Welding robots are an indispensable manufacturing technology for Liebherr-Hydraulikbagger GmbH. The company from Kirchdorf an der Iller (Upper Swabia) is the world's market leader in mobile excavators. But they can do even more: The robots, like all industrial systems and machines, also produce many kinds of data. Drawing on this source makes it possible to increase value creation and efficiency – not only in manufacturing, but also in many other fields of activity, in financial controlling and maintenance, as well as in IT management or purchasing.
However, this assumes that the relevant data can be read from the systems and machines, consolidated, analyzed and linked to other data. Liebherr IT-Services GmbH has now created a powerful, scalable infrastructure for all these tasks: a compact, modular IoT box, which, when installed near the respective system or machine, receives the data via a network cable, processes it on site, evaluates it and makes it available to higher-level systems such as PLM or MES.
“Problem Solver for a Wide Range of Specialty Areas”
This makes the IoT box a “problem solver in a wide range of specialty areas,” says Handeck, “regardless of the perspective from which one looks at a system or machine.” As a concrete example, he cites the welding wire drums that supply welding robot systems with material. “We can now retrofit a scale and attach it to the IoT box. The employees at the system thus have a clear view of how much wire is still in the drums so that they can provide supplies in time,” explains the expert. However, it would also be possible to make the consumption data available to the purchasing department in an automated manner. This reduces the workload of our colleagues in production.
Torben Handeck | Head of Programming and Welding Technology at Liebherr-Hydraulikbagger GmbH
WAGO Makes Stand-Alone Solutions Obsolete
The core of the IoT box is a PFC 200 Controller from WAGO. It records all relevant data from the system or machine, as well as from sensors on peripheral devices that are not recorded by the machine control system. “If the PFC200's basic connectivity is not sufficient, it can be easily expanded with additional modules or bus couplers from WAGO's modular I/O system," explains Matthias Morath, PLM Innovation Consultant at Liebherr IT-Services. This makes it possible to connect virtually any system to the infrastructure, regardless of its manufacturer and age, without significant expense. This is a great advantage, especially for companies with a wide product portfolio, as is the case with Liebherr-Hydraulikbagger GmbH. This avoids isolated solutions: “Thanks to the controller's flexibility, we do not have to implement a separate system for every digitalization task,” says the expert.
Matthias Morath | PLM Innovation Consultant at Liebherr IT-Services
Infrastructure Gradually Expanded
So far, five IoT boxes have been implemented, all at Liebherr-Hydraulikbagger GmbH. “We are gradually expanding this infrastructure,” says Handeck. The box manufactured by Liebherr IT-Services at a site in Oberopfingen, Swabia, is also available to the other Liebherr plants. In addition, Liebherr is cooperating with its IoT box in the “European 4.0 Transformation Center” (E4TC) at RWTH Aachen, where the university is testing technologies for implementing digitalization strategies together with renowned partners from industry and research. Coupled with a laser cutting machine, Liebherr wants to demonstrate possible application areas for the box here and further its development.
Text: Ralph Diermann – Energy Journalist
Photo: Ian Siepmann/Tremonia
Industrial Internet of Things
For Tomorrow's Industry
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