Operative Exzellenz und Digitalisierung

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„Prozesse lean organisieren als Grundlage für die Umsetzung von Digitalisierungslösungen“ – so das Fazit der Teilnehmer des von ProduktionNRW organisierten Workshops zur Einbindung der Digitalisierung in die internen Prozessabläufe.

An increasingly complex range of products and services and more individual customer requests, down to single-unit batches, pose a challenge for companies in the mechanical engineering and plant construction industry, which can be countered only with flexible and efficient organisation – that’s the only way for companies to improve their competitiveness and deal with the complexity.

The workshop organised by ProduktionNRW on “Operational excellence and digitalisation”, held in Dortmund on 3 July 2018, focused on the subjects of “Lean” and “Industrie 4.0”, and looked in particular at questions such as “How can digitalisation be used to improve in-house organisation?”

It became clear during the workshop that not all solutions will be cost-effective for every company to implement, and that an individual path toward digitalisation should be the goal. Even so, it is important to deal in broad terms with the potential solutions that digitalisation offers. Putting traditional Lean methods into practice, such as avoiding waste and practising continuous process improvement, will no longer be enough to stand up to future competitive pressure. And apart from that, the benefits of the Lean methods reach their limits when they have been successfully implemented, which means that further optimisation efforts in the same direction can be achieved only with difficulty. Manufacturers must therefore be open to Industrie 4.0 approaches and weigh up which solutions may be relevant for them.

Ideally, digitalisation solutions should build on existing good, lean-optimised processes and structures. As the participants put it: “If you transfer a bad process into a digital environment, it’s still a bad process”. Even if there are potential shortcuts to launch directly into an Industrie 4.0 production world, Lean production approaches should still be considered first.

The workshop showed that, for many companies, the subject of “Lean” has been somewhat overshadowed by all the hype surrounding Industrie 4.0. One participant observed that, regardless of the new digital solutions, there must be a guaranteed readiness to pass on knowledge and experience if in-house processes are to be optimised. Digitalisation approaches often fail at the “data barrier” – suppliers, and customers, too, are not always prepared to make their machine data available.

A practical approach, in the experts’ view, would seem to involve having a digital roadmap available to plan how and where to start with individual actions. Efforts should also be made to structure solutions on a modular basis, so they can then be easily transferred from one already “digitalised” department to other parts of the company.

Initiative: “Mechanical engineering as a driver of growth in NRW – shape your own success”

The event was part of the “Mechanical engineering as a driver of growth in NRW – shape your own success” initiative, which focuses on the fields of action of company management, innovation, efficient organisation and market cultivation. The goal is to give companies stimuli and suggestions they can use to implement these fields of action in their own businesses, individually and as broader themes. With this initiative and the associated events, ProduktionNRW offers mechanical engineers in NRW extensive assistance with orientation and deriving measures suited to their individual needs.