This is how smart companies of the future will be (Part 2)

The early bird catches the worm, as the saying goes - Those who focused on the development of smart production processes in their own company back in the early days of Industrie 4.0 are mostly already benefiting from competitive advantages. After all, establishing a smart factory is a constant work-in-progress that requires a lot of time, expertise and know-how. A look behind the scenes at the leading manufacturer of locking systems and lock technology in Switzerland shows that this can work very well. In the second part of our blog series, Aristidis Kotarelas, Chief Operating Officer at ASSA ABLOY (Schweiz) AG, reports on how intelligent and self-coordinating production at the company's three locations pays off for customers and where the development is heading.

Question: How does an automated production process benefit customers?

Aristidis Kotarelas First of all, these modernisation measures are extremely important steps for us as a company in securing our location in the globalised industrial world. "Swiss made" is still a strong quality criterion, so our customers benefit simply from the fact that we produce in Switzerland - close to our customers - with this high quality standard, and that we are positioning and developing ourselves as a company for the future. The second point is that automated production is very efficient. With the appropriate technology, you achieve a consistent high quality that is reproducible and, in most cases, also shorter throughput times. At KESO in Richterswil, our automated production processes are well-advanced and already very well established. Another key customer benefit is the ability to respond quickly and flexibly to correspondingly high workload peaks by increasing capacity, for example by adding a second shift. In the past, this was impossible to implement at such short notice, given the number of manual steps and the personnel required. This is very well received because it also makes it possible for our customers to act with greater agility and at shorter notice.

Question: Shorter delivery lead times, higher process flexibility. Doesn't this speed also influence the tasks of the teams?

Aristidis Kotarelas Of course, a smart factory brings about changes in work processes. This is most evident in the new expertise and job specialisations that are becoming necessary as a result of digitisation and are needed to cope with the new tasks that arise as a result. To this end, we have trained and developed experts within our own ranks and expanded the teams at neuralgic positions with external data and/or IT specialists in the respective field. This approach has worked well and we will continue using it.

Question: So do you now literally just flip the switch in production to "smart" when you want to implement new ideas, or how should we imagine this?

Aristidis Kotarelas We don't do surgery on the open heart, if that's what you mean. To try out new ideas and settings, we always first use a back-up or test system. A software update or a new production step only goes live when it has been tested, when it meets our own safety and quality requirements and can be seamlessly integrated into the existing production chain. This is the only way we can meet the demands of our customers - also in the long term. They are very interested in ASSA ABLOY automation systems and rightly expect the highest precision and long-lasting quality "Made in Switzerland".