INTRODUCTION TO ZIEHL-ABEGG SE
ZIEHL-ABEGG is an independent, family-owned incorporated company focuses on system solutions for ventilation, control, and drive technology while continuously seeking new applications for its products. At the core of ZIEHL-ABEGG’s offerings is the energy-efficient electric motor.
The company is driven by a vision to inspire through innovative developments both within and beyond its core sectors. ZIEHL-ABEGG aspires to become the leading independent company in its sector, excelling in technology, growth, and profitability. This commitment to innovation and a pioneering spirit permeates all aspects of its operational processes.
HOW TO IMPROVE AND INCREASE EFFICIENCY OF THE TRACK-AND-TRACE SYSTEM
ZIEHL-ABEGG faced challenges related to their track-and-trace system for small load carriers within their assembly lines. These challenges needed to be overcome to enhance efficiency and reliability in their manufacturing processes. Some of the specific challenges and issues included:
- Single System Language
The initially used software communicated with IO-Link RFID readers and controlled Stack-Lights from Balluff, with communication occurring through the manufacturer-recommended HTTP/REST protocol.
As part of the evolution, the software was adapted to also support Pepperl+Fuchs IO-Link RFID readers and Stack-Lights. To efficiently connect the hardware components selected for the application, MQTT was chosen as an additional communication protocol. During quality assurance tests, existing inconsistencies in the application logic were resolved, and the overall robustness of the software was enhanced.
- Easy Handling and Maintenance
It was particularly important for ZIEHL-ABEGG to maintain support for the existing Balluff hardware.
The technical differences in implementing IO-Link and RFID between the two hardware manufacturers were elegantly balanced through the enhanced software.
- Reliability and Stability
Due to critical lead times and maintenance issues, ZIEHL-ABEGG recognized the urgency of finding a reliable project partner.
The goal was to identify a second supplier capable of providing all necessary components and services, optimizing lead times, reducing costs, and improving software support and flexibility.
ROADMAP TO SUCCESS
In order to successfully overcome the identified challenges, the following steps on the roadmap were taken after the determination of the status quo:
Phase 1: Software Testing and Optimization
A test version of the software application was provided. This phase included tests at ZIEHL-ABEGG using Pepperl+Fuchs hardware, Neoception’s mother company. Feedback from these tests was used for a detailed analysis and optimization of the software for the next step.
Phase 2: Software Enhancement and Integration
ZIEHL-ABEGG and Neoception tested a revised version of the software application to align it with future developments. This version resolved flexibility issues and integrated required hardware configurations. Neoception optimized the existing software application and ensured compatibility with the existing hardware configuration, including an IO-Link master, four RFID readers, and four Stack-Lights. Additionally, the hardware configuration provided by P+F was considered by integrating the IO-Link master and implementing features for automatic detection, IOL metadata reading, and configuration processing. Sensors were configured to read suitable tag types, and the IO-Link master and sensors were displayed on the user interface. The software could now read RFID tag data, control the Balluff machine light, and adjust the Stack-Lights according to the parallel reflection of the shelf situation.
Phase 3: Introduction of New Parameters
Neoception also introduced new parameters to enhance software functionality. A “delete flag” was implemented in the JSON configuration data to trigger a deletion message when the last read tag was not detected for a certain time. This innovation increased flexibility and improved the overall system’s performance.
Phase 4: Establishment of Software Management Environment
ZIEHL-ABEGG and Neoception established a relevant software management environment to ensure continuous updates and effective customer support. Neoception managed the code in their repository and provided ZIEHL-ABEGG with the latest version as a “snapshot.”
THE FINAL OUTCOME
The partnership with Neoception brought significant successes to ZIEHL-ABEGG. Through collaboration with Neoception and their mother company P+F, a reliable project partner was secured to support the rollout at various locations. ZIEHL-ABEGG now has a second supplier offering a comprehensive package, including hardware, software, handheld devices, and after-sales support. This collaboration resulted in shortened hardware lead times, cost savings, improved software support, and increased flexibility in their track-and-trace system.
The implementation resulted in a 90% reduction in workload and serves as a remarkable example of the success of a strategic partnership between ZIEHL-ABEGG and Neoception. This partnership addressed challenges, produced innovative solutions, and drove overall business process improvement.