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21.05.2024 / Adrian Mayr/Markus Bracher

Why Müller Martini Sets the Tone in the Smart Factory (Part II)

At drupa 2024, where Müller Martini will present four highly automated industrial production lines integrated into the Connex workflow according to the motto “driving the digital transformation,” many conversations in its trade show booth will revolve around the topic smart factory. In a two-part blog, Adrian Mayr (Director Product Management) and Markus Bracher (Director Solutions Engineering) will reveal why Müller Martini is a nose ahead in this area and where the path to the smart factory will lead.
Even if we sense increasing interest on our customers’ part in the areas of digital transformation and the smart factory – not seldom associated with a change of generation, in which younger people with modern visions are becoming decision-makers – many graphic operations are still a ways away from a smart factory. For we will admit, there are some hurdles. In addition to the investment in new technology – that is, digital machines – some expertise for the corresponding (new) business processes is required. Thus, for example, it is necessary to understand the whole data flow very well. Added to this is a certain sense of insecurity. Many of our customers are asking what the (digital) market can do for them and whether their investments will pay off.
Connectivity and automation will advance
In practice, many simplifications are required to be able to offer economical solutions. And this does not always correspond to the customer's ideal situation. Naturally, the customer wants an ideal solution, but they have respect for the investments required. That's why many customers are talking about the smart factory, but in reality, they're still a few steps away. For deep-reaching restructuring is required in order to move from a conventional to a smart factory.
Regardless of this, however, we are convinced that connectivity and the accompanying automation will – must – advance in our industry. This topic is critical because the pressure on graphic companies continues to increase. The topic of personnel plays an essential role here. On the one hand, the lack of skilled workers gives many companies cause for concern. On the other hand, with the smart factory the concern is not just the availability of qualified workers, but due to the great complexity of digital systems, also avoiding sources of error and thus ensuring the reliability and productivity of the entire system.
The lights-out factory is still a dream of the future
That's why the personnel factor is still an important driver in the search for greater automation. For example, we're working with Hunkeler on another puzzle piece for the smart factory; we're developing new intralogistics solutions with belts, buffering, trolleys, and robots for the feeding and delivery of rollers, signatures, book blocks, and covers for digital book production. This is how individual machines can become autonomous production cells with intelligent conveyor sections. In our drupa booth 1B50, we will also present a Ventura MC book sewing machine with a Solema robot, which stacks the finished products on the pallet.
So, we are on the path to systems that produce autonomously, but we are still a ways away from the so-called lights-out factory – technically as well as from the perspective of the organizational environment and economic efficiency. For the processes in one-off production are not nearly stable enough across the long term that they can do entirely without supervision. No book production system available today can run through the night the way machines in chipping production can. In addition, as indicated above, the entire intralogistics with loading and unloading must also be automated.
People know how to make high-quality books
In addition to the intermediate steps, monitoring the paper flow is an especially great challenge. For paper is a living material. That's why the smart factory will still require a certain degree of human attention.
However, our goal is to develop systems that are as user-friendly as possible, so that no superman is required as troubleshooter, but rather just a supervisor who knows something about IT and how to track down and solve production problems.
That's why the interplay between human and machine will always play an important role in the smart factory. People have the experience, and they know how to make high-quality books. This knowledge is shifting increasingly to machines. Using templates, job tickets, sensors, smart algorithms, and image processing systems, machines can set themselves ever better. And perhaps machine learning and artificial intelligence will help here sooner or later. But people are and will remain essential as supervisors, as the universal tool for exceptional situations, and for troubleshooting.
Nothing works without Connex
In addition to the human factor, the workflow system is the key to efficient production in a smart factory. Our Connex system is a decisive driver of the digital transformation. If you consider the functionality required to map all variants and influences in the production process dynamically and without manual intervention, this is an impressive feat. A typical example of this is the correct page arrangement – the impositioning – on the web with all required marks, codes, and finishing variables that must be considered to create a high-quality product. And in extreme cases, these change dynamically from product to product.
Without Connex, you would have individual production islands and a collection of machines – only Connex, as a scalable workflow system with which our customers can decide which building blocks they need, enables the smart factory as an integrated system.
We invite you to visit us at drupa in booth 1B50. There we will show you how today's smart factory works and what benefits an integrated system can bring you.
Adrian Mayr, Director Product Management at Müller Martini
Markus Bracher, Director Solutions Engineering at Müller Martini
Do you have questions about the smart factory? Then contact Adrian Mayr or Markus Bracher. We’ll be glad to help you!
21.05.2024 Adrian Mayr/Markus Bracher Director Product Management at Müller Martini/Director Solutions Engineering at Müller Martini