Taking full advantage of production potential

Digital, smart, connected: A whole range of Körber solutions boosts the efficiency of production facilities. For example, Smooth Operator uses artificial intelligence (AI) to define optimal operating parameters.

The digitization of production facilities is in full swing. However, almost every machine operator still carries around an analog booklet that is full of notes on how to set parameters and deal with various operating and error situations. Every colleague uses slightly different settings for a given machine. In some cases this impairs the machines’ performance. Alexander Kinstler and his team members came to this conclusion after observing the operations of a customer in the tissue industry. That’s how they came up with the idea of the Smooth Operator, a system based on artificial intelligence (AI) that automatically determines the optimal settings for each product. Thus it helps machine operators and process engineers to make sure that their production lines are operating optimally. 

Smooth Operator is the latest development in a whole series of innovative digital solutions from Körber that increase customers’ overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), whether the customers operate in the tissue, pharmaceutical, supply chain or tobacco industry. The OEE is calculated as the product of production facility performance, availability, and achievable product quality. In short, it is a key indicator that shows whether machines are operating optimally. “A higher OEE makes companies more profitable. That’s a clear added value for the customer and also a big incentive and a great motivation for our work,” says Alexander Kinstler, who is the product manager for Smooth Operator in the Körber Business Area Digital.

lA higher OEE makes companies more profitable. That’s a clear added value for the customer and also a big incentive and a great motivation for our work.r

Alexander Kinstler, Head of Product Smooth Operator, Körber Business Area Digital

Notepads are obsolete. Today, the operators have digital access to the so-called centerlines: the information they need to optimally adjust the equipment.
If machines are adjusted to the optimal parameters, this significantly increases the OEE - by up to 13 percentage points in one project.

The Körber engineers and developers use different approaches, depending on the production facility and the industry. For example, Smooth Operator can increase production speed while maintaining the same high product quality. In order to do that, the AI system reads out machine data, processes this data using intelligent algorithms, and thus determines the optimal production path for each product. Experts like Kinstler call these production paths centerlines, which can be compared with the ideal line of an auto racing circuit or a ski run. These center lines are offered as recommended optimal settings to the machine operators on a smart phone or a tablet.

“Of course the way the algorithms work in detail is a trade secret — just like the recipe for a perfect sauce made by a celebrity chef,” Alexander Kinstler explains. The only thing he can reveal is that each solution is based on a mix of statistical models and AI methods such as machine learning, combined with other Körber solutions. However, it’s no secret that Smooth Operator achieves huge increases in OEE. “In one project we’ve already increased the OEE by 13 percentage points,” Alexander Kinstler says with pride. This won’t be the case with every machine and for every customer, he explains, but he expects that Smooth Operator can increase OEE by at least five to ten percentage points on average.

less time

is needed in maintenance processes when mechanical engineers use Körber's Digital Uptime solution.

Customers save lots of manual work thanks to connected digital solutions

Other OEE solutions from Körber, such as Digital Uptime, shorten maintenance processes by as much as 60 percent. In case of a shutdown, their AI-based software identifies the fault that has occurred and tells users which replacement parts and tools need to be used to solve the problem. The documentation tool Digital Shift Support (DSS), which customers can use in combination with Digital Uptime, has a similar focus. DSS improves the transfer of information from one operator to another when a new shift begins. A structured query process that is carried out on the operator’s tablet makes it possible to explain and categorize automatically registered downtimes more precisely. Smooth Operator also accesses the DSS data to avoid downtimes by means of its center line recommendations.

Another solution, Digital Shift Analytics (DSA), offers an overview of the production performance of individual machines or entire production lines. It shows production speeds, production volumes, downtimes, and anomalies in operation processes and, just like the documentation tool DSS, it generates comprehensive reports. These reports also support operators by transferring information during a shift change. The analysis software provides a pool of data that processing engineers can use as a basis for running deeper error analyses. DSA also assists such analyses by showing live data regarding the production processes. “The documentation opportunities and the compact representation of data that our DSS and DSA solutions offer are extremely user-friendly, and they save our customers lots of manual work,” says Alexander Kinstler.

More than 1,000 machines are already connected — and that number is increasing

The Körber Business Area Tissue gives production managers a glimpse of the future. The Tissue Performance Center (TPC) in Lucca, Italy, is the point of convergence for data from more than 1,000 machines at customers’ production plants all over the world. Here Körber experts work around the clock to optimize production processes, write error and performance reports, and give customers tips on how to boost the OEE of their production lines. “Thanks to the direct data connection with our customers’ machines via the Tissue Data Cloud, we can work with foresight and avoid downtimes before they occur”, says Antonio Mosca, Head of Digital Transformation at Körber Business Area Tissue. “Through the Tissue Performance Center we are raising our support for customers in the Tissue industry to a new level.”

lThrough the Tissue Performance Center we are raising our support for customers in this industry to a new level.r

Antonio Mosca, Head of Digital Transformation at Körber Business Area Tissue

“At Körber, that’s what it’s all about,” agrees Alexander Kinstler. “We want to be customers’ first choice thanks to our technologically leading solutions.” That also applies to Smooth Operator, which the digital experts from Körber want to establish as the main tool for operating machines in the tissue industry. And Kinstler is already thinking ahead: “In the future, Smooth Operator will help more and more customers from other sectors to boost their OEE.”

Would you like to find out more? If so, contact Alexander Kinstler.

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