Flying instead of sailing

Flying instead of sailing

May 2021

At first glance, sailing and modern sheet metal processing have little in common. And yet there are parallels: In both fields, the speed is at the very limits of what is technically possible, and the crews rely on real-time information. Bystronic’s networked manufacturing management solution enables even small sheet metal processing companies to compete at the forefront of the competition for orders.

Sailing is currently experiencing a revolution. Instead of gliding through the water on their hulls, modern racing yachts soar over the waves thanks to their hydrofoils. After the adjustable hydrofoils had already made catamarans fly during past regattas, the new technology was used on monohull yachts for the very first time during the 2021 America’s Cup off the coast of New Zealand. As a result, the speed of the yachts has tripled. The foils enable speeds of up to 50 knots – almost 100 kilometers per hour. Paradoxically, aerodynamics are now more important for these boats than hydrodynamics.

Data is key to success

But there is another technological revolution in sailing that is not quite as obvious. The crews competing in the America’s Cup are assisted by a vast amount of real-time information: Reports on wind and weather, the sea conditions, the positions of their opponents, and smart course control data, to name but a few. 

Some 1,000 sensors on the yacht continuously feed information to the skippers, helmsmen, deckhands, coaches, and engineers.

Similar to Formula 1, the racing action is monitored from the pit wall – a control center where all the information flows together. Without a doubt: Nowadays, the key to success is data, also in sailing.

More speed, more data

With the fiber laser, the sheet metal industry has witnessed a disruption in recent years brought about by a new technology that is comparable to the hydrofoils in sailing. The cutting speed of a fiber laser cutting machine outstrips that of a CO2 laser machine by up to a factor of four. The efficiency factor has tripled and the energy efficiency is almost twice as high. The fast-paced progress of automation solutions for the loading and unloading of cutting machines is allowing sheet metal processing companies to tap into additional efficiency gains.

Parallel revolution

And we too are experiencing a second, parallel data revolution in our industry: The smart factory is also controlled from a pit wall of sorts. And here, too, countless sources of information flow together – from the production process itself as well as from the factory’s entire environment. As in sailing, the intelligent utilization of data will also improve the decision-making in the sheet metal processing industry, allowing us to reach our goals even faster. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are likely to play a major role in this trend.

IT and OT are converging

The home port of production operations used to be self-contained and rigid material requirement planning (MRP) systems, which incorporated hardly any external data. This is currently changing: We are heading towards a new world of real-time connectivity and full integration of previously separate systems. Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are increasingly converging.

Optimal coordination of software and hardware

In the future, digital ecosystems will ensure the flow of data from the entire supply chain into the warehouse and manufacturing systems of the smart factory, not unlike the smart navigation tools used in modern sailing. Both fields are all about the optimal coordination of software and hardware: Just as the flying yachts are networked with the information systems in the water and on land, our intelligent machine tools have to interact with the smart factory’s software systems and their environment.

Small boats are more agile

Bystronic has set out to enable sheet metal workers to replicate just this in the near future. 

Our vision is an orchestration of production processes that enables solid predictability of what can be produced and by when, while offering the flexibility to quickly respond to changes in the supply chain.

In order to cover all possible production scenarios, modularity, scalability, and agility are key requirements for such a system.

Plan production processes with precision

Our cloud-based Digital Operating Platform (DOP) fulfills all these requirements. During its development, we focused primarily on small sheet metal processing companies. In the future, we want to help them tap into opportunities that were previously only available to the large players. We will enable them to plan, control, and evaluate their production processes with the same precision as their large competitors. And since small boats are inherently more agile than large ships, small and medium-sized production companies will in future increasingly gain an edge in the competition for jobs.

Optimized decision-making

Navigating the stormy waters of our times is a challenge for manufacturing companies. The uncertain situation regarding the further development of the pandemic complicates planning, and at the same time, the competitive pressure in our globalized world is higher than ever. In this dynamic environment, responding flexibly to changes while always making the right decisions in order to be the first to reach the objective is a huge challenge.

Fly over the water

At Bystronic, we want to help our customers fly over the water instead of laboriously sailing through the waves. Our solutions enable manufacturing companies to take the decisive step towards the smart factory, where efficient machines and state-of-the-art software are networked to create an intelligent production environment. Users benefit from high computing capacities in the cloud, an enriched business logic, a clear management platform, and, last but not least, enhanced decision-making thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning.

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