At a time when the media were still debating whether Industrie 4.0 was a trend, a development or a revolution, KUKA had long recognized that digitization would change the world of production for good, and the company adapted its course accordingly.
What people are familiar with from their private lives and their consumer behavior will sooner or later catch on in manufacturing as well. Customer needs will influence production and even control it. Today, people are accustomed to buying products online and having them delivered overnight. And at the same time they want the goods they order to be as individualized as possible. The color of the hip brandname sneakers must be selectable or match the tracksuit. Individualism is “in” – made possible by the Internet. A lifestyle that places high demands on production.
Digitization and customer behavior will change entire manufacturing processes: in the future, production will be defined by cloudbased services. Manufacturing will be a service that can be ordered at the click of a button. The customer will buy a service rather than a system. We are familiar with similar concepts from car-sharing services or music streaming, for instance. This enables companies to offer the very flexibility that their customers demand.
“KUKA is at the core of this development,” explains Rohitashwa Pant, Senior Vice President Industrie 4.0 Accelerator. “The robot, for example, is a key element. It is the interface between IT and the manufacturing world. It collects data that can be used to improve processes.” Pant joined KUKA about a year ago to take on the challenge of fusing and promoting all Industrie 4.0 projects within the company.
“Previously, I was working at a consulting firm that dealt with Industrie 4.0. Such an opportunity to translate the conceptual framework of Industrie 4.0 into real projects and work at the forefront of innovation comes around once in a lifetime,” explains Pant. He started his career at Siemens in Erlangen as a commissioning technician for automation systems. After working in the United States and India, Pant focused increasingly on digitization and most recently worked at Accenture Digital in Munich. “Bavaria is home to me, but so is India. Originally I’m from Mumbai, but my children were born in Munich,” says the young father about his son and twin daughters. “I’m happy here.”
Pant is now working on the conceptual implementation of Industrie 4.0 at automation specialist KUKA in Augsburg. “At KUKA, we are attempting to demystify this abstract concept on a daily basis.” Among other things, the team is examining how to better organize complex and opaque processes through networking. The team is also working on the issue of analyzing the production environment and adapting processes accordingly by using digitization. “Such an approach is feasible today, because now we have the appropriate technologies and sensors to attune dynamic parameters, such as the temperature or power consumption, to the production process centrally in the cloud,” states Pant. “Industrie 4.0 thus helps us build intelligent solutions, so that we can flexibly adapt to different circumstances.”
But Industrie 4.0 is much more than just a project. The entire company is undergoing a transformation on account of Industrie 4.0. “In the digital world, everything is connected. Global IT is therefore geared fully towards this transformation,” says Chief Information Officer Holger Ewald in explanation of the latest strategic course adjustments at KUKA.
Within the large-scale Power ON program, important groundwork is being laid for Industrie 4.0, for example in the form of globally harmonized processes and product data. “Building upon this, we are digitally connecting goods, information and financial flows with the KUKA Digital Business Cloud. This means that, in the future, we will have a common digital language within KUKA and towards customers.” For customers, this change will be noticeable as soon as they access the digital KUKA marketplace. The website at https://shop.kuka.com is not only about purchasing new KUKA products, it also offers user manuals, training videos and any other information the customer may need.
“As the KUKA product range continues to grow, a digital trading platform is vital in order to provide customers with an intuitive experience and a comprehensive overview of new products,” emphasizes David Fuller, Chief Technology Officer.
With a focus on digital business transformation, the KUKA marketplace offers customers the newest zero touch IoT solution from KUKA for intelligent production: KUKA Connect. Fuller is particularly proud of this product. It allows customers to access robot data in their production operations – in a convenient manner on a computer and no matter where the robot is located. The robot informs the customer when it is due for maintenance or provides information about its energy consumption.
KUKA Connect is a cloud-based product that enables customers to make their production more efficient, to boost output and above all to be more innovative. KUKA is implementing open global standards and makes use of large-scale data analytics and a fog computing platform in order to offer customers maximum transparency with regard to their robots.
“It is very advantageous to KUKA that we possess so much process know-how,” explains Christian Schlögel, Chief Digital Officer at KUKA. “If not us, then who will assist customers with improving their networked processes?”
Networking and collecting data is one thing, but making use of the data is an entirely different matter. Schlögel is also CEO of connyun, a start-up company that is developing the cloud-based platform via which KUKA will offer its customers a whole ecosystem of services, and which also provides the underlying technical foundation for KUKA Connect.
“We anticipate that our customers will want more than just information about the KUKA processes. They will only be able to optimize their processes once they have an integrated understanding, from the robot to the gripper and through to the environment in which the robot is deployed.” This is why Schlögel wants to open the connyun platform to third parties as well. “After all, the motto is ecosystem rather than egosystem,” he explains, giving a smile. “Those who hoard all processes and data for themselves will not last very long in a competitive international marketplace.” Sharing is a key factor in the digital transformation. This
does not mean, though, that just anyone will have access to the data. “The customer will decide who and why someone is allowed to view the data.” But the KUKA engineers are in agreement that a rethink will be required. It is crucial to be prepared for the digital transformation. And this transformation starts with the KUKA employees themselves. They have long become accustomed to interdisciplinary approaches. They work in global teams and have no problem coordinating between different time zones. For example, a development team in Austin provides the IoT know-how. The employees are supported in their interdisciplinary exchange of information by the KUKA Digital Business Cloud. In this social business network by the name of Chatter, employees share knowledge, discuss current issues and organize into project groups. Since June, Chatter has been an integral part of the workplace at KUKA worldwide – a digital collaboration across borders.
Everything about Industry 4.0 at KUKA can be found on our homepage https://www.kuka.com/en-de/technologies/industrie-4-0