Industry 4.0 is of cutting-edge interest, and it’s also applied to our companies. How is the Sogaenergyteam approaching this trend? What investments are already underway and what will the new frontiers for our manufacturing be? The opportunities are many, as well as challenges. The future is pressing and also involving our Group, at the pace of innovation.
NICOLA SOGA, Head of Industrialization, describes how Sogaenergyteam is approaching the trend of Industry 4.0.
What does “Industry 4.0.” mean for our companies?
«It’s a great opportunity that our country has been spreading in these years – through concessions for Italian companies – following policies already opened in the United States, Germany and France.
Industry 4.0 is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, based on integration of advanced digital technologies in production processes. The main purpose is to create „smart factories“ where machines, products and people are connected and communicate with each other to optimize production, increase quality and reduce costs.
Industry 4.0 allows companies to track and control production processes in real time, while making production more flexible and personalized, improving product quality, reducing the leadtimes and increasing the saftey for employees.
Industry 4.0 is changing the way for companies to operate, and it’s creating new opportunities for enterprises of all sizes and sectors. To exploits the benefits completely, companies need to take an integrated approach and invest in training and digital skills for their employees.
SOGA believed in this opportunity straightaway, we promptly started with this project: for a long time, our plan for Sogaenergyteam development had been pushing the introduction of new production machineries capable of making our manufacturing evolve, in aim to keep staying at the forefront of new technologies.
Thanks to this opportunity, all the new production equipments purchased in recent years are latest generation ones and able to meet the requirements of 4.0 through the installation of an integrated specific module».
What has been done so far and what is the state of the art for our plants about machineries, production areas and single production sites?
«Currently, our plants most involved in industry 4.0 are SOGA2, CMA, SOGA1/Carpentry and SINCRO1. The reason is clear: the processes we carry out in these production plants are placed upstream of our supply chain, these are semi-finished products such as flanges and shields, rotor shafts, stators and carpentry components.
In SOGA2, in addition to the machineries already installed in the past, this year will see the introduction of 2 new CNC lathes for our shields/flanges department, a further high-performance grinding machine and a new semi-automatic rolling machine for the shafts department, both realized by manufacturers who are premium brands in their industries.
In CMA a few months ago we have been starting the installation of the new facility for the complete production of largest stators, while a couple of months ago we completed the start-up of the new automatic warehouse for the stockage of cables. In CMA basement, we are working to the construction of the new 2,400-square-metre warehouse for the storage of primary components for the production of stators: this warehouse will be managed by a forklift with a „laser-guided“ AGV system (Automated Guided Vehicle) together with a „smart” lift truck which will recognize the different types of load units and will also carry out some dimensional and quantitative checks. These 2 working units will be interconnected with each other, exchanging data in real time completely in autonomy.
In SOGA1/Carpentry a couple of years ago there was the arrival of the new welding robot, and this year we have been introducing the new 30-ton roll-mill with semi-automatic loading and unloading functions.
In SINCRO1 we’ve introduced 2 new automatic screwdrivers able to save and send data during the assembly of the alternators.
For SINCRO d.o.o., although Croatia does not currently have a national plan for industry 4.0, we have nevertheless added new machines, a new press machine and a CNC lathe for the housings of alternators. Croatia country is strongly focusing on policies involved with „green economy“: opportunities that we would certainly like to take in the immediate future».
What timeframe do you foresee for Industry 4.0 in our Group?
«We plan to switch to “Industry 4.0” for all our production sites. Over the next few years we’ll go in cascade involving all our production areas, up to the assembly lines. It’s a progressive switch that takes some time to be carried out adequately. We started three years ago, as soon as we discovered the new „4.0“ technologies, and we think it can be a process of about ten years to be able to integrate and adapt all Sogaenergyteam Group with new machines or with the revamping of existing ones (almost all existing machines and assembly facilities can be equipped with sensors to meet the 4.0 requirements).
The full advantages of this project will be seen on a medium-long term: in an increasingly fast and reactive market, the only way to stay competitive is to have a fully-structured integration in the production chain, both internal and external.
The Company is the main player in this switching, but suppliers too will not be exempt from the change: they’ll increasingly have to be part of the new system. Today we’re able, through digitalization, to have access to the warehouses of some of our suppliers/contractors by checking the stock of our components in real time. Thanks also to this interconnection, lead and production times can be reduced. The potential is impressive: all of this can only bring advantages».
Industry 4.0. and MES for company’s machinery: how are our internal production processes evolving?
«Besides the purchase and adaptation of new „4.0“ equipments, our company is also implementing a software that helps the integration between our management system and the data that we collect from production machineries and facilities equipped with the new technologies.
This is where MES (Manufacturing Execution System) comes into play: it’s a software used in industrial production to track, control and optimize the production processes in real time.
MES is designed to interact with the different systems; through the PLCs it collects data at every stage of production, from planning to final shipping. These data are analyzed and used to improve productivity, quality and traceability of products, as well as the efficiency in production processes.
SOGA management board believed in MES project from the start. This is a further step we have invested in, and that will allow us to obtain the „true Industry 4.0„, I mean not simply the introduction of cutting-edge machinery, but the real integration of data: objective, shareable, manageable in real time. Thanks to qualified personnel and the continuous training of our teams and people involved, the project is keeping on with test implementations in SOGA2 plant, to later go on to be extended to the entire Sogaenergyteam Group“.
What factors pushed the Soga Energy Team towards 4.0 and its challenges? How much will this paradigm impact on our manufacturing of electric motors and alternators?
«When we talk about improvement, there’s a mindset philosophy acclaimed in Lean Production: “Either you take improvement actions, or you float inevitably down. There’s no halfway.“
The challenges for this project are certainly a lot, but the benefits are even more: in addition to the ones I’ve already described, through Industry 4.0 and MES it will be possible to expand our production capacity and be open to take new orders, increase customization and flexibility in production for our customers, all of this in even shorter times, determining a further growth for our Group (in terms of machinery and employees). I believe these benefits are more than enough to introduce this new improvement plan. The „4.0“ is mandatory to follow, for facing a global market that requires increasingly faster times of reaction and a continuous check on costs.
As Soga Energy Team, we approached this pathway as soon as we learned about it, confirming our nature as pioneers always at the forefront of innovation. And, as a confirmation of our Group’s statement „We Make Innovation„, we have no other attitude than to be what we are: innovators».