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DIENES Innovation

Focus on innovation and digitalization at Dienes: Depth interview with Rolf Thielen

Brigitta Csima and Sinan Ercanoglu spoke with Rolf Thielen, Head of Automation Technology at Dienes, about the latest developments and innovations in connection with TEOC, digitalization and data-driven problem solving.

Hi Rolf, thank you for agreeing to participate in our up-close interview. We would like to discuss the current topics of digitalization, Industry 4.0 and Big Data at Dienes with you. First of all, please tell us something about yourself and your tasks at Dienes:

My name is Rolf Thielen and I have been for 15 years by Dienes. My current responsibility is to manage the plant engineering, service and development departments in the area of digitalization. Before joining Dienes, I worked in the food industry and later in the packaging industry as an automation engineer. During this time, I supervised several projects on site around the world. My tasks included setting up plants with a local team, commissioning them and later handing them over to production.

Here at Dienes Werke, I initially started my career as a commissioning engineer in plant construction, where I further deepened my practical experience. This is still a great value to me today, especially for further development and innovation in the field of slitting.

Keyword innovation – Dienes was honored this year’s ICE Award in Digital Converting Solutions category for its TEOC AddOn – could you tell us more about TEOC and the background?

TEOC stands for “The End Of Coincidence.” All projects in the area of digitalization in service and plant engineering come together under TEOC.

In principle, TEOC is a logical consequence: I have been on the road for years as a service technician, I knew that we always face the same challenges – When problems arise in connection with slitting systems, knife holders, knives or cutting results, understanding and communicating with the customers is of elementary importance. Not only linguistically, I also mean that due to our international orientation we often interact with different cultures. For example, one customer says “Yes, that happens sometimes” out of politeness when a problem arises – but it happens all the time. Another customer, on the other hand, simply says out of habit: “It happens all the time” – but actually the error only occurs once a month. This means that we need a way of objectively recording local information. The undirected search for the cause is not only tedious, but also costly. This is where TEOC comes in.

What exactly does “end of coincidences” mean?

There are no coincidences. There are only causes that we do not yet know.

How exactly does TEOC work?

TEOC is not a product in the true sense of the word, but a brand. Under this phrase, we summarize all efforts in the area of electronics, sensor technology, software, hardware but also from actual service products. The whole thing has the goal to collect data during slitting in order to develop a better understanding.

This means that with the help of TEOC we or the customer are able to collect data before, during and after slitting processes. The setup of the variables to be measured can be customized. We thought about how we could do this. By designing a kind of modular system that can be adapted to customer requirements depending on the degree of complexity. This applies to both hardware and software.

What advantages would I have as a TEOC customer?

The system not only enables data acquisition, but also the analysis and utilization of different measured variables. Based on the cause-effect relationships identified by TEOC, targeted measures for optimization and error prevention within production processes can be derived. Then both we and our customers can get a very clear picture of the situation at the respective plant. This requires data in pure form with a historical scope. Because if you know the past, you can learn from it for the future. This allows us to identify problems early and even intervene preventively. As a result, not only longer service lives, but also lower setup costs, downtimes and optimization projects could be realized.

Is TEOC only interesting for larger companies or also for smaller ones?

TEOC is independent of the size of a company. Thanks to its modular structure, we can adapt the systems according to customer requirements. In addition, an increase in productivity and availability can be expected when using TEOC. Therefore, regardless of the size of the system offered, a rapid return on investment can be forecasted, as the systems are tailored to the exact purpose of the customer.

Moreover, the indirect benefit for companies of any size results from the improvement potentials that can be derived for us, which we incorporate into the development of our products.

Who is the target group?

It is not possible to give a general answer to this question, as the market is still changing.  Basically, we see all our customers as a target group, regardless of industry. It is therefore difficult to say which sector will develop how and when.

What I can say with certainty, however, is that we already represent a target group on our own. We can use the know-how we have gathered to develop completely different products. If we know exactly how our knife holders behave in the field, for example, we can address customer needs much more precisely. If we look at classic product development today, it has always been based on assumptions, calculations and the knowledge of what has not worked so far.

In manufacturing companies who comes with TEOC in general into contact and in what way?

Basically everyone. For example, the plant operator receives visual indications of when to change the knives (runtime detection). This can happen directly on an integrated display, as with our TEOC AddOn, or on another interface such as a dashboard. But the same dashboard can be just as interesting for the maintenance engineer who has to decide about preventive or reactive maintenance actions. The same is true for the purchaser, who can easily monitor the corresponding downtime, new purchases and qualities. TEOC is suitable for any department. Basically, it is divided into three pillars:

  1. The customer for himself: measurement, analysis and visualization via dashboard – the customer extracts his own added value.
  2. Dienes for the customer: the customer has a problem and we access the collected data. On the one hand, for root cause analysis, on the other hand for quick problem solving.
  3. Dienes for both: we draw conclusions from the TEOC system and the collected historical data for product improvement.

A big advantage is that we can graphically display recommendations for action. The design of the optional display is based on the graphics of our cutting system touch panels. This means that the operator who can operate our PLC today will be able to operate our TEOC AddOn knife holder in the same way.

Concept drawing TEOC AddOn knife holder

We have now talked a lot about data. How does the data get from the holder to the server and ultimately to you?

On the one hand, the smart devices of the TEOC family have a WLAN or optionally an Ethernet interface, on the other hand, we support standard communication protocols such as MQTT or OPC-UA. The complete system with knife holders, slitting system and server functions autonomously at the customer’s site. To guarantee optimal service, all our systems are additionally equipped with VPN routers. However, this requires Internet connection at the customer’s site. In the future, we will also see what advantages could result from the 5G network.

What about data privacy?

Data privacy is an important issue for us. We addressed this issue early on and it was clear that we do not collect any personal data. In addition, we do not want to disappoint the trust of our customers, which we have built up as a traditional company over the last 100 years, by collecting unnecessary production or product data. Brief example: We give the customer the possibility to store different cutting profiles for different materials. Instead of storing “Paper, 80g/m² with composition X”, we use pseudonyms like “Material Blue”.

As we could see at the last ICE trade show, the TEOC AddOn’s housing is a 3D printed component. Is 3D printing also going to be done in series production?

The additive manufacturing processes are highly interesting for us. We have already purchased some of the relevant equipment and will be pushing ahead with this in the future. The decisive advantage of 3D printing is that more complex contours can be produced. In addition, the complete component can be manufactured in a single operation and does not have to be re-clamped, as it is often the case in conventional manufacturing. These advantages allow us to produce prototypes faster.

The field of application of additive manufacturing is limited not just to common plastics, but also to metals and composites. Since a variety of processes and materials are now available, we need to evaluate in further field tests what is best suited for our TEOC AddOn. We also need to calculate to what extent additive metal manufacturing could be considered, since equipment for selective melting processes means high capital expenditures. However, the high current production costs are much more of a priority. 3D printing already allows us to produce small parts such as sensor bezels or display fasteners from plastic cheaper than would be possible with classic injection molding or machining. The role that composites or metallic materials will play in large contours exposed to harsh environments is currently being tested.

Does the current difficult procurement situation have an influence on your development and production?

Yes, it has a major influence. We have to look much further into the future, similar to what we want to realize with TEOC. For example, if we had all the plants equipped with TEOC now and knew how the plants would behave, then we would be able to predict failures, spare parts and component orders. The procurement situation will not change so quickly in perspective, so it will be all the more important to look into the future.

Thank you Rolf and we are looking forward to hearing from you about the latest developments and trends at Dienes in the future.