On our round trip to the champions of our grinding industry, we make a stop in the beautiful Black Forest, at the high-tech machine manufacturer Adelbert Haas in Trossingen. When you enter the modern production facility between snow-covered Black Forest fir trees, you feel like you're in a laboratory of the future. Our two interview partners Marie-Sophie Maier and Dirk Wember welcome us not in a meeting room, but in a nice coffee corner right next to a new Multigrind® Radical tool grinding machine.

The new Multigrind Radical arrived in the market, its intelligent automation sets new standards and we want to discuss this with two managing directors of Adelbert Haas.

dima: For Adelbert Haas, 2024 is a year full of exciting events. The successful GrindDate in April, the  industry-leading GrindingHub exhibition in May and the new fully automated Multigrind® Radical tool grinding machine. What other technology highlights can visitors look forward to?

Marie-Sophie Maier: At the GrindingHub, we show where the “hammer hangs” with 6 grinding machines, as they say here. However, Adelbert Haas is not about machines, but about innovative grinding processes. We illustrate the convincing advantages of series production in a Closed Loop.  We explain how our software reproduces impressive results simply in the background, i.e. without much effort or prior knowledge.

Dirk Wember: Not forgetting our Multigrind® Customer Care. They ensure that everything runs like clockwork, and we demonstrate this live and in real time.  It ensures that everything runs like clockwork, and we demonstrate this live and in real time. But let's talk about the future in general today, and the future is fully automated.

Intelligent automation: The time to get started is now.

dima: Automation? The topic is actually old hat...

Dirk Wember: Oh yes, but we are talking about intelligent automation, the latest state of the art. You won't believe it, intelligent, fully automated production processes are still very rare in our industry. The Early Adopters have already made the change, of course, but I estimate that only around 5% of our industry, with a focus on Europe, have done so already. There are also a few completely outdated standalone solutions that are far from taking all possibilities into account.

We see heterogeneous processes with different systems and applications almost everywhere. In general, they are not integrated and are only connected via the "human" interface. In most cases, not even a common database is used. With our Multigrind® Radical tool grinding machine, we have realized our vision of Intelligent Automation 4.0. This puts us 10 years ahead of the reality of tool grinders, with a few exceptions. As a result, we are, with a few exceptions, 10 years ahead of the reality of tool grinding.

Marie-Sophie Maier: We are currently at a breaking point. The differences in value creation between a conventional manufacturing strategy and intelligent robotic process automation are so significant that we could already be talking about losers and winners. The question is no longer whether the new era of automation will have an impact on a company, but when. That is, when, if not now.

dima: Do you see the industry's leading international position here in Europe at risk?

Dirk Wember: 20 years ago, offshoring was a response to globalization. Some customers or their clients had started to move their production abroad. The advantages of low-wage countries with a large workforce were attractive. Now we can observe a renaissance of production on the doorstep. In most cases, relocating production does not work in our high-tech industry. That's why we fully focused on digitalization 35 years ago. Our own Multigrind® software was the logical consequence. The good news today is that fully automated just-in-time production on site pays off enormously.

Today, we are easily outperforming offshoring. We are more productive, faster, cheaper and, above all, much more precise. We have no alternative here in Europe either. And now the bad news: this development is not unnoticed in Asia either.

Back then, we set the course for our current lead in intelligent automation and we are making full use of it today. To put things in perspective: About 10 years later, Dr. Angela Merkel said this legendary sentence at a press conference on Barack Obama's visit: "The Internet is uncharted territory for all of us." And quite honestly, she was right once again. Even today, the networking of machines via the Internet is uncharted territory for many. We are no longer in the stone age of grinding; we need a CHANGE.

"If you digitize a shitty process, you have a shitty digital process."

dima: You see the solution in Trossingen in a digital transformation. What do you see as the biggest obstacles?

Marie-Sophie Maier: There are irrational concerns and rational obstacles, and I'll start with the obstacles. In our day-to-day work, we see that quite a few manufacturing companies have failed to standardize and document their processes. This is essential before I use automation. A favourite quote from Thorsten Dirks comes to mind: "If you digitize a bullshit process, you have a bullshit digital process." So, it's not enough to place a Multigrind® Radical in the production hall and expect that the future is already here. It's like doing your homework in the past, you just must do it. But don't worry, we show our customers how to do it.

We have put all our knowledge, our experience, and our confidence in the future of tool grinding into this box. Voilà!

Disruptive change requires a CHANGE!

dima: Now I'm curious to see what irrational concerns you come up against. They are often much more difficult to deal with because they are less accessible.


Marie-Sophie Maier: So irrational concerns sound pretty harsh at first. These are concerns that we take seriously and for which we are looking for answers. When we talk about Intelligent Automation 4.0, we are talking about disruptive change, which is of course very different from continuous change. This requires a real CHANGE.

The industry likes to think in terms of machines that advance from generation to generation in a simple way. In tool grinding, our approach differs significantly from the usual "generation-to-generation" machine development. With us, you don't buy a machine, but an automated future process that takes all components into account. Starting from the customer's web store to shipping. Future developments are already considered in this intelligent automation, and these can generally be added without great effort. The Internet of Things, robotic process automation, intelligent networking options and the introduction of artificial intelligence are either part of our solution package or have already been considered.

Starting from the customer's webshop through to shipping. Future developments are already taken into account in this intelligent automation and these can generally be added without great effort.  The Internet of Things, robotic process automation, intelligent networking options and the impact of artificial intelligence are either part of our solution package or have already been considered.

Because we develop faster than the industry can follow us at the moment, our most urgent task is to take everyone involved on the journey with us. On the one hand, we benefit from the requirements of the trendsetters and, on the other, from the great innovations of our development partners. The customer relationship thus becomes a partnership for the future.

Dirk Wember: This new manufacturing process is creating fears: Is my data secure? Is the investment worthwhile? Is AI a source of danger and where are the benefits? Is my company ready for this CHANGE process? What qualifications does the networking of man and machine mean? What does this mean in concrete terms for the machine operator? Will their job be at risk?

These are, of course, questions that we have dealt with intensively. If only for the reason that we are regularly asked these questions. We deal intensively with these concerns because we take our customers seriously. We can only go this way together.

dima: And how do you deal with these questions?

Dirk Wember: First of all, we talk about the opportunities, which results in a joint roadmap for the change. We are right in the middle of this new world of networking people, machines and products. It won't be long before we can talk to our tool grinding machine like a personal assistant that simply carries out what we have asked it to do.

We show our customers that Intelligent Automation 4.0 improves and simplifies their entire process at every single stage. Labor costs are reduced, throughput is increased, reliability is improved and quality is enhanced. Not just a little, but significantly. And when we use simple calculation examples to illustrate how quickly the investment pays off, many concerns are usually dispelled.

The world is changing, whether we like it or not. Either I am the change or I am left behind.

The Multigrind® Radical forms the heart of Intelligent Automation 4.0. The technical peripherals are precisely controlled within the overall process. All individual production steps are connected, coordinated and controlled via Multimation. The grinding process in the closed loop ensures self-referential optimization. The perfect tool leaves the grinding machine independently and is ready for dispatch in its packaging. The follow-up order is already in production at this point.

dima: Is it enough to name the opportunities in this CHANGE process in order to counter the concerns?

Marie-Sophie Maier: No, of course not. But if we outline our process, there are many logical answers to individual questions. With the cloud application, our customers retain sovereignty over their data, but benefit directly from the increased productivity.

The machine operator also benefits directly from automation. Their workplace is no longer at the machine. We enable them to control several machines at once from any location via any device. Many people see this as a real improvement. The quality of work increases considerably and at the same time it becomes easier and more convenient.

People are not going to turn into robots. We are freeing people from routine tasks and shift work through intelligent robotic process automation. In future, these routine tasks will be carried out by an automated production cell at high speed. This means no additional stress for the machine operator, as the machine control system coordinates the entire process. The more we automate simple processes, the more energy we will free up for the important things.  Of course, we will also lose jobs to automation. But we can't complain about the huge shortage of skilled workers and then demonize the solution strategy.

dima: And what about artificial intelligence? We can't keep up with all the innovations.

Dirk Wember: The fear of artificial intelligence is constantly being stoked, because its potential applications are still a black box for many people. We are already testing where we can use AI profitably, and in some areas, it is working brilliantly. For example, in predictive maintenance. Here, status data is obtained that can be processed to make forecasts. These forecasts in turn form the basis for needs-based maintenance. This reduces unplanned downtime, thereby improving efficiency and machine performance. This is because maintenance can be notified of problems before they occur. Sounds very simple, but it is anything but trivial in view of the huge amounts of data that are available in very different formats.

For me, AI is the most fascinating tool we humans have ever invented. There is also a quote from Dave Waters that describes the situation perfectly: "I know a lot about artificial intelligence, but not as much as it knows about me." We can extract important insights from this valuable knowledge. Of course, both legal and social corridors need to be created for this technology. But our job is to integrate AI into our future working world in a meaningful way.

Does this development scare me? No! You can't turn back time. The future has always been something that we humans loved when it became the present. Automation for the people, because people are always the starting point of our developments and the goal. Quality is no coincidence, but the result of a clear intention, a sincere effort, intelligent management, and skillful execution. Driven by a human will and helped by machines. That was probably also a quote, but I can't remember who.

dima: I would like to thank Marie-Sophie Maier and Dirk Wember very much for their hospitality and for the enlightening conversation.

The author

Carina Kabisreiter

Carina Kabisreiter is active in the marketing and communications department at Adelbert Haas.

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