18. April 2018 Casestudy

Efficient, precise, longlasting: Better measuring with digital support

How the measurement technology specialist Wenzel realized an intelligent machine interface with the help of the smartConnect building kit.

The Bavarian company Wenzel belongs to the leading manufacturers of innovative measuring technology solutions. Measuring technology and scan products from Wenzel are used in the automotive, aerospace, medical and other industries. The highly exact measuring machines deliver extremely precise measuring results for a variety of applications.

The family-run company sees itself as an innovator in measuring technology, which is why it has worked on integrating Industry 4.0 technologies into its own products for years. The team wanted to optimize the capacity, efficiency, user-friendliness and serviceability of the measuring machines and to provide the customer with a mobile assistance system. in-tech got on board as a partner with the smartConnect building kit.

Intelligent support via app

Based on the modular smartConnect framework, the “Wenzel Intelligent Machine Interface” (IMI) was created. The solution runs via smartphone, tablet, and desktop PC, and offers solutions for the monitoring and analysis of measuring tasks, workpieces, and machines. This results in information that is available to the workpieces and the measuring machine throughout their entire lifetime and that makes intelligent, flexible usage possible.

Better capacity: The measuring programs run – depending on the type of usage – for several hours. Since the machine operator is not permanently present, a mobile solution was developed: The smartphone app notifies the operator about both errors during measurement as well as the results of successful measurement procedures. Thus, downtimes are reduced and the capacity of the machines is optimized: The operating personnel can intervene immediately in the case of an error or begin the next measurement procedure after a successful measurement.

Longer lifetime: The highly precise machines are subject to wearing that effects their measuring accuracy. Through a guided usage of the machines, even wearing and, in turn, a longer lifetime and increased measurement quality can be achieved: By using a heat map, the app shows the operator the measuring areas that are often used. The operating personnel can then evenly use the machine to capacity and in a targeted manner. The intervals between servicing increase, while the measuring quality remains more precise.

Remote service: Until now, operating data was not available to the machine operator. If an error arose, he or she could not comprehend whether the machine, for example, was being operated beyond the specifications. The smartConnect framework saves the operating data onto secure servers – either “on premise” in the production environment or on a cloud solution – and therefore allows for an accurate diagnosis in the case of an error. With the remote diagnosis assistant, the Wenzel service team can retrieve machine parameters online and then intervene more quickly and precisely if problems arise.

From idea to showcase using the building kit principle

For the development of the solution, the in-tech team used the modular smartConnect building kit. This makes fundamental functionalities available – for tasks like authentication, roles, or notifications, available libraries are used. In development, the team was able to concentrate on customer-specific functions and build these accordingly.

Agile development:

Thanks to the basic functionality of the smartConnect building kit, a working solution was already available at the beginning of the project with fundamental functions. This was then iteratively developed further by in-tech and in constant cooperation with Wenzel. Through this “continuous delivery”, new functions were immediately available and able to be tried out. Feedback was able to be considered immediately during development.

User-centered design: The team placed great value on high usability and on an operator concept that was tailored to the end user. Optimized user interfaces were developed for the different user roles according to the context. In addition, the customer-oriented styling of the app complements the high-quality design of the machines and thus guarantees a coherent appearance.

Durable architecture: The solution considers the specific framework conditions, such as the proprietary interfaces of the machines. Expandability was ensured to realize new functions in further releases.

IT security: The special requirements of the production environment also call for special attention to IT security, for example, the secure communication between machines, servers, and devices. The server backend can run both “on premise” in the production environment and in a secure cloud environment.

Quick way to solution

Through the efficient developmental process, the project was able to be completed in just 3 months. “We were already able to test and provide our feedback on some initial mockups and prototypes. With this approach, the in-tech team realized the application extremely fast and systematically,” says Prof. Dr. Heiko Wenzel-Schinzer, Chief Digital Officer - Business Development at Wenzel. The Wenzel Intelligent Machine Interface (IMI) was presented for the first time at EMO 2017. The showcase saw great interest from the trade fair attendees and is now being developed to go into series production.