How New Technologies Are Changing Working Methods and Production Processes

The wheel is turning faster. Doing things faster is a central characteristic of the digital age. Suppliers are required to create and roll out new smart systems, products and materials as well as seamlessly functioning automated processes and interfaces to automotive manufacturers extremely quickly. Röchling Automotive consistently and continuously optimizes all elements along the value-added chain – from developing an idea to creating and manufacturing the product all the way to its end of life as a replacement part. The use of digital technology throughout the company is also noticeable. The key players in the digital transformation process are the employees, the most valuable resource in any company.

The digital initiatives launched by Röchling take employees on a journey from Berlin via Tel Aviv to Silicon Valley. In these creative locations, they are exposed to the digital expertise and the courage of the start-up companies, which they bring home both as an inspiration and as a challenge. “Of course, Röchling itself is not a start-up company, but we analyze and scrutinize our products and processes just as thoroughly as a start-up company,” says Vincent Mauroit, General Manager Innovation & Business Development at Röchling Automotive.

Engineers Work Closely Together
At Röchling Automotive, there is also no shortage of innovative ideas. However, since even the best ideas are of little benefit if nobody knows about them, if they are not adopted or if they are poorly implemented in the end, Röchling gives all employees worldwide the opportunity to share their ideas with colleagues, supported by modern digital tools. Whereas design drawings were used in the past, interactive PDFs are distributed today. A simple click on a single part of an assembly is all that is required to immediately display all the part-related information, which is stored in a central database system. The same process also applies in reverse: click into a bill of materials to highlight the associated component in color in the design drawing. With the help of intuitive software, the engineers can work closely together at an early stage – using what is called a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to exchange ideas and work together to develop more advanced solutions. Thanks to digital tools, employees enjoy secure access to all important data – anytime and anywhere.

Even a layperson can imagine how important it is to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations in these types of creative processes. Assistance is provided here in the form of the digital stamp, which controls the approval of the design elements. The process is trouble-free and is even fun. Regardless of the CAD software used, conversion servers at all Röchling Automotive development locations guarantee standardization and speed. In this way, the company is actively driving the digitalization of its engineering activities.

Increased Use of Sensors and Software
New technologies are changing not only the working methods of an automotive supplier, but also the vehicles themselves. Sensors and software are key concepts in conjunction with the self-driving car – and are absolutely indispensable. As a system supplier, Röchling Automotive is also using them to an increasing degree. Vehicle sensors detect, for example, whether the quality of a fluid is okay and whether a tank is still sufficiently filled. Valves on tanks and reservoirs then respond to high temperatures by opening up a new path for fluids, if required. Software updates “over the air” ensure that systems are always up to date.

On the Way to the Smart Factory
One challenge is the digitalization of production, which is referred to as Industry 4.0. Above all, it is intended to help Röchling Automotive respond swiftly to changing demand – in other words, bringing the company even closer to the customer. All machines in the Röchling Automotive plants across the globe have IP addresses that allow them to communicate with one another, and all planning is already automated. Röchling Automotive is already operating pilot plants that have been attested by external experts as setting a benchmark. By mid-2019, all machinery will be intelligent, networked and digitalized. At that point, the smart factory will be a reality at Röchling Automotive.