thyssenkrupp versiondog Case Study

versiondog Leaves no PLC Forgotten at the thyssenkrupp Smart Factory

thyssenkrupp produces Smart cars at its factory in Hambach, Germany and uses versiondog to reduce downtime and improve the reliability of its production process. Continue reading the full thyssenkrupp versiondog case study to learn more. 

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thyssenkrupp has seven facilities worldwide that produce a diverse range of OEM’s like AMG and BMW. Each thyssenkrupp facility is tailored to meet the production requirements of the OEM and is typically located in their vicinity.

The Hambach production facility specializes in the construction of axles for Smart vehicles. The facility is especially unique as its assembly lines are situated on the same premises as that of the Smart production site.

Why did thyssenkrupp see the need for versiondog?

thyssenkrupp factory

Terms of delivery are naturally tighter at the Hambach facility than they would be elsewhere.

Gilles Gaeng, Technical Manager of Maintenance and IT at thyssenkrupp says, “a Smart vehicle is produced every two minutes and we have to deliver our axles accordingly. Where other plants might have several hours, at Hambach we only have 32 minutes. This small buffer means zero tolerance when it comes to delays or else the whole plant is left standing.”

The impetus came one day when the front axle production line came to a standstill for three and a half hours. For a facility whose single production minute costs 7,000 euros, this unplanned downtime was catastrophic. Their current troubleshooting plan involved disconnecting central PLCs for the power supply, which resulted in the loss of actual values. Controllers were only backed up manually ever six months and there was no backup of the latest version. Maintenance staff tended to save current versions on their local computers and PLCs weren’t always connected to the production network.

In the aftermath of the incident, Gaeng sought a long-term automated backup solution that would allow unplanned downtime to be resolved immediately. He needed a reputable version control software with the ability to automate backups and reduce downtime on the Smart factory floor.

How easy was versiondog to set up at thyssenkrupp?

thyssenkrupp factory

thyssenkrupp was searching for a preventative maintenance solution that was well-respected in the automotive industry. They found it in a software that would automatically, regularly, and reliably document and store software versions – versiondog.

The first step was to create a new network infrastructure, within which all relevant controllers and modules were able to communicate with each other and exchange data. Every assembly line, machine, and PLC were connected to the new production network. Then, the maintenance staff was trained.

Gaeng himself set up all jobs in the versiondog AdminClient and trained his team members to use the versiondog UserClient. “After just three hours of training, every employee can work with versiondog in the UserClient,” he says. Most technicians only need to know where they need to go to access programs on the server, how to Check-In work, and what to document. The software is not intimidating and technicians use it as a standard procedure.

How does thyssenkrupp use versiondog for automatic backups?

thyssenkrupp factory

A total of 105 data backups, also known as jobs, are carried out on a regular basis. These include data blocks (which are backed up every five minutes), PLCs (which are backed up daily), and tightening system controllers (which are backed up on a weekly basis). These intervals are adjusted according to need. Special attention is given to the tightening system controllers due to the fact that all power cards, network cards, and parameters are documented there.

“Now we save a lot of time because the data can be immediately retrieved and I am always aware of the current status,” Gaeng said. “No PLC goes forgotten. We are well equipped.” Until versiondog was introduced, backing up data from all 96 channels was a time-consuming task that had to be carried out manually. It took on average five minutes per backup, plus extra time to go from location to location.

How does thyssenkrupp use versiondog for better documentation?

“The fact that backups can not only be saved but also compared with each other is an enormous help to us, especially during audits,” Gaeng said.

He is able to send documentation to Smart even when internal audits are carried out (typically twice per year). In addition to the internal audit, there is also the TÜV audit, the ISO audit, and the IATF audit. Now, Gaeng can provide the auditor will all important information at the click of a button and at any time without any preparation.

How does thyssenkrupp use versiondog to prevent production downtime?

One of the most important changes has been that the latest program versions are no longer located on different local computers, but in one central database. Gaeng can make adjustments in the versiondog AdminClient. When a new section of the plant is added, he will first choose smaller backup intervals, which will be extended as time goes on.

For Gaeng, versiondog has become an important tool for preventive analysis. For instance, versiondog sends an error message for critical network connections of tightening system controllers, enabling maintenance technicians to restart the controller onsite and prevent production line failure.

The bottom line for the thyssenkrupp versiondog case study – was versiondog worth it?

Let’s get to bottom of this thyssenkrupp versiondog case study. Was it worth it for thyssenkrupp to adopt this data management solution in their Smart factory? Gaeng says that versiondog has more than paid for itself since its introduction.

Gaeng describes a recent incident that versiondog helped to prevent to illustrate this. “Graphical comparisons make differences immediately recognizable and I receive a message if changes have not been versioned,” he said. Gaeng was able to compare versions quickly to prevent any greater damage from occurring after an external PLC programmer made changes. The next day, he compared the last versions with each other and was able to immediately go back to the last error-free version.

“The fact that backups can not only be saved, but also compared with each other is an enormous help to us, especially during audits. I see no reason as to why we would ever do without this system (versiondog) again.”

- Gilles Gaeng, Technical Manager of Maintenance & IT at thyssenkrupp Automotive Systems GmbH

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