and the analysis of the data generated lay the foundation for synergy effects and improvements in all production phases and areas.

Continuous Improvement

“Smart Connected Assembly offers technology that acquires, analyses and utilizes data over the entire life cycle of a project,” says Appiß, explaining the SCA concept as a perfectly harmonized loop. In this loop, development, prototype production, serial manufacturing, reworking and maintenance mesh seamlessly. “There are no more isolated units and all segments benefit from improvements achieved in other areas.”

„I am very pleased to see how digital data can be collected and then evaluated and utilized to move production forward." Lambert Schmidt, production planner, Evobus (Mannheim, Germany)

Shaping Development Processes

Sustainable production already starts in the planning phase. Every product that is manufactured needs to be designed first. At this stage, long before production starts and often at a considerable distance from production, information to support the customer process can be collected. This way, Atlas Copco can offer the most productive or ergonomic process for any type of joint, for example, and call upon information on the behavior of similar components and materials for comparison purposes long before the first prototype is assembled. The digital “twin” at the manufacturer’s technology center or at the IAS Innovation Center defines a product to the point where we can carry out accessibility tests, suggest modifications and undertake complex trials in cooperation with our customer’s development team.

In September, roadshow visitors explored the assembly world of the future at Atlas Copco’s smart factory in practical and virtual terms, as here in the case of robot deployment with augmented reality in body production.

Greater Flexibility in Prototype Production

The digital data of the twin and the real-world hardware meet in the prototype station. Is the physical behavior of a joint in line with the predictions made by the developers? Do the relaxation phenomena measured with the tightening procedure concerned agree with the calculated values? The prototype shows whether all the assumptions which were made are correct.
At this stage, tools and strategies are validated, new tools and strategies are selected if necessary and the content of work packages for series manufacturing is defined. “Not every tool is suitable for every joint. However, thanks to the combination of data and hardware, we can verify all the components and steps in the prototype station, plan processes and modify them if necessary. This is why valuable data records are already stored and analyzed in a shared database during the prototype stage. This data can then be made available for other areas of production.
For globally active companies, it is especially important for production to be based on uniform standards throughout the world. At this stage, the standards can be defined in the optimum way and then distributed to all the plants throughout the world at the touch of a button. The smart utilization of data accelerates pre-series processes and reduces costs, allowing series manufacturing to start earlier. All the information and specifications required can be transferred to any point on the production lines without conversion using short data routes.

Optimizing Series Manufacturing

In modern series manufacturing, the use of alternative joining processes is becoming increasingly widespread. New technologies and materials are supplementing conventional steel spot welding for body making and bolted joints. Certain types of structures can only be assembled and weight reductions can only be accomplished without sacrificing stability if components are also adhesive-bonded or joined using self-pierce riveting or flow-drill fastening processes. The Atlas Copco portfolio also includes these innovative processes, together with optical systems for automated, visual quality monitoring. The virtual bodyshop in the show truck gives an impressive presentation of the application of highly automated hybrid joining processes in body making. The reuse of data from the prototype station in real-world seat production is also demonstrated.
The production worker is guided through the production process by an error proofing solution. This controls the individual steps and implements a Poka-Yoke approach that immediately identifies and prevents errors using technical systems.

Globally standardized Processes

“We can apply the comprehensive knowledge gained from tightening systems to other joining technologies. The import and analysis of data from the design and prototype phase for series manufacturing means that we can offer the best joining solution for practically any material pair,” says Appiß, repeating the principle of data acquisition, analysis and utilization. He says that Smart Connected Assembly can detect quality problems at an early stage, identify savings potentials and ensure the technically optimized, most economical use of the process concerned in all areas of production.
“Data-driven central production management allows the global implementation of standardized processes. Multinational manufacturers can produce to uniform standards with the same high quality at any production location throughout the world. If a problem should occur during assembly, the repair or reworking process can be initiated immediately. All systems are networked with each other and transmit the appropriate data to any location in the world where it may be required on a real-time basis.“

Less Reworking

Many production lines are equipped with a reworking station for remedial work on defective components. In this area, SCA allows significant improvements because the digital twin provides the reworking station with precise information on each product. The product history covering all the preceding steps in production and the recorded measurements and tightening data make precise corrective action possible without needing long searches. This saves work and money. All the relevant data from reworking processes is also recorded, analyzed and made available for use.
The SCA approach also ensures that assembly work is carried out right first time and any corrections which are needed can be made at the assembly station. “Ideally, the right first time approach demonstrated at our roadshow will make reworking stations superfluous in the long term,” Henning Appiß predicts.

Smart Maintenance with Data Driven Services

The SCA approach also has a dramatic effect in the service area which will become even more important in the future. Data-driven analyses indicate optimization potential in the areas of maintenance, tightening processes and even targeted employee training.
Production equipment, control systems and tools continuously transmit production data on a real-time basis. This data is analyzed and interpreted in order to indicate the need for action at an early stage via a service app. “The dashboard of this app makes the condition of production equipment fully transparent and data analysis based on machine learning eliminates fixed maintenance intervals. Production and maintenance managers are informed immediately of any trends and deviations.

“The communication possibilities offered by Industry 4.0 are very interesting and can help us further improve production quality in the future.” Axel Hoff (scheduling), Nord-Micro GmbH & Co. OHG, Frankfurt, Germany

Quality Assurance 4.0

More intensive data recording and analysis also opens up considerable opportunities for industrial quality management. The quality assurance platform showcased at the roadshow integrates quality processes in Smart Connected Assembly. This platform guides personnel through the test procedure in defined steps at the same time as eliminating the risk of human transmission errors of the type which can always occur with check lists or Excel spreadsheets.

Unlimited Benefits of Smart Connected Assembly

With the repeated use of data collected at an early stage and increasingly close cooperation between hardware and software solutions across all levels, Atlas Copco delivers measurable added value for its customers as a strategic partner. According to Henning Appiß, the key to the success of Industry 4.0 is the collection and evaluation of all available information at a data center. “The advanced use of this data is not the final objective but only the gateway to the future of assembly.”

“With their integrated smart sensors, Atlas Copco’s intelligent systems and tools generate data which is gathered together from all production areas and analyzed thanks to the networking of systems. This data can be used repeatedly for purposes ranging from the improvement of selected processes to tailor-made Data Driven Services for continuous optimization.” Henning Appiß, Business Manager Software, Atlas Copco Tools