Thomas Holm has been involved with the optimization of production processes in “Market Management Industry & Process” at WAGO since 2015, and is a leading participant in developing the DIMA concept (Decentralized Intelligence for Modular Applications). In the interview, Holm spoke about the opportunities that Industry 4.0 provides to mid-sized companies and offers insights into the corporate practices at WAGO.
Many experts feel that mid-sized German companies are lagging far behind when it comes to implementing Industry 4.0. Why is that, in your opinion?
“Implementing Industry 4.0 means a comprehensive change in the accustomed business model for the corporation, in addition to the incorporation of the technologies used. This results in changes that affect all levels of operations, which can lead to both immense opportunities as well as the risk of high economic losses. It is precisely at the level of the mid-sized companies where business risk and liability form a unit in the minds of the typical management team: if risk has even the appearance of prevailing, then some corporations simply will not take that first step.”
In which sectors or application areas do you see the greatest use of IoT applications?
“IoT applications produce added value from the connection of uniquely identifiable objects with their associated virtual representation on an internet-type platform. By combining and comparing the virtual images, including current operating data for the associated objects, information can be derived and the design processes accelerated. The basic prerequisite is the connection of the object to the internet, which presupposes the use of IT security measures. The greatest use is thus initially seen in those application areas in which only information which is conditionally worthy of protection is exchanged. Contents such as energy consumption, operating data, or wear information are included here.”
Where do you see the greatest opportunities for WAGO with respect to implementing IoT applications?
“A large opportunity is to be found in the optimization of the production processes. Individual machines are often developed by experts, or can be adapted to a production process during commissioning on site, and adjusted to their environment and optimized. This optimization often does not occur during later operation; the machine drifts away from its operating optimum and functions inefficiently, even leading to increased wear under certain circumstances. By transmitting the specific operating parameter to the expert personnel, the machine could be regularly guided back to optimal operation; the production processes would then operate in a less resource-intensive way, and idle times would be reduced.”
What are the greatest digital challenges for WAGO?
“As a German company and supplier of automation solutions, we have two tasks: on the one hand, we must prepare for changes as a company, e.g. use the added value from digitizing the value creation; on the other, we must develop solutions for implementing this digitalization in automation. We are thus looking at the same challenges as our customers. Together with them, we can develop the solutions.”
WAGO offers solutions for implementing Industry 4.0 concepts – how are these concepts already realized in your own products?
“We regularly test the newest developments and allow the knowledge to flow into our own production. This allows us to maintain our production at a state of the art level. Thus, for example, the degree of networking of our production machines is already quite high, which reduces the use of resources and thus maintains the production facility in Germany as an attractive location.”
Mr. Holm, thank you for the conversation.