IoT projects show through their versatility again and again how important interdisciplinary cooperation and partnership formation between companies is nowadays. In order to guarantee success, organisations must pay special attention to the interaction of hardware, software and research. The European 4.0 Transformation Center (E4TC) on the campus of Aachen University, Germany, brings these areas together. Thus, the centre promotes interdisciplinary exchange with its member community. I find it interesting to talk to various members of the E4TC and discuss digital transformation, network effects and necessary measures. I conducted the following interview with Christoph Ridder, who works for Miele in manufacturing, assembly and washing machines. Miele has been involved in the E4TC for about half a year.
Christoph Ridder, we observe that IoT projects are very versatile. And we see time and again that interdisciplinary cooperation and partnership building between companies is essential. Do you see it that way? Absolutely. The interaction of hardware, software and research has to be coordinated. If you try to do this on your own, you run the risk of failing. Creating networks here is a completely new trend.
How do you explain that? In my opinion, there are two main reasons: the issues of services and digitisation – both are directly linked. Miele is becoming increasingly aware of this trend.
You mean that manufacturers are expanding their products? Exactly. Products are being expanded to include service options – predominantly in digital form. And, as you can imagine, we're not the only ones doing that. The market is flourishing in this respect, and so is the trend towards corporate collaboration.
And what about the machine learning and artificial intelligence trends? Are these also fueling this collaboration? But of course. Digitalisation implies exactly these two aspects: machine learning and artificial intelligence. That's what we mean when we talk about digitisation. Imagine the area of maintenance. So that's where AI is used to predict machine failures or outages. You can't do that without a partner.
I see, because several companies are involved in a single service. That's how it is. Real services must be networked, but not just since digitisation.
Let's be specific: To what extent does AI already play a role in improving Miele’s production? Let's stay with IoT for now! We already have enough to do to introduce this extensively. For example, to network production plants or machines and make the products and components so intelligent that they find their way through production themselves, influence machine parameters so that there is feedback. The topic of traceability in the production process, but also afterwards, is very important to me. Nothing you can do alone. Here we are also dependent to cooperate with other companies.
In what way? For example, to those who contribute the software that makes this networking possible. Especially the provision of software and the topic of IT architectures are absolutely important in order to keep the interfaces lean or to reduce them as much as possible.The interaction of hardware, software and research has to be coordinated. If you try to do this on your own, you run the risk of failing. Creating networks here is a completely new trend. Click To Tweet
Now we have talked so much about concrete things. In your opinion, what are the most important trends? I already mentioned the entire field of services. Besides, for the production cycle, of course, robotics is a very exciting topic, and we are certainly also interested in IT structures, i.e., the consistency of structures and data that enables a database to be created from product creation through to the entire production process.
And which are the most important ones for you as Miele? That's hard to say ad hoc. I think many of these topics have huge potential. We're currently trying to find out which of them will help us as at Miele in particular. But I would say that we are still at the beginning.
Thank you very much for the interview.
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The European 4.0 Transformation Center (E4TC), which is located on the campus of the RWTH Aachen University, takes up these challenges and accompanies industrial enterprises on their way to digital transformation. In addition, it unites expertise from research, industry and software in a member community that is formed around the topics IoT and manufacturing and carries out center projects based on real business cases, for example within the framework of the lighthouse project e.Go, an electric car for urban traffic, which until recently was even produced on site. What is particularly exciting about the E4TC is that there is a realistic environment. This also includes a demo factory and the electromobility laboratory (eLab), which brings together different members and their expertise and promotes exchange among them. Since October 2018, SAS has also been a member of this community and, among other things, has set itself the task of offering workshops that address concrete challenges of digital transformation and derive possible courses of action based on individual customer use cases.