Bird's eye view of white labyrinth.

Hide and seek on the factory site

April 02 2019 Hermann Hänle

“You know Marcus Brody,” Indiana Jones tells his father, “he even got lost in his own museum…” The next scene shows a museum director wandering helplessly through Iskenderun, in the middle of an oriental crowd*.

The factory site as a maze

I don’t visit factory sites all that often, but when that does happen, I soon feel overwhelmed by the world existing there. A factory is a universe in its own right – the bigger it is, the more confusing it seems. And I have the greatest respect for those who organize the work in sensible ways. Suddenly the word “processes” takes on a completely different meaning than in the office of an IT company.
For example, the Daimler site in Sindelfingen is nearly three million km2 in area. That is a good 400 standard size soccer fields. There are more than just two goals – or gates – there as well. Or 800 of them.

Challenge to the flow of materials

Finding materials and components that are important for production and delivering them from store into the factory hall requires smooth, transparent, and efficient processes. And yet everything doesn’t always run smoothly. Materials are ordered in good time, but the employee who knows about this is ill the next day and a hectic search begins. Or entire freight wagons are just parked in sidings where nobody suspects them. The game of hide and seek holds up operations in each case.

Autonomous processes through paperless logistics

Paperless logistics solutions not only can help with transportation, but can also be easily expanded to create transparency on the factory premises. The various batches log in and report regularly on the condition of the goods via sensors, intelligent storage boxes, or pallets (condition monitoring). These virtual waybills provide a good basis for designing the materials management processes autonomously. For example, such a process might look like this: the forklift truck or industrial truck drives itself to the shelf or storage place. When the intelligent storage box is picked up, a waybill is created automatically. Its data is transferred to the digital waybill. The removal from the system is confirmed in parallel. When the storage box reaches its destination, this is also confirmed automatically. The administrator would also have access at any time to a database that lists the status and location of the relevant batch. From an IT perspective, this is no longer rocket science.

5G plays a crucial role

But now comes the problem: with such a mass of real time data (we haven’t just got one load on the site), traditional network infrastructures quickly give up the ghost. This lovely logistics dream cannot be realized without an efficient network. The solution is a private campus network on 5G.

P.S.* For dramatic reasons I had to change the actual sequence in the movie for the blogpost. First Brody wanders through Iskenderun, then Indy reveals the truth. But that shouldn’t spoil our fun when we watch the following 1:25 minutes.

About the author
Porträt von Hermann Hänle, Senior Manager, Sales Marketing Automotive, T-Systems

Hermann Hänle

Senior Manager Sales Marketing Automotive, T-Systems International

Show profile and articles