Digitalization, IoT, and Industry 4.0 at Haas Schleifmaschinen
Marie-Sophie Maier-Wember (Product Manager at Multigrind® Horizon and Member of the Management Board) sees Haas grinding machines as perfectly positioned for the challenges of progressive production automation, the Internet of Things, and the forthcoming change that will bring about the “fourth industrial revolution.” Thanks to the unparalleled performance of our proprietary Multigrind® Horizon software, our Multigrind® grinding machines are the perfect hardware for the future.
Trossingen – Small to mid-size enterprise (SME) Haas Schleifmaschinen doesn’t see digitalization as a threat but rather as an opportunity. The machine manufacturer in Trossingen knew the direction things were headed as early as 1998.
“Haas Schleifmaschinen realized 20 years ago that machine manufacturing was facing a fundamental change. Without intelligent software and algorithms, even the most sophisticated grinding machine is helpless. As early as 1998, we recognized that only with our own software would we be in a position to become an innovation leader at the forefront of the industry. That’s why I’m happy to see more and more complex wishes from our customers,” says Marie-Sophie Maier-Wember.
Ms. Maier-Wember, it was clearly demonstrated at the last GrindTec in Augsburg that Haas Schleifmaschinen is a leading source of grinding technology. As with many other manufacturers, Multigrind® grinding machines took center stage at the Haas stand. Now we are learning that the software is the innovation driver and the machine has become a command recipient?
Marie-Sophie Maier-Wember: “You don’t have to remember Aristotle’s words to realize that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. We at Haas Schleifmaschinen have long since ceased to see ourselves as mechanical engineers in the classical sense but take every opportunity to push the limits of what is feasible for the benefit of our customers – not only with high-tech grinding machines but also with our proprietary machine control system. Seen in this light, we operate like a start-up. The two parts of the company – mechanical engineering and software development – have developed a distinct Haas DNA that clearly sets us apart from our international competitors.”
What makes a traditional SME from Trossingen take this step towards in-house software development, a venture that is certainly not entirely without risk?
Marie-Sophie Maier-Wember: In our efforts to create the perfect universal grinding machine, we recognized early on that digitalization would have precisely the potential needed to advance the business of our customers. There are three driving forces guiding this development in grinding technology: the customer, the grinding machine, and the software. First and foremost, it’s the wishes of our customers that challenge us to do more. We see these desires as the pacemakers for fundamental change in our industry. With every complex customer request we fulfill, we are moving our technology in the direction of the future. We’ve long had the impression that Haas grinding machines function as a “future hub” in the industry. Things that seem to be impossible end up getting accomplished anyway by the cutting-edge engineers in Trossingen. Without an excellent grinding machine, this would be inconceivable, and without complete influence on the software control system, it wouldn’t be possible to achieve this in this form. This is exactly what we exhibited at the GrindTec last spring. And our customers will be amazed to see what Haas Schleifmaschinen has accomplished within the space of a year at our extensive in-house exhibition, the GrindDate, which will take place from May 8 to 10 in Trossingen.
FUTURE NOW at Haas Schleifmaschinen, GrindTec 2018
Ms. Maier-Wember, isn’t the industry overwhelmed and unsettled by the pace of technological change? But you prefer to describe your customers as technology drivers?
Marie-Sophie Maier-Wember: “Each of our customers faces the constant challenge of optimizing their processes in order to remain competitive. Haas Schleifmaschinen serves the premium segment here, thanks to the Multigrind® series in combination with the Multigrind® Horizon control software. We have to identify what our customers need – even before they come to us with these needs. For the sake of illustration, here’s a current example:
We would never have been able to offer our customer this amazing fit accuracy if we hadn’t already designed and tested a solution in advance.”
An impressive example, Ms. Maier-Wember, but more in the tradition of a continuous improvement process. Or do you also see in it pioneering development in the direction of the Internet of Things?
Marie-Sophie Maier-Wember: “Yes, that’s true, at least at first glance. But taking a closer look will demonstrate to you that this accuracy of fit was only made possible by a stringent digital concept. Our strategy is aimed at ensuring that even in this high-tech example, the machine could be operated without errors by any trained technician. Our Multigrind® grinding machine communicates with its user as well as with other machines, of course. The Multigrind® knows exactly what it can do and shares its “knowledge” with the objective of ever greater optimization of production. Our customers demand controllability and reproducibility of results. This would be impossible without the grinding machine’s own findings. Just like in any good relationship, communication is the basis for understanding your partner. What their situation is at the moment, what problems they are dealing with, how things can be improved, and when is it time to step in with timely countermeasures.”
Production processes have always been tinkered with and optimized. What’s the difference?
Marie-Sophie Maier-Wember: The example shows where we are now. It is only an indication of what we are doing today and what we will be doing in the near future. But perhaps we have to really take an objective look at what has been declared a revolution. With the fourth industrial revolution, we are facing a change in the way we will be manufacturing products in the future, but there has always been technological change. The steam engine replaced manual work, assembly line production multiplied production capacity, information technology ushered in digitalization, and now we are networking all things to organize our work even better and to learn and take action in the manufacturing process in real time. For Haas Schleifmaschinen, the so-called industrial revolution 4.0 is an evolutionary process.
We are also experiencing digitalization first-hand in our everyday lives. It causes anxiety, of course, but it also engenders a sense of optimism. Every day we our learning how to better organize ourselves, and we no longer want to live without digital innovations. This change will also take place in our everyday working lives, and it is the most important task of a company to shape these changes together with our employees. This works very well for us. It’s still the people that make the difference. The wellspring of new requirements never dries up, and we can only solve this with expertise. In the future the process will take place in exchange between machines and humans, but this expertise will always be a part of it.
Ms. Maier-Wember, thank you for the interview, and we look forward to more interviews in the future.
Were you inspired by this blog post? Do you have specific requests or unique wishes in regard to the topic of digitalization with which you want to challenge us? We would love to hear from you.
Just send us an e-mail, give us a call, or meet with us in person at GrindDate.