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Bosch plans Industry 4.0 ‘evolution’ at Glenrothes

19 April, 2018

The decision by Bosch Rexroth to introduce Industry 4.0 into its Glenrothes facility in Fife, Scotland, is evolution, rather than revolution.

Industry 4.0 might be the hot manufacturing and engineering topic, but any decision to begin the journey must surmount one critical issue, namely that any manufacturing facility needs to keep producing during implementation.

The Bosch Group has been at the forefront of increasing industrial connectivity with multiple sites across the globe already using Industry 4.0 techniques to varying degrees. Continuous improvement is at the core of the company’s philosophy and the key motivator driving the planned changes.

“There is no pressure from customers or indeed for us to introduce Industry 4.0, but there is pressure for continuous improvement,” says Alastair Johnstone, Managing Director of Bosch Rexroth UK. “We need to give customers what they want, when they want it. All we are striving for is what we have always strived for, to improve our effectiveness and our efficiency. We are always thinking about how we can get better – this is just an extension of our current approach – it doesn’t just mean new tools and techniques, but also challenging the way we think and plan for the future.”

However, even with the full resources of Bosch at their disposal, the management team at Rexroth’s Glenrothes facility, is taking a cautious approach with the gradual implementation of Industry 4.0 with specific projects rather than an initial Big Bang approach. The facility is a key part of the hydraulic supply chain for many of the major names in construction and earthmoving equipment.

The Glenrothes factory designs, and manufacturers radial piston motors, mainly for the mobile hydraulics market, such as skid steer loaders, excavators, concrete mixers, road-rollers, forklift trucks, and aerial work platforms. A significant percentage of the Glenrothes manufactured products are exported and it is essential that we ensure that we are competitive on a global and not just national level.

In Glenrothes we have chosen to take a gradual approach towards initial Industry 4.0 implementation, starting with Nexo tightening tools, using ActiveCockpits, a limited amount of machine condition monitoring, for example, in critical areas of the machine cell and in assembly. This was both in respect of improving existing processes, simplifying the operation for the operators and providing real-time information to drive further improvements. In parallel, everyone involved gains knowledge and becomes increasingly comfortable with not just the tools but the thinking and potentials behind yet further improvements.

Additionally the data generated from the previous shift or day will be ready and available for the next shift’s team meeting, sorted and presentable – with the added benefit of not just simplifying the handover process via improved communication using the ActiveCockpit screens, but providing a real focus for issue resolution and optimising productivity.

However, whilst there is no pressure from customers for more information at present, there is internal pressure to use information in a substantially better way. The factory produces a huge amount of data each day, but the key issue is sorting it and using it as effectively as possible in daily management meetings on the line with team members (operators, maintenance, quality, logistics and engineering).

The quick and easy availability of information is key to what the management team want to achieve. “We want a smart system, such as the ActiveCockpit, that allows team members access to that information without a team of people sitting in a corner crunching numbers,” says Stewart Miller, Operations Director for the Glenrothes facility. “Currently, we collect all of our OEE data manually, but a smart system will enable us to extract and collate data much more quickly.”

It is anticipated that two of the key benefits of the project will be improved empowerment and communication for and between team members. There is already a high level of transparency in terms of communication with team members, including a complete business overview once a month covering all aspects of the business, but which now also includes Industry 4.0 developments (to broaden everyone’s collective understanding).

The experience and knowledge gained from implementing these small but significant changes will be put to further use as Glenrothes is moving forward with the installation of a new assembly line this year, complete with multiple Industry 4.0 features. “What we are proposing is our first fully Industry 4.0 compatible line, providing as it does the opportunity to do something more holistic” says Mr Miller

The line will offer more capacity and help to synchronise flow processes, with the ultimate aim of reducing in-process inventory, enhanced throughput and providing an improved service to our customers.

Crucially, the intention is to equip the line with a range of new technologies that can capture key production data. The line will be equipped with state-of-the-art BS350 spindles and ergo spin tightening technology, that records live data for both torque and angle. In addition, Rexroth Spindle Presses will be used for the first time in the UK, capable of providing feedback on distance, force and time.

The line will be powered by a Rexroth TS2+ transfer conveyor system, which can monitor motor current as part of a condition monitoring regime, with auto start and stop motors to save energy, triggered by using proxy sensors on the line. All data will be transferred to an ActiveCockpit screen situated on the line with live Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and individual station data. Perhaps most importantly, the line will be equipped with a series of quality gates, with parts checked at every station to ensure that there is ‘no fault forward’.

Going forward the hope is that improved levels of communication will develop a shared language and new skills amongst team members, creating a stronger team at the Glenrothes facility. “It’s not just about the investment in equipment, we need to bring the people together as well,” says Mr Miller.

Overall, the time is right to take the Glenrothes facility to the next level. “This fits with our continuous improvement philosophy. We are fortunate that our company offers innovative and competitively priced Industry 4.0 solutions that open up the possibility of greater connectivity with all its subsequent benefits.

“Clearly Industry 4.0 can be as wide or as deep as you want it to be. The key point is you can’t do it all in one go. This is a journey that we are just at the start of, but one we need to embrace and quickly, as the momentum generated by Industry 4.0 will only accelerate” says Mr Johnstone.

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