The video camera pans briefly over the green, sunlit hills of Stuttgart. Cut.
A dark-haired, slightly mottled gray, middle-aged gentleman with a three-day beard looks kindly into the camera and announces something revolutionary:
“We’re talking about digitization, which means we’re talking about the fact that things in our environment have to change all the time. Digitization doesn’t lag behind here, nor does it make the contribution we see, and we wanted to change that.”
Alexander von Klein is one of the five founders and managing directors of ASCon Systems GmbH.
He and his colleagues were annoyed to see again and again how tedious it is, how long it takes and how cumbersome it is when industrial companies want to optimize processes in their manufacturing. That’s why, in 2017, the quintet developed software designed to simplify and speed up industrial processes in a way that is unique to date. For small and medium-sized companies, for suppliers, for logistics companies with outdated software or even paperwork, as well as for globally active large companies.
Four of the five managing directors first spent years consulting companies and later founded their own software company together, says Mathias Stach, the fifth founder in the quintet. He himself has an international career as a top manager at VW behind him.
“The unique selling point is that we can virtualize basically any process you can imagine, from traffic light control to production. That means we can digitize relatively quickly without having to program individually, but at a configurational level and at a high speed,” says Alexander von Klein.
This means that customers can enter their own data sets, which are usually extensive and diverse, from various sources for their production into the ASCon Systems software. No matter whether cars, machines, airplanes, refrigerators or food are produced: Processes are made visible on the screen, e.g. when machine builders want to rebuild a production line in assembly. Planning, control, checks – ASCon offers a so-called “digital twin” for this, a functional and optical bridge between the physical production and its digital image. Complex production processes can be visualized precisely in a single model “and the incoming signals are processed so quickly that production control is possible with it.” And in real time, says Mathias Stach.
They have filed patents for it worldwide. Even major competitors could not offer anything comparable so far.
“Digital twin” award-winning
At the beginning of January, the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Economics rewarded the Stuttgart-based company with a 500,000-euro cash injection from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Highly welcome, because on the one hand the five founders finance themselves with private savings and loans, but do without external risk investors. On the other hand, they are growing with their now 80 employees and offices in Mainz, Stade and Munich. Turnover 2019: 6.8 million euros, 2020 rising, despite Corona.
The Stuttgart-based company has also won one innovation award after another: “Baden-Württemberg Innovation Award”, “Gartner Cool Vendors Industry 4.0″…
Why? An example: If a car company wants to change its final assembly, this takes four to five months, Mathias Stach explained to Manager Magazin, which chose ASCon- Systems as one of the “Entrepreneurs of the Year 2020”.
And: Instead of commissioning external specialists with this work, which takes months and is expensive and time-consuming, the process can be completed in hours or even minutes with the ASCon Systems software.
In other words, it could be done by the users themselves, by experienced, in-house employees who needed about 14 days of training to do it.
Mercedes Benz has already partially implemented this.
This saves (external) workplaces, time and thus costs.
Incidentally, Mathias Stach knows from practical experience that even qualified employees still struggle with too many unwelcome routines.
The machines used for manufacturing are constantly becoming more complex and increasingly automated. People often no longer understand them:
Why is the plant manufacturing faulty again? Or rejects? Then products have to be reworked. That costs a lot of money, is stressful and unnecessary, says Stach. The “digital twin” can detect and display such sources of error in advance, thus reducing them considerably.
The question is whether all this is also a milestone on the road to autonomous manufacturing.
Mathias Stach answers in the negative: Fully automated production where it makes sense, yes.
The pressure to innovate and the cost pressure on local producers are enormous. Especially from Asia.
Nevertheless, Stach cannot imagine a factory without people. Robots can’t do everything. People who retool production lines with software support, who monitor and make decisions, and who check quality will still be needed in the future.
Raphael Menez agrees. Menez, who holds a doctorate in social science, has done a great deal of research on Industrialization 4.0 and today heads the Transformation and Innovation department at IG Metall Baden-Württemberg. His clear goal is to keep value creation and production in Germany.
The union’s concern is to support all company stakeholders in upcoming innovations from the very beginning. For example, with process and technical consultants on site, with qualification concepts for employees. Unskilled and semi-skilled workers still have uncertain job prospects. But factories will not be able to do without experienced skilled workers in 20 years’ time, says Raphael Menez. By the way, Tesla has also abandoned the idea of a fully automated, so-called “lightless factory.
Author: Christiane Praetorius / www.praecom.de Copyright 2021
Image source: BW-Bank