Light metal manufacturing
Insight into the production processes, counting production units, and making downtimes transparent without intervening at the level of PLC control
Display existing and newly generated data in real time and process it automatically
Improved utilization of the production robots and more efficient resource planning
One day to visualization, one month to utilization for business intelligence
Founded approximately 90 years ago as Germany’s first light metal manufacturer, ZARGES produces crates as well as packaging, transport, and other specialized solutions made of aluminum, including ladders, work and maintenance platforms, boxes, cases, and shelving systems. The company employs around 800 people at three European production sites to sell its products worldwide for the service, trade, craft, medical, and private sectors.
The company has two robot lines for welding and punching at its headquarters in Weilheim. To optimize the utilization of its production capacity, the company was looking for a way to display the clock cycle times on dashboards. Martin Lemmer, Head of IT EMEA at ZARGES, described the task as follows: “We wanted to quantify the flow of our products and make downtimes transparent without having to make invasive changes at the level of PLC control. The goal was to develop a plan for the optimal division of the daily order volume over several shifts.”
The coronavirus pandemic had put the topic at the top of the agenda: Employees were working from their home offices, the warehouse was empty, and there was a high level of demand that was challenging the company. Lemmer explained, “In this situation, we decided we needed a way of quickly visualizing our production data in real time for better lean management.” In addition to achieving a pure representation of the data, in order to completely map and optimize our production, it was important to be able to write data back to a SQL database so that it could be saved for the long term and processed via BI systems.
The company opted for Peakboard. The data to be mapped is imported from Excel and SAP and, following a retrofit that has been implemented by Peakboard Edge, directly from the machine. It can therefore not only be visualized in real time, but it can also be written back to the database. The products are detected one after the other by two photoelectric sensors that feed the information into the system. The interaction provides a low-investment solution that produces digital information about machines and processes.
Lemmer continued: “We had tested several solutions beforehand, some of which we developed ourselves. As soon as we tried to integrate several data sources across the board, it became very time-consuming. Ease of implementation and use was very important to us. Peakboard met these priorities by offering many standards in the SAP environment and integrating all the data sources without any additional programming effort on our part. In addition, I noticed even before we made the decision that we could use the user interface intuitively and easily adapt it.”
The company was able to produce its first visualization after a day, and after about four days ZARGES finalized the project, which was fully developed a month later. Lemmer noted, “Since we also use the data for business intelligence reports, we had to fill a database, hence the somewhat longer path for us. After developing a short specification and reviewing a few screenshots, we were ready. A lot, but not everything, was done remotely. We achieved the visualization itself with minimal programming effort. We had no developers in-house. It was a low code solution.” And, Lemmer added with a smile, “One of the view things we had to do ourselves was to plug in the monitors.” Since then, the company has installed a total of 10 dashboards that update themselves every 2 to 10 seconds. Another 20 monitors use Peakboard to visualize additional SAP order and logistics data in real time.
„Ease of implementation and use was very important to us. Peakboard met these priorities by offering many standards in the SAP environment and integrating all the data sources without any additional programming effort on our part. In addition, I noticed even before we made the decision that we could use the user interface intuitively and easily adapt it.”Martin Lemmer – Head of IT EMEA at ZARGES
The production flow runs more evenly, and the utilization of the robots has been clearly harmonized. The new solution was well received by the employees, as they can now talk about relevant details for how to optimize production that they did not see before. The high degree of process transparency allows the company to precisely track processes. Lemmer concluded, “We have achieved a rapid solution for digitization that does not require extensive investments, and the rollout abroad has also been painless. Due to the flexibility of the interfaces, we don’t have to plan all data sources from the beginning. Rather, we can simply adapt them as conditions change.” Because the company did not have to make any interventions at the PLC control level for the robots, the company has not voided the robot manufacturer’s warranty and has preserved the CE mark designation, which are additional important advantages.
„Due to the flexibility of the interfaces, we don’t have to plan all data sources from the beginning. Rather, we can simply adapt them as conditions change.”Martin Lemmer – Head of IT EMEA at ZARGES
ZARGES will finish outfitting its equipment in Weilheim with the new visualization solution and equip its locations in Hungary and France as well. It has added additional data sources, such as its entire set of plant machinery. It also plans to implement a solution to exchange data between the individual locations.