Good practice

Digitalised one-piece-flow manufacturing

Digitalised one-piece-flow manufacturing
© dizain, #83418010, 2018, source:
Energy, Materials
Manufacturing of machinery and equipment
High cost
Resource savings: Raw material:
200 kg aluminium and 2 600 kg of foam per year
Premises and operation areas:
Production processes
Size of company:
Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:

The wonders of digital production

  • Digitalisation and product key saves material and energy costs
  • Good example of 'just-in-time' manufacturing and customised production using digital solutions 

Schmalz, a mid-sized mechanical engineering company in southern Germany, has a simple ethos: only use and produce material that is absolutely necessary. Advances in digital technology and Industry 4.0 trends have played a critical role in achieving this ambitious goal.

Schmalz's vacuum gripper line is a fine example of the firm’s 'just-in-time' production strategy. Clients tend to have very specific demands as to how they would like their gripper to be configured. The details of the gripper are programmed into software when an order is placed, and it generates a unique digital production key containing all parameter values relevant to its production – construction class, valve technology, gripper length, etc. The digital key is then used by the machines at each stage of production; only the necessary material is cut out and assembled in a 'one-piece-flow' production process. As soon as the gripper is completed, it is shipped off to the customer which also saves on storage costs.

Key benefits 

The Schmalz case is a typical example of how Industry 4.0 can boost resource efficiency:

  • Material and energy savings, including for example 200 kg of aluminium and 2 600 kg of foam per year
  • Accelerated production
  • Zero excess inventory, low or no storage costs

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