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Fit for Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 as practiced in reality is easy to use and very efficient, while being highly flexible and giving users a high level of added value at the same time.

Berlin/Hamburg, 19 October 2016 – Although automation in a production and logistics context in previous industrial revolutions meant replacing people by machines to increase process efficiency, Industry 4.0 assigns an entirely new role to human beings. Humans become “Humans 4.0” in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A person no longer operates systems, but is their coordinator, director or specialist instead. This new industrial environment is shaped by the Internet, cloud structures and cyber-physical systems. Future robotic systems will be organised, controlled and supervised by complex software systems. Humans will use these systems to create a mutually supportive team. STILL has already presented an initial man-machine collaboration and offered a glimpse into the future in the shape of the iGo neo CX 20.

But the procurement of innovative new technologies on its own is not enough. To make their use genuinely value-creating, the processes into which these technologies are integrated must also be optimised. For that reason, Industry 4.0 or Logistics 4.0 should be introduced with due consideration. Christian Fischer, Head of Product Management, Business & Automation Solutions, at STILL GmbH explains that “The individual layers of a company must be examined very thoroughly. This should be done by breaking individual processes down into sub-processes to allow the latter to be analysed in detail, and perhaps even fundamentally called into question.”

As with the construction plan of a house, in which a building is represented as floor plans, elevation views, cross-sections and details, a business enterprise must also be depicted and displayed in detail to allow its dissection into individual layers and the analysis of these. When considering the individual layers of a company, the first layer could consist for example of the processes from incoming to outgoing goods. Superimposed on these as a second layer would be a user management and transport control system, on top of that in turn the warehouse management system as a third layer, and uppermost an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and goods management system in the fourth layer. Fischer says “Thus we need to subdivide both the individual consecutive process steps and the systems layered on top of one another. When we have understood these individual process steps and levels, we have then created the basis for an Industry 4.0 situation. Individual modular elements, e.g. order-picking, can then be progressively renewed or exchanged.” This is the only way to ensure that everything that is retrofitted or altered in the overall design is also integrated both structurally and infrastructurally.

This cannot enable existing companies to be switched from Industry 3.0 to Industry 4.0 overnight in a single step. It can only take place in individual process steps, thus making the corporate risks manageable. Fischer explains that “The customer will be more likely to take single steps than to turn his entire intralogistics upside down all at once.” He says this is precisely the advantage of being able to upgrade to Industry 4.0 in an existing environment in successive steps. As soon as a comprehensive networking concept exists for the company and connectivity has been established, Industry 4.0 has already been reached. According to Fischer: “In this respect it is obvious that there is no off-the-peg solution for Industry 4.0, instead of which every company must be looked at individually.”

In future, in the Industry 4.0 world, the entire logistics operation will be networked and highly scalable. All the systems, e.g. industrial trucks, will communicate with one another by exchanging data. They unburden humans wherever there is a need to carry out monotonous, repetitive tasks. They thereby ensure that processes are carried out more efficiently and safely. Christian Fischer says “Taking order picking as an example, it is conceivable that one day a human being will no longer follow the machine but will merely pick the orders, and the truck will then drive to the outgoing goods point autonomously.” According to STILL, this would be the logical further development of the iGo neo CX 20, because although it already follows the operator autonomously now, the latter must still accompany the truck through all the process steps to the outgoing goods area. Fischer adds that “Our vision is to offer the customer individually customised solutions based on a construction kit of STILL technologies. Thus combining individual technologies together, e.g. autonomous driving with lithium ion technology, is conceivable wherever it makes sense, because we think that scalability is not just limited to products but is also extendable to technologies.”

He says that precisely this development has already taken place in STILL’s neXXt fleet. Intelligent data gathering with STILL’s neXXt fleet will replace the STILLReport and STILL FleetManager applications in the medium term. By offering STILL neXXt fleet, STILL provides customers with a highly scalable, flexible tool whose use enables intelligent, efficient fleet management. STILL neXXt fleet supplies all the opportunities for intelligent data collection and processing, to implement logistics processes in a simpler, faster, more cost-saving way. In an Industry 4.0 situation, software systems must be able to grow constantly in step with requirements. “We have developed our know-how in the fleet management area continuously for more than ten years, and have tailored it to the needs of Industry 4.0. The market launch of STILL’s neXXt fleet is the logical outcome.”

The neXXt fleet web portal sets new standards for accessibility, availability, clarity, user friendliness and visualisation. Whereas fleet analysis in the past still needed the laborious compilation of numerous data sets from a wide variety of departments and areas, neXXt fleet now assembles these components at lightning speed to form an overall structure. Although not all the data are relevant to the portrayal of an actual process, all the data about an industrial truck’s deployment can be collected and recorded nonetheless. These data may be helpful when new modules are implemented or attempts are being made to optimise other processes. Christian Fischer explains that “We must communicate to the customer the fact that he retains data sovereignty and that his data are safe and remain anonymous. Many customers still avoid using such tools to their full extent due to a fear of losing control over their own data. That’s why we offer solutions that take the user’s individual privacy needs into account.”

This turns the visionary approaches often discussed in recent years into Industry 4.0 as practiced in reality – easy to use and very efficient, while being highly flexible and giving users a high level of added value at the same time.

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