Ahead of the curve with Industry 4.0 Machine builder Klingelnberg, a specialist in gear and transmission technology, manufactures large bevel gears in a cyber-physical system connecting the design processes to the production process in an end-to-end network. At the fourth annual Industry 4.0. convention, Klingelnberg — a technology leader in its industry — was chosen by the trade journal Produktion and the consulting firm ROI Management Consulting AG to receive the eponymous award for its system in the "Integration of Design and Production" category at the end of November 2016.

“We developed the first building blocks in our cyber-physical system 20 years ago,” explains Dr. Hartmuth Müller, Head of Technology and Innovation at the Klingelnberg Group. “But we didn’t achieve a critical breakthrough until we managed to integrate the physical uncertainties of heat treatment into our system. That’s when we finally accomplished the last big step toward digital connectivity, two years ago. For us, this award is a welcome confirmation that we took exactly the right approach to Industry 4.0.” The head of Technology and Innovation accepted the award on behalf of Klingelnberg at a ceremony that took place at the Maritim Hotel in Ulm, Germany, on November 30, 2016.

Cyber-physical production systems seamlessly connect the physical world to the digital world, making it possible to implement changes without a latency period. At the heart of the system implemented by Klingelnberg is a comprehensive database that supplies data to every machine in the upstream and downstream processes. Over 20 years of work went into developing the database. It was a long process, due to the fact that the data had to be gathered through complex analyses, prepared and processed by custom-programmed simulation software applications, and linked to every machine along the product’s value chain via interfaces developed in house. 

By integrating every machine and program system involved in the process, Klingelnberg has set itself apart from the common practices of other companies, which generally focus on internal systems. So although there are a number of excellent local solutions available, they do not communicate with each other. 

According to the engineering and economics experts behind the Industry 4.0 award, the biggest obstacles preventing a breakthrough of Industry 4.0 right now are the absence of a way to seamlessly integrate the collection and evaluation of relevant data in the world of big data and, in particular, a lack of standardized interfaces. Klingelnberg has made a deliberate choice to develop interfaces to other machines and third-party software. “Our corporate philosophy directs us to adapt perfectly to existing environments and ensure we are compatible with the existing software and machine structure,” comments Dr. Hartmuth Müller. Thus, every device in a customer’s production line can share the centerpiece of Klingelnberg’s cyber-physical system: the large database that contains a gear wheel’s complete history. This includes identification numbers for every component, tool, and machine movement — for every single machining step. A closed-loop assistance system provides software-aided production support throughout the process.

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