NEXT: The future that already exists  

It is not a simple slogan but a fully innovative eco-system of production and services: this is what proposes the new smart manufacturing paradigm baptized in Germany but ready to create a school everywhere thanks to a stronger integration of digital technologies into the manufacturing industry.

apertura Industrie_4.0 OKA new «high-quality industrialization». According to Roland Berger consultants, this is the most important and concrete promise than smart manufacturing ecosystems, identified with the label of Industry 4.0 make to the manufacturing sector today. The feasible target for the economic-productive western system is, according to the active society for the German, Italian and French governments, the recovery of competitiveness, added value and employment, to the detriment of competitors. Today rising Countries absorb in fact 40% of overall margins against 20% in 1991 and, to go on playing a protagonist role, Europe should represent again at least 20% of it, against the present 15, from now until 2030. To do that, we will need investments that Roland Berger has calculated as amounting to 90 billion Euros for the next 15 years. Moreover, a direction is necessary: in other words, a neat acceleration of the integration of digital technologies with conventional industrial processes. The target, fixed by Roland Berger at the end of the next decade, is an increment of workplaces up to the figure of 31 millions against 25 millions in 2011. Because, instead of subtracting human resources to factories, the revolutionary paradigm will call for new ones, all highly specialized. Far from being a mere slogan, the denomination Industry 4.0 refers to the fourth industrial revolution, based on the concept of Internet of things or Iot and on machines, manufactured goods and operators that dialogue one another thanks to increasingly reliable and performing net environments. The analysts of the research multinational Frost & Sullivan have foreseen that in 2020, a good 12 billion devices will be interconnected in manufacturing ambit, in a logic of machine-to-machine interfacing (Machine to machine or M2M). Items in their turn able to dialogue reciprocally and to transmit information might boost new service forms, for a business expected to reach the yearly 20% peak in the short-medium term. Issued in relatively recent times on headlines, the idea of Industry 4.0 comes actually from distant times, having been conceived in 2012 inside central German institutions searching for guidelines with which to grant a future (and a leadership ranking) to the local production. Today the Industrie 4.0 project is a key component of the Future projects included in the High tech strategy developed in Berlin; moreover, since 2014 Holland has implemented a specific roadmap, too.

 

«Always oriented to digitalization»

“The availability of protected data on a corporate intranet was essential on the occasion of our establishment in Turkey and to deal with the consequent need of networking all factories one another.” Walter Fontana, Chief executive officer of Fontana Group

“The availability of protected data on a corporate intranet was essential on the occasion of our establishment in Turkey and to deal with the consequent need of networking all factories one another.”
Walter Fontana, Chief executive officer of Fontana Group

Interview with Walter Fontana, Chief executive officer of Fontana Group.

How do you implement the idea of Industry 4.0 in a company like yours, Mr Fontana?

If we refer to the digitalization of processes and information flows, Fontana Group has been a real pioneer, among Italian mould and die makers and not only. The concept of interconnection among data and machines is already rooted into our activity since the introduction of the first CAD-CAM systems and of ICT technologies in the late Seventies, with the information transfer from technical offices to machines. We have lived the manual letter-by-letter digitalization phases and that of perforated bands, up to the advent of Numerical Controls. Over 35 years ago, we transmitted the data for the surface milling of a parabola from an Olivetti computer to a Numerical Control, still made in Italy. Besides, our factory at Calolziocorte (Lecco) was wired with optical fibre cables already in 1991. The wiring and the realization of related safety measures, also from the electromagnetic point of view, have been vital to grant the transmission of programmes and of mathematical data for milling and EDM.

What has changed with your expansion abroad and how has ICT helped you to manage it?

The availability of protected data on a corporate intranet was essential on the occasion of our establishment in Turkey and to deal with the consequent need of networking all factories one another. The successful error-free sharing of the projects in course in Italy and their related modifications with our Turkish and Romanian plants, was a successful factor that allowed us to receive the Award for Innovation by Confindustria in 2008. Besides, we were prized by the Ministry for Industry thanks to the skills demonstrated in the knowledge spreading and by the Ministry for Research for the innovation of knowledge-sharing processes. ICT is decisive to manage knowledge, in all world areas.

How does the dialogue take place with your branches worldwide and with your industrial partners?

With simulation and solid design software, which Fontana adopted already in 1992, we develop the feasibility certification of each component. The data to proceed to engineering, volumetric design and Cam processes travel on an optical fibre LAN net also towards Turkey and Romania. We have been using Internet since 1996 and since then it has been a strategic instrument for the dialogue with our partner foundries. If anyway data are crucial for 4.0 environments, then Fontana has always been in the forefront, several years ago we already managed data with even eight terabyte volume. Our brain is granted by a daily and monthly backup managed like the bank ones. And put in the safe.

Much more recent was instead the adoption of cloud architectures: would you like to talk about them?

The implementation, as it happened for other recent innovations, was cared by my sons, both engaged in the company and relying on professional and study experiences abroad. The cloud allows us to share job orders and modifications in real time with our foreign branches and it is a natural extension of our way of doing business. We pay attention to the information protection because, since we work for the automotive sector on vehicles that will be released various years later, safety is an extremely sensitive element. In the last six months we have proceeded, with the support of advisors from the IBM world, to a detailed analysis of our entire information system to evaluate both resources equipping us and possible optimization interventions. Witnessing the central role that the datum plays for Fontana, we have hugely invested in it. We must always be slightly ahead compared to the rest of the market and the hi-tech allows us to do that, increasing the number and the importance of customers and protecting our know-how.

Is your bent for innovation understood by collaborators and subcontractors, too?

Sometimes, we had to come to terms with our innovative nature and misunderstandings with subcontractors and small or very small companies did not miss. Certainly, everything changes if we refer instead to customers, much better organized or trained, also because they are often big-size enterprises. Moreover, in Countries such as Romania, we were initially affected by the deficiencies of infrastructural kind but finally our strategies have been rewarding. We have always been a 4.0 company, for 25 years our world has been digitized and this implies some problems of data safety, management, interpretation and transmission. If, then, we spoke of Manufacturing 5.0, we will be at stake again.

 

«An evolution that increases complexities and manages to solve them»

“In Italy as well the concept of Industry 4.0 is taking hold in the plastic machining industry, even if currently only OEM in the automotive area and in technical moulds have transposed it as priority.” Maurizio Ferrari, sales manager of Engel

“In Italy as well the concept of Industry 4.0 is taking hold in the plastic machining industry, even if currently only OEM in the automotive area and in technical moulds have transposed it as priority.”
Maurizio Ferrari, sales manager of Engel

Interview with Maurizio Ferrari, sales manager of Engel, German producer of plastic injection systems and solutions with nine productive sites and a 2014-2015 turnover worth 1.07 billions.

What does the concept of Industry 4.0 indicate for you and for ENGEL, Mr Ferrari?

It indicates the fourth industrial revolution, even if I think it would be more appropriate to speak of an industry evolution. The previous three revolutions have brought with them a productivity increase but also a higher complexity and the fourth is not an exception. The difference is that it contains the solutions to meet the complexity and to manage it. Other benefits are visible in the flexibility that, with Industry 4.0, for the first time in over 200 years, will be accomplished far beyond the pure manual craftsmanship. However, in my opinion Industry 4.0 is most of all a unique opportunity from which we want to benefit, together with customers.

How do you think you will be able to ride this innovative wave of digitalization and interconnection?

Engel has known the instances of Industry 4.0 for a long time and they are daily practice in various areas. The novelty is that with the Inject 4.0 brand we are offering, as complete package, the products and the services singularly delivered in the past, together with new developments that enable the passage to the smart factories. And the smart factory is a place where manufacturing processes are constantly optimized, thanks to the networking and to the integration of productive systems, to the systematic exploitation of process and production data and to the use of adaptive manufacturing systems. The target consists in helping customers to optimize their processes, to achieve a significant rise of productivity, quality and flexibility. The smart factory is boosted by three key factors: smart machines that enhance the process capacity and quality with de-centralized and adaptive systems; the smart production able to grant high output levels thanks to the vertical and horizontal data integration and finally smart services. These improve the availability of machines efficiently and rapidly, also by turning to remote maintenance instruments. We propose a series of targeted modular solutions for each of these items: iQ Weight Control and iQ Clamp Control are software for the continuous monitoring and the automatic resetting of quality parameters (smart machine); Engel E-Factory Mes (Manufacturing Execution System) is conceived for the specific requirements of the plastic machining with an excellent level of horizontal and vertical data integration up to the single cavities (smart production) and Engel E-Connect for a fast online support and the remote service management, in the ambit of smart services.

In your opinion, what level of interest in Industry 4.0 do customers show?

In the plastic sector, it is a relevant trend and the conversations had in some recent exhibitions about the systematic data use, networking and smart service systems in the context of our Inject 4.0 solutions confirm it. Users want answers to their requests and instruments with which to face what today represents both an opportunity and a challenge. Today we are in starting phase, doubts and misunderstandings are numerous but turning to a modular model, like the one proposed by Engel, is an advantage. It allows companies to proceed gradually, starting from small specific solutions and widening them in time.

Do you think that also in Italy the mould industry is demonstrating to be aware of the issue?

Italy is one of our main markets in the European Union and Engel was the first foreign company that in 1989 established a direct subsidiary that today relies on 32 employees and eight agents, for 5,000 installed machine of which a team of 22 specialized technicians takes care. In Italy as well the concept of Industry 4.0 is taking hold in the plastic machining industry, even if currently only OEM in the automotive area and in technical moulds have transposed it as priority. However, several companies have already interfaced their machines with central computers and ERP systems, thanks to our E-Factory, to have a complete vision of production and business processes. The result is the conquest of higher efficiency, better quality and productivity increase.

What is, in this context, the importance of issues such as the data protection and training?

The definition of safety standards for the data exchange is one of the biggest challenges that Industry 4.0 issues to us and we are working hard as single company and as industrial sector associations. The matter, anyway, involves some misunderstandings. It is worth clarifying, in fact, that only smart services impose a supplier the access to specific customer data, released by clients for as precise purposes. Smart productions and machines are based instead on data that pertain to the sphere of each single processing industry and they must not be shared. As far as training is concerned, Engel has already developed programmes dedicated to Inject 4.0. solutions.

Are you going to cooperate with other partners in the development of offers targeted to Industry 4.0?

No company can exploit its authentic potential alone: Industry 4.0 involves each business and production process and this is a theme that we discuss with customers and allies. It is also thanks to the cooperation with partners that we can offer highly integrated and diversified solutions: machines, automation and process technologies, as well as moulds and peripherals.

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