ELABO supports the ‘4.0 Learning Factories’ initiative from the State of Baden-Württemberg

We can learn a great deal from the digitalised world.

How can manufacturing and IT grow and prosper together? How can we use the opportunities that arise from this integration? And how do we approach the questions of security and workplace design?

To ensure that the next generation now attending vocational schools and decision-makers in the enterprise are prepared for the chances and challenges offered by Industry 4.0, Baden-Württemberg is supporting the creation of ‘4.0 Learning Factories’ at a state and local level. This involves the creation of a real, digitalised production environment that facilitates the teaching of interdisciplinary skills. Students who learn here become natural ‘machine whisperers’.

Importantly, school equipment is also cutting-edge: because only when the current state of the technical art is represented in all of its aspects can the many dimensions of Industry 4.0 truly be understood. Project participants include companies from the region, as well as the Steinbeis Transfer Centre for Industry 4.0. As experts in digitalised manufacturing, ELABO are also on board: in the short space of a few months, the company fitted out two trade colleges in Villingen-Schwenningen and Crailsheim (Schwäbisch Hall) with networked workbenches, all of the software and training lines needed, plus two robot arms. In late 2016, the Learning Factories opened their doors as the very first of their kind.

At these schools, young trainees will rub shoulders with technicians and decision-makers from local companies who are keen to learn how Industry 4.0 works. For ELABO, 4.0 Learning Factories is both an important project and an opportunity for the future: these schools ensure that the region trains up well-qualified young professionals while offering managers and entrepreneurs from local companies a kind of ‘shop window’ for the digitalisation of their businesses. Another factor – and one ELABO is particularly proud of – is that the project showcases the competencies in this innovative company: the benefits of Industry 4.0 can be readily understood today.

“A modern company’s competitiveness is now directly dependent on the availability of specialist staff who have the right skills for working under Industry 4.0 conditions,” stresses ELABO’s Managing Director Thomas Hösle. “This means vocational training courses must now reflect the realities of ‘Smart Industry’ and relevant learning environments must be created.” In a 4.0 Learning Factory, digitalised business structures are therefore represented as realistically as possible – from quotation preparation to real-time production planning and the individual workflows in production. While working on the manufacturing process, trainees can apply and expand their knowledge of material processing and plant operation. Another point of focus here is the real-time networking of machines and processes.

A key role in the implementation of the digitalised process chain is played by the data management software EIM (ELABO Information Management), which ELABO developed in-house. EIM is tailored specifically to the needs of low-volume production in small and medium-sized enterprises, and supports the creation of networked manufacturing environments. Since the EIM software is linked to a central SQL database, any authorised computer can easily access data management, variant management and process management functions, as well as sophisticated worker assistance tools. Worker assistance tools use still and moving images to provide trainees with visual guidance, make plans or sets of statistics available and supply written explanations of the individual work steps – even in a choice of different languages, as required. For trainees, the software solution therefore offers a striking and multifaceted demonstration of the various components that make up a networked process environment – and how it can be used to improve business process efficiency.