ENGEL Blog | Simply Digitise: Paths to Optimised Plastics Production

ENGEL Blog | Simply Digitise: Paths to Optimised Plastics Production

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In the evolving landscape of industrial manufacturing, digitalisation stands as a pivotal shift towards efficiency and innovation, especially in the field of plastics production. Hannes Zach highlights the simplicity of embarking on this digital journey, noting its particular importance in regions with high labour costs like Europe to maintain competitiveness. In this blog, ENGEL delves into an enlightening discussion with Hannes Zach on the digital transformation of plastics production, emphasising how small and medium-sized enterprises can leverage digital tools to achieve remarkable efficiency and growth.

Plastics production is becoming increasingly digital, emphasises Zach in the interview. Digitalisation is particularly necessary in Europe and countries with high labour costs in order to remain competitive. Getting started is easier than expected.

Ahead of the “ENGEL Digital Days”, Eva Wörnhörer, Marketing Manager at ENGEL, spoke to Hannes Zach about ways to digitalise plastics production.

How can small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in injection moulding contract manufacturing also get started with the digitalisation of plastics production?

In the past, it was difficult for companies without their own IT department to get started with digitalisation. It required considerable investment and personnel to set up and maintain the necessary IT infrastructure.

However, the new cloud solutions, in particular our e-connect customer portal, have made it much easier to get started:

  • Local servers are no longer required.
  • The costs are minimal, as the products can be rented inexpensively per machine and year.
  • All the customer has to do is wire up the machines. Then he can immediately benefit from the advantages of ENGEL’s digital solutions in plastics production.

Getting started with digitalisation is now easier and more convenient than ever. Our service technicians are also available on site to support customers during commissioning.

What advantages do small and medium-sized enterprises have when digitalising their plastics production?

The digitalisation of plastics production holds enormous potential, especially for injection moulding contract manufacturing.

By using modern technologies, these companies can optimise their production processes and make them more efficient. Assistance, operating and machine data acquisition systems enable precise monitoring and control of production processes. All of this provides relief in the face of the shortage of skilled labour.

At the end of the day, however, it’s not just about optimising production. It is also about increasing competitiveness and being successful in the long term. Digitalisation opens up opportunities for SMEs:

  • Act more flexibly,
  • Utilise resources more efficiently,
  • Drive innovation,
  • Reduce costs by reducing errors and rejects, and
  • Improve product quality.

Hannes Zach, Sales Manager Digital Solutions ENGEL Austria commented: “It used to be very difficult for small companies that didn’t have their own IT to get started with digitalisation. Now the customer can start with minimal costs. There is therefore no risk in the form of high investments. All that needs to be done is to wire up the machines – and the customer can immediately enjoy the benefits of our digitalisation solutions.”

What digital solutions are there for plastics production and are the successes measurable?

Our portfolio is very extensive and all solutions are part of our product family inject 4.0.

We offer:

  • Intelligent assistance systems specially designed for ENGEL machines: They support the machine operator and setter in finding the optimum settings and keeping the injection moulding process constant.
  • Classic operating and machine data acquisition systems: These run outside the machine and are also supported for third-party makes. They keep an eye on the process stability and efficiency of the machine. This gives those responsible the necessary transparency about production and any potential for optimisation.

The successes achieved are definitely measurable. For some customers, we have succeeded in increasing the OEE by 9%. We have also achieved a reduction in rejects of over 60% and a reduction in clamping force of more than 50% – on certain machines. These examples show that our tried-and-tested solutions bring about concrete improvements.

With our digital solutions , we save energy in plastics production, protect the moulds, increase production output and reduce material consumption.

Read more about this in our inject 4.0 brochure with the success stories of our customers.

What role does artificial intelligence play in the digitalisation of plastics production?

At ENGEL, we have been working intensively on this topic for years and are pioneers in the industry. By using artificial intelligence in manufacturing, we can analyse data. This enables us to provide our customers with innovative solutions that give them a competitive advantage.

One example of this is our iQ process observer. Among other things, the assistance system automatically recognises anomalies in the process and thus helps to ensure process stability. This happens automatically without the need for manual adjustments by an expert.

Another product is our iQ weight control. The software independently and automatically corrects the process if it is negatively influenced by environmental factors. This happens within the cycle. This ensures that the quality of the parts is permanently guaranteed.

What visions of the future is ENGEL working on? And what do the “ENGEL Digital Days” have to do with it?

There is a vision that artificial intelligence can automatically recognise rejects in manufacturing. This vision envisages the machine producing a part and automatically recognising whether it is of good quality. This should not require manual or visual inspection or the installation of a camera system. It should be possible solely on the basis of data in real time.

We are also aiming for a self-optimising machine. If quality problems are recognised, the AI should automatically adjust the machine so that good parts are produced again. With our iQ weight control product, we took the first step in this direction over 10 years ago and have been successful with it.

We see great potential in the digitalisation of plastics production and artificial intelligence. That is why we are organising the “ENGEL Digital Days” for the first time from 18 to 20 June in St. Valentin and Schwertberg (Austria).

Visitors can look forward to a varied programme that offers practical insights:

  • They can experience the digital assistance systems in action on the ENGEL machines in the technical centre.
  • There will be informative presentations by customers on a wide range of digitalisation topics.
  • Of course, artificial intelligence will also be in the spotlight.

Find out more about the Digital Days and how to register.

Is the path to digital plastics production really that easy? Even for injection moulding contract manufacturing?

The answer is a resounding yes. There are no longer any barriers to entry such as large investments or the need to have your own servers.

The advantages outweigh the disadvantages. They range from reduced costs, improved product quality and relief in the event of a shortage of skilled labour.

Artificial intelligence is also used in ENGEL systems and can therefore be utilised by our customers. As we have been able to show in the past, the successes with AI speak for themselves. One concrete example: we have succeeded in increasing OEE by 9% for one customer.

In view of these great successes, we are continuing to work on innovations to make our products even better and our customers’ production even more efficient.

Full interview:

Read more news about ENGEL here.

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