More and more companies are networking their production, from material delivery and machine operation to overarching process control across factory boundaries. Machine-tool manufacturer DMG MORI is charting its own, very individual pathway. Joining forces with Dürr, ZEISS, Software AG and other partners it founded the digital network ADAMOS. Chairman of the Board Christian Thönes explains the project.
Christian Thönes, DMG MORI has developed a “Path of Digitization”. What’s it all about?
It’s our goal and aspiration to be with our customers every step of the way as they take their factories digital. We want to work with customers to deploy digital benefits into manufacturing processes and business workflows, create new service-oriented processes and business models, and widen interaction between people and machines. Digital technologies must always deliver customer value and improve production.
What does that mean exactly?
With our “Path of Digitization”, we’re taking an active role in moving digital transformation to the next stage. In 2013, we launched our app-based operating and control environment
CELOS. It integrates machines fully into the wider operating landscape, and simplifies and accelerates the process of moving from the initial idea to the finished product. CELOS visualizes the current production status of the machine or entire production process as notifications for the operator. The interface comprises icons, text messages and 26 intuitive apps. CELOS already runs on more than 10,000 installed machines, and it’s as easy to use as a smartphone. With CELOS, organizations can implement fully data-driven planning and control processes end-to-end in their factory. In a next major step, we’ve evolved CELOS into an open network.
How does this work in practice?
With open-connectivity solutions, we’ve developed CELOS into an open system for the digital factory. The new CELOS NETbox acts as an open IIoT connector for third-party machines. This means users can integrate third-party products, complementary technology as well as manual workstations into their CELOS network. Even older machines can be connected to some extent. In addition, with CELOS-PROtab, we can offer our customers a mobile assistant to take CELOS functionality onto the shop floor. The new CELOS Cockpit pulls together and visualizes all the relevant production data in a smart, one-stop control center. With the CELOS-connected machines, we can provide comprehensive solutions for digital production that customers can use to create their individual digital factory, either incrementally or in one step.
Where a PC has the “Intel inside” label, we have ADAMOS. And where computers run Windows, we can integrate our CELOS.
As well as taking your machines digital, you’ve also founded the alliance ADAMOS with partners in machine and plant engineering and IT. What does the alliance do?
ADAMOS stands for “Adaptive Manufacturing Open Solutions“. Working with Dürr, Software AG, ZEISS and ASM PT, we want to engage strategically with the game-changing issues Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things. We offer an open, digital platform as a one-stop source for leading expertise in mechanical engineering, manufacturing, software and IT – from engineers, for engineers, their suppliers and customers. Co-developed by the partners, the digital platform went live worldwide around 200 experts on 1 October 2017. ADAMOS will set new digital standards for Industry 4.0, which makes it an integral part of our “Path of Digitization”. With CELOS and ADAMOS, we’re playing an active role in setting the direction of digital transformation.
How important are transparency and openness for digital transformation?
They’re crucial. That’s why we initiated this major industry cooperation, much as Lufthansa did with the Star Alliance. The digital marketplace can be used to sell the manufacturers’ apps – in our case CELOS. The open, vendor-neutral platform also enables customers to fully network within and between their factories, even with multi-vendor machine landscapes.
Can you give us an example?
Let’s say a company is machining a product on a DMG MORI milling machine. The company could also integrate a Zeiss device on the software side to inspect the quality. It’s a bit like PCs: where a PC has the “Intel inside” label, we have ADAMOS. And where computers run Windows, we can integrate our CELOS, and other manufacturers their own systems.
Christian Thönes relies on a customer-oriented digital strategy (Image: Matthias Haslauer)
Why not use platforms that already exist?
ADAMOS is an initiative by engineers, for engineers, their suppliers and customers – and not just another technology platform for the Internet of Things. We know best what our customers need, and with ADAMOS we want to make it happen. Connectivity is a vital part of the digital factory – communication across machines and processes, for example to collect data for
predictive maintenance. We’ve also heard from our customers that they don’t want a platform they have no influence over. Conversely, nor do they want to develop solutions themselves.
The innovation speed and costs are too high. We should focus on what we can do. The solution can’t be to go out and recruit a couple of hundred software developers. We’re a mechanical engineering company, not a software foundry. The division of labor is important. Software AG takes care of the software and the platform. We and the other partners in the industry know our customers best. So we take care of the content and seamless solutions for our customers.
How do you finance ADAMOS, and how many staff do you allocate to the cooperation?
Like every partner, we’ve invested around three million euros. At the moment we’re adding more and more companies to our network. Overall, the initial investment is around 60 to 70 million euros. In the various companies and in ADAMOS GmbH, there are 200 to 300 people working on the project. All these figures clearly show we’re not a startup – we’re contributing considerable expertise and established structures.
Innovations are seeded when we forge associations between new ideas and existing experience, analyze and cascade them into new products and processes.
In an inter-company collaboration like this, don’t you run the risk of losing expertise to your competitors?
I don’t see a danger. There is huge interest in ADAMOS. What’s more, all the applications are the legal property of the companies where they originate, and these companies will be working on them anyway. CELOS, for instance, is ours. The shared platform for exchanging individual technologies and codes is open to all partners, but we have come to precise arrangements on who can use what expertise, also for the future.
Why have a dedicated platform for mechanical engineering?
Customers are looking for Industry 4.0 or integrated solutions that are a good fit for their circumstances. So we have to create something that is precisely tailored to mechanical engineering, all the more so considering our industry is mainly populated by small and medium-sized companies – the German “Mittelstand” – that are unable and unwilling to invest a lot of money in their own solutions or customizations. What’s more, if it’s our own platform, we can always evolve it exactly as we wish.
Christian Thoenes goes the “Path of Digitization” with strong partners (Image: Matthias Haslauer)
Does digital transformation help you with your own processes?
Yes, for example in research and development. In the future – and we’re well on the way to making it happen – we’ll have anywhere, anytime access to our entire knowledge base. Innovations are seeded when we forge associations between new ideas and existing experience, analyze and cascade them into new products and processes – much like musicians who take existing songs and sounds to create something new.
What forward-looking projects do you have in progress in terms of digital transformation?
Software-based support of engineering processes through virtual models of machines, plants, robotic applications and material flows are essential steps to reduce cost and simultaneously increase productivity. So we’ve set ourselves the goal of developing virtual images – essentially
digital twins – of our machines and plants. We’re also aiming to develop automated production cells of the future. If we have a virtual image of a machine or system, we can take the real-life machine into operation more efficiently, accelerate machine changeover times and eliminate errors in operation. This only works if systems and production are part of a connected landscape.
Lead: Matthias Haslauer
Sidebar: DMG MORI