The best investment…

….is not made on the price but on the process. Will it manage to be the philosophy of the future? Probably yes, but changing the approach.

 apertura OKA lively discussion is in course about what might be the first Industrial Revolution of the third millennium, a revolution that seems to shake the production world. The word “seems” is mandatory, since it might appear as a simple use of innovative instruments but it is instead a real upheaval, with a total redefinition of instruments and processes to reinterpret the new industrial world. This would be the world of Industry 4.0, founded on the synergy between what is virtual and what is real.

Therefore, the “production” system must change as well as business logics, starting from the preliminary assumption that each new investment, to be effective and productive, requires a modification of all surrounding elements and not a simple insertion into an existing chain. This subtle but essential distinction was anticipated by ELMANN, company headquartered at Casale sul Sile that, since the early Eighties has been designing and producing moulds. Corporate guidelines are dictated by Mission (Creating entrepreneurial spirit applied to all levels through the continuous improvement process and the management control in real time), Vision (Competing through technology), Strategies (Adopting the virtual plastic method on each project to evaluate processes and throughputs, reasoning out-of-the-box).

“Our strong point – explains Stefano Steiner, Project Manager for the R&D division- consists in succeeding, thanks to our information architecture, in making available the information connected with the mould cycle time for all corporate divisions, from design to the mould testing, exploiting all the possibilities offered by the new 3D graphic engines; in this way, our collaborators are informed and involved in the manufacturing process, where they are protagonist players and not mere executors.”

Industrializing a productive process

2 ELMANN_ISOLA_DI_LAVORO OKIn the era of Industry 4.0 it is fundamental the industrialization concept of the productive process, which is based on the difference between automation and automatization. “The automation refers to a single operation while the automatization concerns the entire process and we are precisely interested in the latter – they underline at ELMANN – It is anyway worth reminding that we can always make the true qualitative leap with an upstream reasoning: a kind of automation that does not solve eventual problems during the virtualized process simulation is an automation that will not attain the best efficiency inside the productive process.”  

In the mould case, analysing costs, the most relevant percentage concerns the machine tool machining operations, therefore to succeed in intervening on this item means acting on a significant “slice” of costs, that is to say on the most critical part. Acting on the “machining” to reduce costs does not necessarily mean a direct action on the machining but it means also to create the conditions for the machine tool to optimize performances with preventive studies and simulations permitting to launch the production without prototyping phases.

We wondered what might be the future of the production in the era of Industry 4.0 – adds Stefano Steiner – and, consequently, how ELMANN had to face with courage and determination the change. Moreover, not a superficial bur radical change, which involves all corporate logics. First of all, the purchasing logic: you do not make the best investment on the price but on the process! Looking at the process means having a vision that must be necessarily global, with reasoned choices that not only consider contingent elements but are also able to look farther. Actually, ours is not a course undertaken the day when we started mentioning Industry 4.0, but it was born in the early 2000s, with the will of industrializing a not mass-production process like the mould one.”

In virtual….

3 repartro OKThe final product is the mould. The initial datum is the project. The link is represented by the 3D design that allows simulations, feasibility studies, virtual definition of machining paths etc. In the virtual dimension, it is then possible to determine completely the manufacturing process that will be afterwards executed on the machining centre, eliminating possible double phases. “The possibilities offered by the virtual simulation allow us to launch the production with the certainty that each criticality has been faced and solved during the design process. In the case of our moulds, it was immediately clear that we would not have succeeded in proceeding with the automatization process if we had not solved the matter of the “piece clamping ” – explains ELMANN – In the case of mass-produced goods, a jig solves the problem and the cost in amortized by numbers; our mould is single and the clamping must be restudied every time. Moreover, it must be already foreseen in design phase, in order to “virtualize” the entire process.”

…reaching the real

The “cost” item connected with the machining of the machine is the most relevant (38÷45 %), the one that, possibly, must be reduced. Thanks to the study and to the development of a standard piece clamping system, already foreseen by the technical division, ELMANN could drastically reduce the cost connected with the machining item, reducing global process hours. It is a modular system, consistent with the regulation in force and standardized, which allows clamping the piece thanks to the combination of the various elements: the problem is circumscribed to the modularity study, study that can be comfortably executed in virtual manner and then quickly transposed on the machining centre.

“Solving the clamping problem in simple and modular manner has allowed us a significant increase of spindle hours – explains Stefano Steiner – We shifted from the piece clamping on the table with bracket studied by the operator on machine board to a standardized system foreseen and defined in the design phase of the mould: we have radically changed the method because we have changed the way of thinking, coherently with the principles of Industry 4.0.”

The modular clamping, able to improve the manufacturing efficiency with consequent process optimization, is today the product that FCS System, born from the spin-off of the R&D of ELMANN, proposes on the market, arousing notable interest also in sectors with high technological content such as aerospace.

The working isle: no more automatized machine but system of men and automatic means

4_b OKThe machine tool is not an obsolete good but we could state that it is a concept surpassed by the System one, which starts from a project shared by the various corporate realities: starting from purchases but also from sales or the after sale service, whatever customer request can be automatically shared, analysed, simulated and discussed inside the project. In this way, the role of man becomes that of manager of his part of production, aware both of the final result, and therefore, actually entrepreneur of his own job, actively involved in the result, and of the importance that his task holds in the final outcome.

According to ELMANN’s vision, each working isle is like a start-up dedicated to a given project (process), with its own info point to enter for real-time consultations, a teamwork and a supervisor. But especially with a group vision not limited to its own space.

Like a start-up

The start-up concept is simple: we start from scratch and we build, realizing a repeatable and scalable model. According to the concept of start-up implemented in the Treviso company, the manufacturing process has a correspondence in a virtual project, reminding that today’s virtual project will be certainly different from tomorrow’s, due to the constant evolution of the Information Technology on one hand and of electronics and mechatronics on the other hand.

“At ELMANN each project is conceived and managed like a start-up, with work teams composed by people with different skills since they take part in the project with different roles. The possibility of gaining access to information is strategic and, for this reason, each start-up has its own info point. In this way, each component of the team can control the work progress and take the eventual decisions in conscious manner. What we are doing is no longer “a work” only but a project in which we are contributing. In this way, each collaborator really becomes a resource. – further adds the management of ELMANN.

This philosophy is not enclosed inside the company but it extends to the suppliers that actually become partner of a forefront project. Experiences, reciprocally shared and integrated, manage to bring such benefits to the final project as to allow both to hit the target: releasing excellent products on the market, which grant important advantages to final customers. Therefore, the price becomes only one of the secondary evaluation criteria.

About Elmann

foto 1  OKEstablished in 1981, ELMANN srlu, headquartered at Casale sul Sile (TV), designs and produces injection steel moulds for the automotive lighting industry.

Since its setup, the Venetian company has been pursuing the target of a constant industrialization of the production process in mould making, in particular through the study and the application of new technologies, in line with the principles of Industry 4.0.

From the Spin-off to the R&D Division of ELMANN, in 2003 they founded FCS System srlu that, through the study and the marketing of integrated systems for the improvement of the productive efficiency, is becoming a reference point in the international market.

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