Plan Digitization Precisely with the Industry 4.0 CheckUp

The importance of digitization in supply chains is growing by leaps and bounds. Many companies are converting their operations or planning to do so. What are the right actions to take? Not every plan to use Industry 4.0 technologies is expedient and cost effective. The Fraunhofer IFF has developed an Industry 4.0 CheckUp, which enables companies in any industry to analyze their digitization capability systematically and plan effective actions individually. The research institute will be presenting this new analysis system at the International Supply Chain Conference in Berlin.

Actions have to be well considered when implementing Industry or Supply Chains 4.0. Companies have to scrutinize their own situation and plan digitization precisely. That is anything but easy. The risk of making bad investments is great.

Companies’ Industry 4.0 Capability Can be Assessed

“Along with successively developing and integrating 4.0 technologies in the corporate world, we also have to learn where their use truly adds value and where perhaps not,” says Prof. Michael Schenk, Director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF. He cautions that “digitization of the world of manufacturing and supply chains is the future but companies’ need for guidance is huge because there are only custom 4.0 solutions and none off the shelf.” At the International Supply Chain Conference in Berlin from October 19 to 21, 2016, the research institute will be presenting its Industry 4.0 CheckUp, a new tool that provides of companies professional assistance to systematically analyze their capabilities and plan their projects.

Based on a capability maturity model, the Industry 4.0 CheckUp progressively reveals where a company is situated in the stages of Industry 4.0. Factoring in a company’s specific constraints, individual steps can be planned and actions’ impacts on certain processes can be simulated. “The ultimate goal is maximum digitization and interconnectivity among every operation, which also incorporates business partners,” according to Schenk. “Value added increases as the diverse local solutions, which are growing everywhere, are interconnected in one productive integrated digital infrastructure,” the supply chain expert points out.

New Business Models Thanks to Digitized Pallet Management

Researchers at the Fraunhofer IFF are using the newest plastic pallets tagged with RFID to demonstrate how current smart supply chain solutions simplify companies’ daily routines and can give rise to new business models. More than one million of these pallets developed by the pallet specialist CABKA_IPS are in circulation in retail. Integrated RFID transponders are used to track these pallets in supply chains. This provides a variety of options to control and monitor manufacturing and supply chain operations systematically and, thus, organize them more efficiently. Loading inspections, freight movements and shipment tracking can be mapped clearly and are available in real time. The use of RFID makes it possible to trace individual pallets’ life cycles – from the manufacture of each pallet to their cycles of use in retail to their repair or disassembly.

The Fraunhofer IFF oversaw this integration of RFID from the start, beginning with the analysis and the technology consulting through the productive use of specific Fraunhofer systems for pallet warehousing and database management.

Prof. Klaus Richter, the project manager from the Fraunhofer IFF, additionally points out new business models that have been made possible by digitized data management: “Thanks to the unique identification of every pallet, manufacturers, members of pallet pools and customers know how long every pallet is in use,” says the expert in material handling systems. “This benefits both parties. Manufacturers increase their profit on high-quality products every time one reenters circulation. And customers paying per use don’t have to worry about poor or defective products.” CABKA_IPS will be able to apply its experience with RFID integration to other pallet models than just those intended for retail.

Among other things, the Fraunhofer IFF in Magdeburg works in the field of supply chains, researches and develops digital applications and technologies for manufacturing and supply chain operations and provides consulting for companies implementing Industry 4.0 technologies.

Photo: © Foto Fraunhofer IFF. Digital supply chains: More digital interconnectivity means more value added.


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