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DIENES & the digital transformation

Torsten Winterberg spoke with Rolf Thielen, Head of Automation Technology at DIENES, about the collaboration with the Innovation Lab in search of motivations, experiences and lessons learned.

Mr Thielen, what challenge does DIENES face as a high-end machine builder with regard to digital transformation? The digital transformation offers us the opportunities we were dreaming of years ago. We can see extreme improvements in the service area, for example. We are now able to identify problems at an early stage and act quickly before they occur. Away from reacting and towards acting, this is a giant step in the right direction for us and our worldwide customers. In the future, we will be able to individualise our slitting machines with the help of data in such a way that an automatic transfer of know-how between man – machine – man can take place. For this purpose, we create a digital twin of each machine, which informs the service technician in case of anomalies on the living twin. The fitter can thus intervene in good time before a malfunction occurs on the machine, which can lead to considerable costs for materials such as labels, packaging, battery film, lithium-ion battery film, nonwoven, cell stoff, paper and sleeve paper. Through our analysis tool, we can identify and respond to dependencies. For example, we can measure the stresses on machine parts and analyse when they are likely to need replacing or when knives become blunt and need resharpening. This means the end of randomness when replacing components, we have planning reliability and can thus avoid machine breakdowns. Through the analyses, we can always optimally adapt our systems to the site conditions. This already starts in the design phase of the plant, the designer can evaluate components on the basis of the digital twin and design them accordingly. This increases the availability of the systems and reduces costs. Our challenge is to build a bridge between classic automation technology and the IT world.

You have been working with Innovation Labs in this regard since 2017: What do you expect from this? As a classic mechanical engineering company, we lack experience in the area of IT; here we are dependent on experts. With an Innovation Lab, we have a partner on hand who helps us to close this gap and supports us in identificating the areas in which we still need to improve.

How has the cooperation with the Innovation Lab gone so far? Have there already been any successes? The collaboration has exceeded our imagination. However, we were able to develop more than just a theoretical approach within a year; we succeeded in developing a functional beta version. This is already implemented as standard with every new installation and can thus be tested flectively. At Labelexpo 2017, for example, we were already able to present the completely redesigned slitting system “Label slit 4.0”, a slitting system for labels, packaging, battery foil and lithium-ion battery foil. We tried out the beta version on our test system and learned a lot about interrelationships that only became apparent through digitalisation.

What lessons learned have you been able to derive for DIENES and the future? In the course of the last year, we realised that we are no longer talking about a possible development topic, but that we are already in the middle of the digital transformation. We are not talking about a “nice to have” here, but a “must have”. If we continue to move at such a pace in this area, it will not only give us an advantage in the global market, we will also create completely new working environments for our employees. In my opinion, “Made in Germany” must not only stand for high quality, it must also stand for forward-looking innovations in order to continue to play a leading role in the international market. The Federal Government is setting the right course here with its new “High-Tech Strategy”. We as German SMEs must understand and implement these.

To what extent does the collaboration with the external Innovation Lab help internally with the actual digital transformation of DIENES? Working with an external partner always brings new ideas and other perspectives to the company. The Innovation Lab helps us to look at the digital transformation as a whole and to identify the aspects that are important for us. For us, we can say that the collaboration is a great success and DIENES slitting technology is very well positioned for the digital future.

DIENES editorial team

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