Digitalization and Industry 4.0
Today, digitalization is one of the technology trends with the strongest growth worldwide. By 2020, experts anticipate that there will be 20 to 30 billion networked devices – from manufacturing sensors to household devices.
the strategic business area “Industry 4.0” begins its work.
As a company that invests heavily in new, data-based technologies, the Schaeffler Group is assuming responsibility through its development of digitalized products for effortlessly and securely handling large volumes of data in the context of highly complex processes. Schaeffler contributes to the expansion of “resilient infrastructure and sustainable industrialization” (SDG 9) with its activities in the areas of digitalization and “Industry 4.0.”
The Schaeffler Group summarized its contribution to the success of Industry 4.0 in its “Digital Agenda.” This consists of the following four points:
- Mechanical and mechatronic products will be provided with sensors, electronics, and actuators (elements that transform electrical signals into mechanical motion).
- Production plants will be networked across the entire value chain in order to digitally represent product life cycles holistically.
- In development work, simulations will use real rather than modeled operating data – this shortens development cycles and increases competitiveness.
- Data will be prepared and made available in ways that are user-friendly and focused on added value for the user.
In order to successfully implement the strategy “Mobility for tomorrow,” the company decided in 2017 to combine its activities and competences in mechatronics and Industry 4.0 into an independent “Industry 4.0” organizational unit in the industrial division. This new organizational unit was established beginning January 1, 2018.
Smart Solutions: Drive Train 4.0 and Schaeffler Smart EcoSystem
Schaeffler’s thorough and flexible digital infrastructure enables a quick and easy entry into the world of Industry 4.0. Out of what began as the research project Machine Tool 4.0, the company developed, over two years, a comprehensive infrastructure surrounding its rolling bearings – the Schaeffler Smart EcoSystem. It offers manufacturers and operators of machines and equipment a software and hardware infrastructure that encompasses all stages of digital value creation, from components fitted with sensors to digital services in the cloud. The system’s flexible architecture makes it possible for each customer to chart their own path of digitalization.
Condition Monitoring and Management During Operation
The starting points for system integration are digital solutions, for example, for monitoring rail vehicles, machines, and their processes. For this purpose, a condition monitoring system analyzes temperature, vibration, speed, and other condition data of components and sends a warning if a critical threshold is breached. The analysis, prognosis, and optimization of the measurement data takes place by means of special algorithms and methods. One application example is the Vario Sense Bearing – a combination of a standard rolling bearing and up to four different sensors in one compact unit. The new system should be available in a first phase for the very common deep groove ball bearing by the beginning of 2018. In order to further expand its mechatronic portfolio, the Schaeffler Group works to establish partnerships with companies in possession of relevant technologies and to carry out acquisitions. An example of this is the 100% acquisition of autinity systems GmbH, a specialist for digital condition monitoring and data collection, which took place in October 2017. With this purchase, Schaeffler accelerated its digital transformation.
Partnerships and Cooperations
Partnerships with science and industry are also important to the Schaeffler Group, since the challenges posed by the Internet of Things can only be met by working together. For this purpose, the company entered into a long-term strategic partnership with the Fraunhofer Society in 2017. The focus of this cooperation is on issues relating to the production and workplace of the future and on emissions-free and intelligent mobility in an urban context. The common goal of the partners is to bring technologies in these areas into practical application even more quickly. This 2017 partnership represents an upgrade and reinforcement of an already existing cooperation with various Fraunhofer Institutes within the Schaeffler Research and Innovation Network.
Moreover, with the start-up campus Factory Berlin, the company concluded a partnership for the construction of an “Innovation Hub.” The Factory brings together start-ups, large corporations, and midsize companies; it supports community members in further education and cooperations; and it offers them office and event space. The Innovation Hub in the Factory Berlin is intended to generate an optimal setting for digitalization and innovation initiatives. The company hopes to achieve more intensive exchange with start-ups and companies working in digitalization. The Focus is on new digital services for customers.
On October 26, 2017, the digital start-up center for Middle Franconia was inaugurated in Nuremberg under the name “ZOLLHOF – Tech Incubator.” The goal of the start-up center is to foster economic digitalization. Schaeffler is one of the founding partners of the “ZOLLHOF – Tech Incubator.” The partners profit from active and open exchange in various event formats, such as corporate pitches, hackathons, or techspace hackdays. Start-ups get office space, coaching, and access to investors and companies, while Schaeffler is able to make use of competences, facilities, and resources and, moreover, to present itself as an attractive employer. For Schaeffler, this cooperation is a further building block in its worldwide network of innovative external partners.