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Real-time tracking for the digital factory

Interview with Terence Phebey

We are location – this is the motto of INDUTRAX, which provides consultancy and solutions to manufacturing and logistics companies independent of technology on the use of location and identification systems in production. In an interview, sales director Terry Phebey answers our dima questions.

We are location – this is the motto of INDUTRAX, which provides consultancy and solutions to manufacturing and logistics companies independent of technology on the use of location and identification systems in production. In an interview, sales director Terry Phebey answers our dima questions.

dima: Mr. Phebey, INDUTRAX is engaged in location. What does this have to do with production processes?

We focus on solutions in which motion detection plays a major role. Examples are the automatic tracking of components, semi-finished and finished products in industrial processes or the location-based management of production assets such as tools, containers/containers or transport vehicles. This is how our solutions distinguish themselves from conventional Industry 4.0 approaches, which are exclusively concerned with managing stationary machines and devices. Especially in modern production processes it is necessary to know where objects are located in real time. This knowledge enables the manufacturer to flexibly and efficiently control processes and ensures trouble-free production – without costly downtimes.

dima: Are there any concrete use cases in production processes?

Several customers already use our PRODUCTTRACKER. This enables companies to track their production orders and resources in real time. The goals are:

  • Transparency of the location of parts and components to fulfill orders,
  • Identify deviations from the process plan and create a basis for dynamic reprioritization,
  • Recording and displaying the dwell time of the orders in the respective process steps as well as material flow and movement times to support an analysis.
The introduction of the software supports continuous process improvement.

dima: Which technologies are used and how do your customers benefit from them?

In the context of Industry 4.0, manufacturing companies are looking for solutions that complement lean management approaches and can be easily implemented and flexibly adapted to their specific needs. It should also be easily possible to extend the solution and thus be future-proof. The spectrum of location and identification technologies as well as sensor technology is diverse. INDUTRAX operates independently of technology and manufacturer. We know the advantages and disadvantages of the most important systems because we install and evaluate them in our test factory.

dima: How do you integrate the tracking and identification solutions into your software?

The software ‚INDUTRAX Application Environment‘ has been designed to facilitate the integration of different source systems to collect real-time data from the environment. Identification via barcode/QR code, passive RFID solutions, presence detection via BLE, positioning via GPS/Galileo with communication via LoRa, 3G or 4G, real-time positioning with BLE, UWB or sensor technology such as temperature/humidity, weight, distance, air quality provide the source data. This is used in combination with contextual information from the physical environment as well as the production or logistics control systems to generate defined events. By means of easily configurable sets of rules, these events can be used to improve the design and control of processes. Visualization and reporting capabilities allow both a current overview of the activities in the manufacturing plant and historical evaluations for analysis and subsequent improvement of the processes under consideration. We provide ready-to-use applications for this purpose: ASSETFINDER, ASSETTRACKER and PRODUCTTRACKER.

dima: What about system integration?

The INDUTRAX Application Environment is operated centrally via a server in the customer network or in the cloud. The operation is platform-independent under Windows or Linux. An integrated in-memory processing logic and intelligent geo-algorithms ensure high scalability.

dima: What is the need for consultancy and what are the most frequent problem areas?

Customers want to know which tracking and identification technology can solve their problems. We discuss the customer’s use cases and goals and get an idea of the production environment and the potential for improvement. We point out appropriate solutions: accuracy, reliability, type of tags (with/without battery), battery life, software and other parameters all play a significant role.

dima: What does an ideal typical use case look like?

Our solutions deliver benefits in terms of efficiency, control, quality and flexibility. Efficiency improvements either reduce production costs, e.g. by eliminating non-value-adding activities (searching for products, components, operating resources) or increase throughput, e.g. increase output by 5% while keeping production costs constant. Control focuses on real-time tracking of production orders to ensure transparency and monitoring (e.g. compliance with process step sequences). For quality, the solution ensures that production errors, such as those caused by human error, do not occur in the first place. Flexibility means that the production processes are automatically adapted to the variants to be produced. This can take the form of worker guidance or context-dependent control.

The interview was originally conducted and published in German.