Smart solutions for the factory of the future

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is opening up a new era of smart manufacturing. Accordingly, GF Machining Solutions has been speeding up its digital transformation and broadening its digital portfolio. A prime example is the software solution rConnect, which helps Italian mold and tool maker Aldeghi ensure maximum machine uptime.

Cesare Aldeghi, Managing Director of Aldeghi, an Italian mold and tool maker, explains how rConnect is saving his employees time

“With rConnect we can monitor our production from a mobile device”

Mr. Aldeghi, today, you are using rConnect in your production. With regard to maintenance, how were issues previously managed?
Before rConnect was activated, requests for assistance were managed by contacting the GF support service. One of our employees had to explain the situation and carry out the checks according to the instructions of the GF Machining Solutions engineer. If the solution couldn’t be found quickly, we had to arrange for a site visit. This costs time and money.

What changed with the introduction of Live Remote Assistance?
Now, we can create a request for assistance directly from the LRA interface or the Customer Cockpit. This allows the GF Machining Solutions engineer to connect directly to the machine and carry out the checks without our assistance. In the meantime, we can continue with our work.

Has LRA led to improvements in uptime?
Definitely. In the first place, it reduces the time spent waiting for assistance and for faults to be identified. And more specifically, it reduces the hours our employees would otherwise spend on the phone and performing checks.

How about Messenger? How has that changed processes at Aldeghi?
This is one of my favorite aspects of rConnect. When our machines are operating on an unmanned basis – for example during the night or on weekends – we can use the Messenger to monitor the progress from a mobile device. We instantly see how work is proceeding, and that gives us greater peace of mind. We’ve been waiting for this option for some time and are very happy to be able to use it at last.

Commonly described as Industry 4.0, a revolution is in progress that will change shop floors all over the world: smart machines will be connected with one another and soon make smart factories a reality. GF Machining Solutions is part of this radical change. “We have a clear vision of industrial processes in the future and a strategy to realize the potential for our customers,” says Andreas Rauch, Head of Digital Transformation at GF Machining Solutions.

However, the factory of the future won’t be built overnight. On the contrary, it will require many small steps. A starting point is automation and the ability to flexibly coordinate machining processes with one another. “This is something we already do very well,” Andreas Rauch says. Another important aspect is connectivity: enabling machines to communicate with one another, to deliver data wirelessly and to be accessed from remote service centers. With the digital service platform rConnect, GF Machining Solutions already provides such an offering. rConnect was developed in collaboration with German software specialist Symmedia, a company that GF Machining Solutions acquired in September 2017.

Digital services for higher productivity

rConnect is a platform for digital services available for all technologies supplied by GF Machining Solutions, from milling, EDM, and laser to automation and additive manufacturing. Following a modular approach, rConnect comprises different services which empower manufacturers to increase their productivity. First, there is the Customer Cockpit, the user interface and the door to GF Machining Solutions’ world of digital services. It connects customers with their production facilities via PC or mobile device from anywhere at any time. Live Remote Assistance (LRA) provides direct access to GF experts allowing face-to-face assistance using audio, video, chat, and much more functionalities. In order to resolve a problem with a machine, the GF experts can now use LRA to perform checks remotely. This way, machine downtime can be reduced significantly, as less time is needed to diagnose problems and service engineers do not need to travel to customers for each incident.

In addition, customers can use the Messenger module to get instant access to all machine park data on their smartphones, such as information on machine status or programs. It is even possible to receive an alarm message from a machine or to send a service request via App. An important precondition for sharing this sensitive data is trust. Therefore, rConnect offers secure certified connections based on the latest technology. In 2017, GF Machining Solutions already connected 20 percent of new machines delivered to customers with the rConnect platform. In 2018, this figure will be more than 1’000 machines, rising to an estimated 5’000 machines over the next four years.

Enrico Borghi (left) from GF Machining Solutions and Cesare Aldeghi, Managing Director of Aldeghi, work closely together when it comes to the production of molds and tools

Thanks to the software solution rConnect customers can get instant access to all machine park data on their smartphones

rConnect enables faster diagnosis and interventions when machine issues arise. This leads to significantly less machine downtime and consequently higher productivity

Clear customer benefit

Precision mechanical workshop Aldeghi is already working with rConnect. The Northern Italian company manufactures molds, tools, and prototype mechanical products for companies in the automotive, electronic, and household appliance markets. The fact that Aldeghi turned to GF Machining Solutions for assistance with its first steps into digitalization is the natural continuation of a collaboration which started some 30 years ago. Today, nine machines from GF Machining Solutions are running at the Italian production facility. Six of these are equipped with a System 3R robot system, while rConnect LRA and Messenger are operating on three EDM machines from GF.

Aldeghi

Precision mechanical workshop Aldeghi was founded in 1983 in the Italian province of Bergamo and . In 2002 it became part of the M.S.Ambrogio Group in 2002. Over the years Aldeghi has stayed true to its origins as a family company, and today Cesare Aldeghi, son of founder Pietro Aldeghi, is the Managing Director. Serving customers in the automotive, electronic, and household appliance markets, the mold and tool maker relies on technologies from GF Machining Solutions such as EDM, milling and automation.

The benefits for the customer are clear. Thanks to rConnect, Aldeghi now have greater peace of mind when running their machinery unmanned in the evenings and on weekends, because the status of the machines can be checked remotely. “We wanted to ensure that Aldeghi was getting a solution that worked for them right from the start. So before the implementation, we performed extensive tests until Aldeghi’s employees were comfortable with the rConnect features”, says Enrico Borghi from GF Machining Solutions Customer Services Italy.

Looking into the future

The world of digitalization is evolving rapidly and so is GF Machining Solutions’ digital portfolio. Therefore rConnect will soon be extended by modules for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance. With condition monitoring, operators will receive proactive updates on the current status of their machines, for example, when wear parts are nearing their end of life, or when consumables have almost run out. Predictive maintenance goes a step further. The data generated by the machine is analyzed with algorithms. This way, it becomes possible to predict when maintenance needs to be carried out – even before an alarm is triggered.

Operators of machine fleets equipped with rConnect benefit on many levels: faster diagnosis and interventions when machine issues arise which leads to significantly less machine downtime and to higher continuous productivity. The soon-to-be-introduced modules for condition monitoring and predictive maintenance will help boost the effectiveness and service life of the entire machine fleet. But most of all, by integrating rConnect into their productions, as Aldeghi has done, machine operators are taking an important step towards smart factories.