Digitisation and What it will bring
Published in Interviews & Opinion
Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things (IoT) and digitalisation – whatever you want to call it, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is here and moving at a great pace. With the dawn of a new age upon us, nobody can fully calculate the impact and benefits the new world of industrial connectivity will have upon us.
VOLLMER has been developing its Digital Strategy called [email protected] since 2016 and customers are already reaping the rewards of this technology.
Ironically, whilst the pandemic prevented a fanfare roll-out and world premiere of Visual support /Visual instruct at an international trade fair in March 2020 – it was the same pandemic that accelerated the [email protected] market penetration, as an integration of digitalisation in our daily lives deepened. For many, the use of Teams, Zoom and other communication platforms rapidly became the norm. We all recognised the advantages of technology during such a challenging time, but for a global machine tool manufacturer, a simple Zoom call to customers just doesn’t ‘cut-it’. For some, digitalisation and talk of a fourth industrial revolution still creates confusion, bewilderment and a lack of interest – all caused by a lack of education. Instead of trying to educate readers, we speak with Wolfgang Miller, Customer Services Director at VOLLMER to identify some of the features, and the benefits customers are reaping from [email protected].
To fundamentally understand the start of the digital journey, Wolfgang says: “Machines from 20 years ago were mainly driven by mechanical parts and now, everything has electrical parts and is electrically driven – therefore it is digital. So, we have to adapt our systems and behaviour and move towards digitalisation. Digitalisation is not only having digital components but giving the customer information through digital systems. Our digital system is actually Oculavis and it allows us to see what the customer is doing in front of the machine. This means we can assist and instruct the operator and provide them with the next steps in the service operation, eliminating any communication errors between VOLLMER and the customer that may be created by not seeing what the customer sees.”
What does this mean for the customer?
“Instead of receiving customers emails, images and documents that are open to interpretation and error, we see what the customer sees. For us to react in the right way, we need the right information. The time between a customer recognising a problem and requiring a solution has compressed. Previously, one or two days to resolve a service issue was acceptable – now customers want a response in less than one or two hours – it is critical. With Visual Suport, we can react faster and provide the right solution without excessive communication. With the correct information, we can implement a right-first-time approach that eliminates errors through communication. In a global marketplace, language, terminology, miscommunication and even time-zones can disrupt service response – digitisation will eradicate these issues.”
Keeping spindles turning
In an age where maximum spindle utilisation, time and cost pressures and the ever-increasing demand for improved customer service throughout the supply chain is critical, digitalisation is changing the landscape for businesses. As Wolfgang adds: “In the past, with different systems, components and software across a range of machines and technologies, it wasn’t possible to enter the machine system, now we can log on to the machine and work remotely with the customer to get the machine running in little more than an hour. This is critical for customers outside of Europe – you can lose hours with time differences on different continents. You could quite easily lose a full day, with Visual Suport we can get machines operational much faster.”
[email protected] empowers the customer to undertake maintenance tasks without a VOLLMER engineer physically present. This can get the machine up and running with immediacy, reducing the reliance on a ‘call-out’, which incurs the inevitable time and cost implications. To do this, we must have the facility to gather the most accurate information from the machine. In the past, the human was always the conduit between the machine and VOLLMER. They would find an error message, take a photograph and send it to us. If it was not clear, time could be lost in communication. Now, we can log onto the machine, see what the issue is and react quicker and more accurately.
Building the digital foundation
The digital journey started with VOLLMER determining what information is needed to create the foundation blocks of a digital platform. With countless meetings with global subsidiaries, the formation of internal teams, structured workshops and the utilisation of external digital experts – VOLLMER now has an exceptional digital strategy. Internal teams communicate across departments and divisions working on integrating digitisation into every facet of the business, but the journey has no end point in a world of continuous evolution.
Commenting on just a few of the trigger points where digitisation is transforming the internal structures at VOLLMER to enhance customer experience and add value, Wolfgang continues: “We started by identifying 36 different themes to work on. As a brief example, some of these included reducing our number of control systems. We had five systems across the different machine technologies and we have reduced this to three – we will not stop there. The result is that our engineers will have one control system for collecting data on their laptops rather than requiring multiple systems and cables, simplifying and streamlining processes. Another point was spare parts. We decided to give the customer the complete data and structure of the machine to choose the spare parts they need. Now, they can select the 3D drawing and identify the component required. To fully eliminate errors and create certainty, we are now photographing more than 36,000 parts from across our machine platforms to add to the data library for customers. Added to this, we are creating service and maintenance videos.”
“The journey is a huge investment for VOLLMER, but we can now talk to customers about our online shop, the pictures of spare parts, the IoT Gateway, the Visual Support and Visual Instruct packages – all elements of our digitalisation vision that will complete our service offering.”