Bauer's gearing up for Industry 4.0
As one of the world’s leading manufacturers of reliable, efficient and solution orientated gear motor technology, Bauer Gear Motor is able to supply engineered solutions to end-users in almost any industry around the world. To ensure that every order is satisfied with the shortest possible lead time, Bauer has invested in a new production concept.
Karl-Peter Simon, Managing Director of Bauer Gear Motor, explains how a ‘Connected Factory’ can reduce lead times for both standard and engineered gear motor solutions.
In today’s changing world, where global communication is instant and competition is tougher than ever, it’s important that manufacturers listen to their end-users to learn how best to service their needs. While many customers are still looking for products which are quick and simple to specify, many more are expecting a greater level of service during the design phase – looking for engineered gear motor solutions which will eke out every last bit of performance available for their application.
Bauer has traditionally worked on a modular design basis, which allowed customers to specify individual components that would integrate seamlessly with one another. As a result, standardised gear motors have always been available with a degree of flexibility and extremely quick lead times. However, specialised, custom solutions would require greater logistical efforts which led to extended waiting times.
These customised variants are becoming increasingly popular as more companies than ever are setting themselves efficiency targets which must be met. For example, most standard IE3 motors are efficient at their rated performance and speed, but they may not be suited for partial-load operations. End users who actually want to reap the benefits of improved efficiency – rather than simply meeting the legislation requirements placed in front of them – are approaching manufacturers such as Bauer and requesting optimised solutions including permanent-magnetic motors and asynchronous motors with inverter drives; these variants must be made available quickly and reliably.
The key to developing a process that improves flexibility towards a wider variety of specialised demands is communication. Communication with our customers; communication with ourselves; and communication between our production lines. In Bauer’s case the decision was made to undergo a process of investment in the production facilities in Zlaté Moravce, Slovakia and in Esslingen, Germany, to create a ‘Connected Factory’ which would facilitate lean manufacturing through One-Piece-Flow assembly.
By completely stripping back the production process – from specification to delivery – and analysing each step, it’s possible to see where there is inefficiency and develop new processes. Once the inefficiencies have been eliminated you build the production process back up, this time ensuring that each production step is connected so that there is minimal downtime between processes.
With the new production concept we are able to reduce lead times for nearly all of our orders by 50% - configurable motors can now be delivered just 5 days after the original order was processed. This doesn’t just benefit the end-user in the short term; it allows them to run their warehouse in accordance with just-in-time principles which in turn reduces stock requirements.
Of course lean manufacturing is nothing new. However, what is new is the ability to utilise the principles for high value, engineered components – like industrial gear motors – and deliver the benefits on a global scale. In order to achieve this, logistics and deliveries need to be involved in the communication process.
Bauer operates regional assembly factories which communicate with the production facility. For example, the assembly plant at Esslingen communicates with Slovakia as though it were simply next door. Components are sent from Slovakia with the travel time factored in so that they arrive on the day that they are needed. This allows us to keep production centralised while assembly and order satisfaction is localised to our customer without internal logistics extending the ultimate lead time.
This level of integration between facilities is only possible now that we have the technology that enables machines to communicate reliably and continuously over long distances. It’s the next step in the industrial process which allows us as manufacturers to improve our service and further benefit our customers.
For Bauer to adopt an entirely new production process took a few years of planning, as well as investment in our European production and assembly facilities. However, since it’s been up and running we’ve reduced lead time on all orders as well as reducing material waste and our energy costs. This means that we’ve seen direct benefits for us and our customers since the first month of operation.
As part of Altra Industrial Motion, Bauer Gear Motor has a global footprint with customers in almost every country in the world. The new production concept will be rolled out into our regional factories in the USA, China and Brazil and our global sales team will be available to offer specification support for bespoke solutions which can be delivered worldwide.