Fraunhofer IPK

Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology

Making processes transparent

The most important demand that needs to be met to prevent flexible networks from ending in chaos is that everyone must be able to keep track of what is happening at all times. That is why flexible production organization starts at the management level. If processes are to become adaptable without making production uneconomical as a consequence of the resulting administrative effort, companies need a dynamic control center that keeps every member of staff directly and in a task-related manner up to date on what they need to do to help carry out an order and when to do it. The control center should, on the one hand, provide a reliable method of process monitoring at management level while placing detailed overviews of the progress that individual orders are making at its disposal. On the other hand, it should enable deriving clear and real-time information for all members of staff about those aspects of each order that are relevant to them. While they carry out their tasks, the system should automatically document process progress and generate data for the downstream processes and the staff responsible for handling them. 

Fraunhofer IPK's Industry Cockpit, developed in cooperation with Pickert & Partner, an MES manufacturer based in Karlsruhe, meets these demands. It forms the Station 1 of the presentation at Hannover Messe. The Industry Cockpit has been developed to reliably monitor and control flexible process networks. It uses models to bring together all the information and processes available within a company so that it becomes possible for them to be accurately monitored and easily tracked. Such monitoring and tracking facilitates a precise overview of the plant's overall situation – of both processes and the condition of the manufacturing equipment.

Industry Cockpit enables individual views and dashboards to be automatically generated from the available data. Shop floor employees, shift supervisors, sales representatives, and managers can directly access this information from their workplaces. Working with the data turns each member of staff into a »process controller« for his or her specific areas of responsibility. And as staff complete their tasks, the cockpit automatically adapts the information for all other parts of the process that may be affected by their activities. As a consequence, on the one hand cooperation between different disciplines is encouraged – all members of staff remain within their disciplines and do what they do best while, at the same time, they can always see what effects their decisions are having. This is a solid base for process responsibility to be lived. On the other hand, executive levels always have an exact overview of the company's overall status and its individual orders at their disposal.