Aurolzmünster, 18 June, 2015. Digitisation is finding its way into the manufacturing industry. To speak on this issue, Scheuch GmbH and the Upper Austrian Economic Chamber invited guests to the meeting of ERFA Group directors in Aurolzmünster on 16 July 2014. Over 40 attendees from renowned Upper Austrian companies took up the invitation and shared their experiences on the impending revolution of Industry 4.0. After Günther Märzendorfer, Head of Operations at Scheuch GmbH, had greeted guests, the expert university professor Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wilfried Sihn used his presentation to open a window into the future of the digital world for industrial companies. Achievements of the past and a look into the technologies of tomorrow then provided much material for discussion among the attendees.
Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wilfried Sihn, responsible for production and logistics management at the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft research organisation, opened his forward-looking presentation at the Scheuch GmbH headquarters in Aurolzmünster by posing three questions: "Who are my customers, what do they need and how do I create added value for them?" While this mindset is certainly nothing new, it is becoming increasingly more significant in the age of digitisation as requirements get ever more complex. "When you get on the Industry 4.0 train, you must always put your customers' needs first," say the experts on the rapidly incoming digital revolution.
Due to the transformation into the digital age, the road to high-potential, untapped markets has changed. With new technological possibilities, such as tablet computers, netbooks and others, unprecedented advantages have opened up for customers. A simple example is remote maintenance via the company headquarters to the other side of the world. Control data and much more can be sent to the service department of a supplier in a split second at the touch of a button. "This leads to great savings potential with regard to travel costs, high customer satisfaction and to an excellent service process," concludes professor Sihn.
The requirements for manufacturers with intelligent products have increased enormously. It is essential not only to have knowledge of the production process, but also to possess the expertise to generate innovations. The previous product is then equipped with the latest information and communication technology. "Intelligent products are the result of the fourth industrial revolution," the university professor continued. Every day, new apps are launched on the market which change lives, but also make them simpler. For example, you could have an application for bags, which alerts the owner using the mobile phone if it thinks you've forgotten it. This and many other gadgets, such as a GPS tracking system or a suitcase weigher built into frequent flyers' luggage, are no longer just a fantasy.
"If the fridge communicated with the bathroom scales, it may decide not to open"
Even if the intelligent fridge still seems a distant reality, the tongue-in-cheek statement regarding bathroom scales for an attendee of the meeting may not be as far-fetched as it initially sounds. "In three years, the world will look completely different, in ways we cannot yet fully understand today. Of equal importance to the technological changes is also the economic potential of this revolution. The wave of Industry 4.0 will bring growth opportunities of an unforeseen scale and an enormous increase in added value with innovative product and process solutions. New service and business models will completely transform economic life. According to Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wilfried Sihn, data collection in particular will be key, as "It is the only way flexible systems can be built to respond to the demands of the markets. Data is the oil of the future."
Immediately after the discussion panel which followed the presentation, the attendees were taken on a tour of the production operation at Scheuch GmbH in small groups. The visit through the plant at the Aurolzmünster site offered the numerous operations and production managers of notable Upper Austrian firms a practical insight into the family-operated company's product portfolio. "We are in the midst of a surge in orders. As you can see, we all have our hands full. This is also thanks to our strong drive for innovation and the high level of investment that we have made into research and development," explains Günther Märzendorfer.
Excited by their impressions from the production operation and the innovations of digitised industry that had been presented to them, attendees continued to discuss more topics in the Scheuch GmbH foyer.