What tightening experts expect from Industry 4.0
Tightening experts in the production environment are sought-after specialists, particularly for safety-critical tightening. This kind of tightening process is often found in the construction of vehicles and aircraft. Only a handful of tightening specialists have the expertise for such critical processes as well as detailed knowledge of the kind of complications that can occur; in other words, what causes tightening problems and how they can be solved. The tightening expert is therefore a rare “commodity” in the world of manufacturing and needs to be deployed properly. Take for example a car manufacturing plant. The more than 2,000 tightening systems in use there see over 250 million safety- or function-critical tightenings per year. The Association of German Engineers (VDI) even provides standards for particular restrictions or requirements when it comes to automotive tightening.
Safety-critical tightening processes in particular have to be closely monitored and analyzed. Anomalies need to be detected and responded to, alerts for production staff need to be triggered. And for a manufacturing company, it would be best for all this to happen close to real time. That’s because the production process has to be transparent throughout if the tightening expert is to take preventive action, continuously improve the production process, and make the most of his or her expertise. There are other quality controls that can be used in tightening processes. The earlier these controls take place in the process for manufacturing an engine or a transmission, for example, the better they can reduce failure and reworking costs and increase output.
In detail: What measures take tightening experts in their day-to-day work?
How can Industry 4.0 take the expertise of these tightening specialists and make it available at a company’s production locations around the world? How can it keep from tying them up with routine manual tasks or having to collate information from various unconnected systems?
1) Quick overview of tightening processes
Tightening experts need a fast and easy-to-navigate overview – for example, in a tree structure – of plants, areas, lines, stations, tightening applications, and even right down to individual channels. This helps them realize straightaway what tightening systems are active in a given factory or how many production lines are in one plant.
Access to the tightening systems’ master data also gives the power tool fleet manager a detailed overview of system status and utilization. Familiar routines from the private or office environment, such as creating favorites, make it easier for tightening experts to quickly access specific tightening processes, tightening rundowns, or units.
2) Optimizing processes by carefully analyzing tightening processes
Visual elements such as graphs and statistical functions help tightening experts to analyze tightening processes quickly and detect process changes early on – including refinements such as a night view, with a darker layout that is easier on the eyes during night shifts. At a glance, traffic-signal colors indicate whether a tightening process is being carried out properly. Similarly, an alarm function can alert the experts when defined threshold values have been exceeded or not been reached, informing the experts of why the tightening process is not being carried out properly.
Reacting quickly to errors thanks to real-time data acquisition
To detect trends early, the tightening process data from the tool controler has to be transmitted in real time to a database. Tightening experts can then view the data in a user interface supported by all common web browsers. They have immediate access to the tightening process and can intervene directly if necessary.
3) Documentation and quality assurance
Documenting the tightening processes plays a special role in quality management, particularly in regard to safety-critical tightening applications and products. A database can support tightening experts by providing the product ID for every completed tightening events and the ID for the individual tool that performed that activity. In the case of production errors, this information is of particular relevance as it becomes necessary to verify which tightening system was used on which component and when, and which status (OK/NOK) the tightening event received.
You might ask how I know all this, not being a tightening expert myself. I’ve been developing a software solution for the manufacturing industry with my colleagues, and in the course of my work, I’ve met several tightening experts from leading German automotive suppliers. Together with Bosch Rexroth we took their main requirements and combined them into a software-based solution we call Process Quality Manager.
Did I miss anything? What else can Industry 4.0 do to better support professionals in manufacturing?