Research & Development

2017-04-13

Financial success through Industry 4.0: Digital Capability Center opens in Aachen

Robot programming via data glove. McKinsey partners with RWTH Aachen and PTC: digital transformation learning factory provides hands-on experience of cutting-edge technologies' value and use (c) 2017 McKinsey
Aachen has once again reaffirmed its position as a leading research hub. Last Friday saw the doors open on the Digital Capability Center (DCC) – a new kind of learning factory focusing on Industry 4.0. Manufacturing specialists and managers as well as future engineers can explore this realistic factory environment and offers them the tools they need to drive their own company's digital transformation.
The motto: Explore – Try – Apply. The DCC is a joint venture between top management consultancy McKinsey & Company, the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University, and leading technology companies including software provider PTC. The DCC Aachen is the first of its kind in the world – McKinsey will be launching other DCCs this year in Singapore, Chicago, Beijing, and Venice.

Hands-on workshops at the DCC help companies take a systematic and targeted approach to discovering Industry 4.0. They learn where and how to deploy the latest technologies along the entire value chain – from initial customer inquiry through development, production and delivery, to follow-up service. It also addresses challenges faced by management and those relating to empowering employees, as well as general acceptance of the changes brought about by a transformation. Workshop participants develop specific solutions to tackle challenges they face in their own businesses and gain insights into key digital solutions and technologies, such as real-time diagnostic tools and big data analytics, predictive maintenance, digital performance management, 3D printing, and collaborative robots.

Industry 4.0 – both an opportunity and a challenge

"Many companies have already started thinking about Industry 4.0 but get stuck when it comes to implementation. What the DCC has to offer helps companies realize the concrete value add of digitized production," said McKinsey Senior Partner Christoph Schmitz to journalists on Friday. Not only that, but Industry 4.0 represents both a major challenge to and an opportunity for the economy. McKinsey founded the global DCC network in response to the question of what Industry 4.0 means for companies in practice and how a digital transformation can be successfully realized.
Christoph Schmitz: "Companies that start using Industry 4.0 technologies can see maintenance costs and machine downtimes drop by up to 50%, while boosting productivity by up to 55%." For the most part, these technologies are already available. "What usually happens in practice is that the multifaceted, interdisciplinary skills are lacking to select the relevant technologies and deploy them in a targeted way. The organizational transformation is the biggest challenge."

DCC Aachen revolves around the production of a smart wristband that can be individually customized by the workshop participants (key phrase: lot size of 1). The production line itself maps a typical brownfield scenario comprising a mix of older and modern machines, each with different controls and interfaces. The insights gained can be very easily translated to almost any practical application in a wide range of industries.

McKinsey's partner in Aachen is the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University. "Through this textiles learning factory we're making a vital contribution to the digitization of production in Germany. We're empowering companies and their employees to successfully realize networked production. This will help German companies remain global leaders," said ITA Director Thomas Gries.

The DCC is designed to help workshop attendees explore and learn how to use the latest digital technologies and increase productivity by applying them. To that end, international software company PTC has contributed its considerable expertise in the Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality. "PTC technology enables companies to bridge the physical and digital world," said Kathleen Milford, Executive Vice President at PTC. "The DCC provides the perfect setting for companies to begin their own digital transformation.
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