RFID sensors and Virtual Reality

Challenge

The market for hydraulic drive systems is becoming more global and agile, making it necessary for Bosch Rexroth to shorten their delivery time and increase customer service.

Solutions

Developing and implementing Industry 4.0 solutions in their production line, including RFID sensors, conditional monitoring and remote customer services based on virtual reality.

Costs

Bosch Rexroth has invested considerable time and capital in the development and implementation of industry 4.0 solutions.

Result

Improved internal logistics has reduced the standard lead time by up to 6-7 weeks. By conditional monitoring, Bosch Rexroth can provide better services and increase the quality of their products.

Introduction

Bosch Rexroth AB produces large hydraulic drive systems under the brand name Hägglunds. The drive systems are used globally in large industry sectors, including mining, oil and gas, material handling, marine and offshore.

As of January 2009, Hägglunds Drives became an integrated part of the German company, Bosch Rexroth. Bosch Rexroth is a complete system supplier, which means that the plant in Mellansel, Sweden does not only deliver the drive system, they also provide traditional services, repair, modernisation or upgrading, and provide Hägglunds spare parts direct from the factory, for customers around the world.

A more agile market

Bosch Rexroth AB is a major player in the hydraulic drive system market. During the last decade however, they have experienced a more agile market, meaning that the market is rapidly changing due to new low cost hydraulic competitors and the development of alternative technology suppliers. An important factor for Bosch Rexroth to stay competitive was therefore, to find a way to increase their delivery time and reduce production costs at the plant in Mellansel. 

 “Besides quality and cost, delivery time is becoming an important factor to be successful in the market. That was the reason for us to introduce smart solutions: to reduce our lead times significantly”

- Juergen Lieser,
Plant Manager in Bosch Rexroth AB

Furthermore, Bosch Rexroth has experienced stronger demand from the industry to increase quality and durability in the hydraulic drive systems. The drive systems are used in large industries such as mining and offshore, which means that failure or break-down is very critical and costly.

With this in mind, Bosch Rexroth started the initiative “Industry 4.0 in Mellansel”  in 2014, and invested in a range of new digital technologies. One important factor in reducing the lead time in the plant has been to invest in sensors (RFID-technology) to steer their production. By implementing several sensors and receivers in the plant, they can track all components in the supply chain and thereby visualise the production process

What is RFID technology?

Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) systems use radio frequencies to easily transmit information between two sources. The technology can be placed on anything you need to track, from equipment to inventory. RFID tags functions like barcodes to help track certain information.

Bosch Rexroth has implemented RFID tags and readers into the entire manufacturing environment – from the commissioning, to the assembling and packing of the drive systems. For example, RFID’s have been installed to monitor equipment by tagging conveyors, trucks and forklifts, which means that they can track all pallet movements in the plant.

 “To decrease the lead time, it is very important for us to have full insight into the material status. For this we have implemented RFID gates between every process step so we know automatically when the process step is finished. This means that we can evaluate every single process in the plant”

- Juergen Lieser
Plant Manager Bosch Rexroth AB

In order to follow up and get access to all data regarding the location, status and usability on components and production processes, the company has developed the software and hardware for a dashboard (an active cockpit). In this dashboard, all data is processed and analysed, and with the dashboard, engineers, managers and other employees can evaluate every single process step in the internal logistic and supply chain.

Hägglunds Conditional Monitoring

The Bosch Rexroth plant in Mellansel, Sweden is one of Bosch Group’s pilot plants for the introduction of Industry 4.0, which is the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. RFID technology is a part of the movement towards Industry 4.0, but there are also several other new technologies being used. One important technology for Bosch Rexroth AB is ‘conditional monitoring’.

Conditional monitoring is a way to measure different key conditions in machinery (vibration, speed, temperature etc.) in order to identify possible changes which could be indicative of a development fault. Hence, conditional monitoring is a major component of predictive maintenance. 

“Historically, we are a mechanical engineering company. But as a result of market pressure we have taken the next step in Industry 4.0 to integrate sensors in our drive systems so we can read the system performance via data mining and measurement on different levels”

- Ulf Forsman
R&D Manager Bosch Rexroth AB

What is Hägglunds Condition Monitoring premium?

The ‘CM premium’ system is a complete package for the purpose of predictive maintenance, real time analytics and additional service. Conditional monitoring relies on intelligent sensors that are integrated in the drive systems. The sensor automatically collects data on machinery performance on several key parameters and can – via a complex algorithm – predict the machinery’s health. The condition of the drive system is visualised through a webpage, which both the customer and Bosch Rexroth have access to.

The reason for investing in conditional monitoring is that the industry today increasingly demands better quality performance, longer durability and more energy efficient machines. Furthermore, the drive systems are delivered to large industry sectors where performance and stability are key decisive factors. Therefore, condition monitoring is seen as an important solution to ensure Bosch Rexroth’s position as a leader in the global market for motors and drive systems.

Using virtual reality technology in customer service

Furthermore, Bosch Rexroth AB is currently implementing remote service based on virtual reality technology to assist their conditional monitoring for Hägglunds motors and drive systems.

 “As part of the Hägglunds service solutions, we are currently developing and have started to implement remote service support via virtual reality. This is a solution that enable us to give immediate support to our customers worldwide”

- Juergen Lieser
Plant manager in Bosch Rexroth AB

 

With the new remote service, technical experts in Sweden can now offer onsite troubleshooting or repair work, without any wait time or travel costs. Through the device’s camera, the expert sees exactly what the onsite engineer sees.

Results: Reduced lead time of up to 11 weeks

For Bosch Rexroth, they have seen several results from their efforts in implementing Industry 4.0. Firstly, there has been significant improvement in the company’s lead-time. Secondly, RFID-technology helps visualize on-time production status, identify potential problem areas, and help develop planning strategies for production performance optimization and effective labour/asset allocation. This means that Bosch Rexroth has managed to reduce their lead time by up to 11 weeks.

“We have been able to reduce our lead time for the CA motors tremendously. We started in 2013 with a standard lead time of 13 weeks and now we are down to 2 weeks. So we can now deliver a motor within two weeks after we get the order”

- Juergen Lieser
Plant Manager, Bosch Rexroth AB

Bosch Rexroth’s efforts within developing condition monitoring and the use of virtual reality has also improved their ability to offer high-quality service to customers worldwide. This means both additional monitoring from Bosch Rexroth’s perspective, where they get information about the machines performance, and from their customer’s perspective, where they can constantly follow-up and perform a “health-check” on their machinery.

For Bosch Rexroth, this data is crucial as they can be used to improve their products. For example, if a customer receives a drive system and Bosch Rexroth can see that the customer is not utilizing the machine’s full performance potential, they can use this information to optimize the customer’s products. In this way, the machinery is more energy effective and 100 % tailored to each customer’s specific needs.

According to Bosch Rexroth, they are lead operators of Industry 4.0 solutions and are looking for ways in the future to implement the same solutions regarding RFID technology, condition monitoring and virtual reality to their supplier in order to cover the whole value stream.

“The journey of Industry 4.0 has just started here in Mellansel. We will continue this development in the whole value stream, from our supplier, in the production and to our customers”

- Juergen Lieser
Plant Manager, Bosch Rexroth AB