The inaugural Zoller Inc. Open House & Innovation Days event took place at the company’s brand new North American headquarters and Industry 4.0 Tech Center in Ann Arbor, MI, June 19-20. The event showcased solutions for the comprehensive optimization of manufacturing operations.
During the event, more than 150 attendees experienced Zoller “Smart Factory” solutions live in the Industry 4.0 Tech Center. Attendees saw live demonstrations of Zoller’s range of advanced tool presetting and inspection equipment as well as its tool management solutions (TMS). There was opportunity for networking too—guests talked with Zoller representatives about solutions to assist in optimizing operations.
The key focus over the two-day event was demonstrating how Zoller’s Smart Factory solutions offer connectivity between the company’s specialist tool presetting, inspection and tool management software solutions, leading to time and cost savings for companies of all sizes.
The event started with group tours of the new headquarters, followed by a company overview and introduction by Alexander Zoller, president of Zoller.
“Due to growth (three years ago we had 50 employees, now we have 110 employees), we started the new facility project,” said Zoller. “We are here to stay and are very committed to the North American market. We wanted a very nice environment to show our products and integration. Here in our Tech Center we have a lot of products installed. We have 16 screens, video cameras, and can present from every machine. We have a nice showroom, training rooms, conference rooms—we are very well equipped for the future and for us to work together with our customers.”
According to Zoller, the facility is three times larger than before and is set up for expansion. “The new facility is 45,000 sq² and we are prepared to grow into the future and to work more efficiently. We can organize ourselves better and provide a much better customer experience.”
Another new addition to the Zoller headquarters is housing a software development team. “We are building software here in the US since there is a demand here,” said Zoller. “Now we have more flexibility to work with North American customers to solve their problems. This is much quicker than communicating with the software development department in Germany. The development team here is developing different functionalities, so if a customer has a problem they can come to us and we will work on it and solve it much quicker.”
Zoller is also focusing on integration and providing a database where everything—equipment, quality assurance, CAD/CAM—is linked together and can communicate.
“We are working toward items being connected and this will help customers produce parts in a shorter amount of time with higher quality and less cost,” said Zoller. “We have tool management software, tool management equipment, and we are providing Smart Cabinets, which are manufactured in Germany. There is a high demand in the industry for this. If you want to work efficiently you need to be organized, and to be organized you need to know where your tools and spare parts are. This way, you will be more efficient and competitive, which is why we decided to build the tool room equipment.”
Creating the Smart Factory
After Zoller’s welcome and introduction, Dietmar Moll, general manager for Zoller Inc., gave the keynote presentation, “Making the Smart Factory a Reality,” which focused on process reliability.
Some requirements for process reliability in the manufacturing environment are maintaining processes and applying industry standards and specifications; understanding the manufacturing process itself; using effective manufacturing techniques; and managing the effects and impact of changes to processes and equipment.
According to Moll, it’s imperative to automate the manufacturing environment to have a reliable process in place—doing so will get you one step closer to Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0. “You need to trust the processes and if there is no trust you won’t automate anything. You must understand the processes you are using and use industry standards in the process itself. If you don’t’ understand it, you cannot correct it.”
What are some of the challenges to achieve desired process reliability?
According to Moll, many companies face challenges such as IT infrastructure and IT security; the age of machine tools; the digital data quality not existent as required; connectivity issues between multiple IT systems, databases and hardware devices; combining digital data with the real world; Big Data and deciding what data are relevant; and the reluctance to implement required systems by end users.
“With Big Data, the machine tool gives feedback to you, so the big question is what data out of this data pool is relevant? If you don’t have a reliable process you won’t be able to identify what data are important to you and your company,” said Moll.
Despite the challenges, there are many benefits once a company achieves process reliability, such as increased efficiency and adaptability; combining real and digital worlds in manufacturing lines and machining centers; the opportunity of analyzing Big Data sets; and traceability and transparency.
To achieve a desired process reliability, one database should drive the manufacturing environment from the CAM system to the finished part and the database must describe the tools in a universal way—DIN4000 / ISO 13399—according to Moll.
“Because you have a database in place you can combine the real world with the digital world,” said Moll. “You can analyze Big Data and know what data set is most important– to me, traceability and transparency are the most important. Everyone knows who did what. Also, with a process in place you can react to market demand and be much quicker.”
Technical Breakout Sessions
Alongside the keynote presentation from Moll and live machine demonstrations, the event also featured the following technical breakout sessions:
Solutions for Tool Inspection: Werner Lueken, Zoller’s product manager for tool inspection, gave presentations regarding the full range of Zoller’s tool inspection product line.
pomBasic: Michael Stepke, Zoller’s product specialist for tool inspection was on hand to discuss Zoller pomBasic and offer live demonstrations. The process oriented measurement machine’s recent technological and hardware advancements were discussed at length.
Open Lab–TMS: Business Development Manager Michael Luksic offered visitors a unique chance to have hands on experience learning the basics of Zoller TMS Tool Management Solutions software. During the session, users could experience how TMS helps track tool assemblies, single components, store article characteristics and 3D models, and build setup sheets—all from a single source database.
Art to Part Demonstration: Industry 4.0 Tech Center manager Matt Brothers and in-house technical support engineer Anthony Westfall guided visitors on Zoller’s Art to Part demonstration. The goal was for visitors to gain a better understanding of how all Zoller solutions tie together to offer more efficiency, higher quality and greater process reliability at each stage of the production process.
Starting with interfaces to CAM software, Brothers and Westfall showcased a Zoller CAM interface in action, utilized Zoller TMS and Smart Cabinets to pull tool assemblies, showed the presetting phase on the Zoller venturion, and finally loaded the tools into the Fanuc Robodrill and machined a part.