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How we utilize the data treasure of machines

The digitization of industrial manufacturing is simultaneously a promise and a challenge for manufacturers. The Körber Group is ideally prepared, thanks to its creativity, know-how, and clear customer focus.

by Dr. Christian Schlögel, Chief Digital Officer of the Körber Group

  • Data-driven work methods are the future of production. This future has already begun at Körber, now that the Group has started to use its first AI systems.
  • Solutions developed by Körber improve the efficiency of production lines, thus boosting production performance.
  • For some product decisions the gain in data is now the main focus.

Efficient, safe, convenient — a fully self-driving car is not yet ready for the market. However, it’s already clear that this is the car of the future. Its technology will work if two preconditions are fulfilled. First, these vehicles must have sufficient sensor technology on board. Secondly, they must have a powerful system of artificial intelligence (AI) that can process the sensor data in real time and interpret it meaningfully.

The situation is very similar in the world of production lines, process chains, and machines. Here too, data-driven work methods represent the future. At our company, this future has already begun: We use data science approaches and AI systems, and for a long time now we have been working with smart connected machines and production lines equipped with cameras and sensors. In the future, these technologies will support operators and engineers so extensively that many processes will be software-supported or will run with a high degree of autonomy. We have a clear goal: to ensure that our customers’ production lines run much more efficiently and thus provide a clear competitive advantage.

The development of new generations of machines that are connected from the very start is only one aspect of this goal. For us, data-driven work methods also mean helping our customers make their existing factories fit for the new opportunities offered by data utilization. Brownfield plants — in other words, plants that are being digitally retrofitted — account for more than 90 percent of the market today. Our central task in this retrofitting process is to boost the efficiency of an entire factory. This is where the creativity and know-how of our engineers come into play. Can the control system of an older machine be changed by means of a new software module that enables us to use data that already exists but has previously been inaccessible? Do we need additional sensor systems? Or do we need a combination of the two? How do we integrate machines that are not made by Körber into our software?

The Körber Business Area Digital is committed to developing a understanding for the potential of new technologies among its employees, including through training courses and meetings with startups.

Increased efficiency means genuine added value

Retrofittable solutions from Körber such as Digital Shift Analytics (DSA) and Digital Shift Support (DSS) are based on considerations of this kind. Today we are already successfully using these systems to support process engineers and machine operators in the tissue, baked goods, glass, and steel industries and to improve the efficiency of their production lines. Our innovative AI system Smooth Operator can also do that and much more. It delivers extensive data, and on this basis it permanently optimizes machine parameters in real time, thus boosting production performance.

The results are measurable. For example, DSA, DSS, and Smooth Operator have already increased the overall equipment effectiveness (or OEE for short) of our customers in the tissue sector by five percentage points, or even by up to ten percentage points in individual cases. These figures have a direct positive effect on our customers’ business results. OEE harbors great potential, and we would like to unleash this potential together with our customers. 

Using smart data analysis to manufacture more efficiently — this approach is playing an increasingly important role. For example, it may make more sense to optimize an existing machine instead of buying a new one or even building a completely new factory. We provide detailed advice for those for those customers who are making such decisions. After all, we can tell from the data exactly how our customers are using their production lines and machines, and we look at their problems in detail.

lFor us, data-driven work methods also mean helping our customers make their existing factories fit for the new opportunities offered by data utilization.r

Dr. Christian Schlögel, Chief Digital Officer of the Körber Group

Together with our customers and partners, we are increasingly making use of co-innovation projects. Our analyses reveal which new solutions help our customers best and how much added value we are directly generating by means of these solutions. The great advantage is that through our close collaboration with our customers we implement the right solution faster, and our customers are immediately impressed. For example, the increased volume of data may have become an important consideration for a number of product-related decisions. That’s because this data is the precondition for insights that form the basis for our development of innovative solutions. One example of that is Smooth Operator, which is already greatly improving performance in the tissue industry today and will also be used in other industries in the future. Thus our focus on AI-powered manufacturing efficiency is already a reality, and in the months and years ahead it will be an important value driver for our customers. “The future starts today” and “Stronger together” are our guiding principles, which we are applying across all of our Business Areas for the benefit of our customers. 

About the author

Dr. Christian Schlögel is the Group’s Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and a member of the Körber Group Executive Board. He began his career at SAP after receiving a doctorate in computer science. After subsequent appointments at Wincor Nixdorf and Kuka AG, he joined Körber in September 2018, where he is now responsible for the digital activities of the Group.

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