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DMG MORI has been using TULIP in spindle assembly for quite some time.

DMG MORI has been cooperating with TULIP since 2019. With its no-code platform, the American software provider has set itself the task of visualizing both manual processes – for example in assembly or quality control – and machine-internal processes through TULIP apps as well as enriching processes with relevant data queries. On the other hand, processes on the machine can also be integrated into TULIP. Users can create these apps without any special programming knowledge. What's more, they can actively and individually shape the digitization of their processes. In this interview, Marius Schmiedt, Head of Operational Excellence at DMG MORI, talks about how DMG MORI is profitably integrating TULIP into its portfolio – both in its own day-to-day business and in the day-to-day production of its customers.

Mr. Schmiedt, what made TULIP so interesting as a cooperation partner for DMG MORI?

Marius Schmiedt, Head of Operational Excellence at DMG MORI 

In machine tool manufacturing, DMG MORI is considered a pioneer in the digitization of manufacturing processes. Since we think very holistically in this area, it is only logical to also include tasks that do not take place directly on the machine but are usually performed manually. Classic examples are assembly and quality control. With TULIP, users have the possibility to accompany such process steps digitally – be it in the form of instructions that visually explain individual assembly steps, or data acquisition for measurements in quality management.

DMG MORI is one of these users. How did you integrate TULIP in your plants?

That was indeed the first step. In our production, we quickly elicited use cases that we could optimize with the help of TULIP apps. One of these apps supports the team in spindle assembly at the Pfronten site right from the start. This initially benefits the skilled workers who are being newly trained. Videos illustrate every step of the process. In addition, TULIP contributes to quality because the individual work steps have to be confirmed. We also use TULIP successfully in the monoBLOCK Excellence Factory. With interactive checklists and inspection plans, the entire assembly process of the monoBLOCK machining centers is documented in real time. This ensures a continuous, assembly-accompanying quality inspection.

Ultimately, your customers also benefit from this experience...

That's right. We have tested TULIP intensively internally. Over 200 employees have already been trained in the use of the platform in Europe alone. The first step of the training is an overview of how TULIP works. A second module then teaches the actual programming of the app, although programming is too much to say. The operation of the no-code platform is very intuitive. Today, we are successfully using TULIP in all plants and many central departments. Of course, we pass this experience on to our customers. We support them in finding suitable use cases for TULIP and implementing them. The central question is where TULIP apps have a real benefit and are more than just a nice-to-have.

How exactly can this benefit be determined?

The question is, of course, how quickly the investment in TULIP, i.e. license fees, app building and staff training, pays for itself. We generally assume a payback period of seven to eight months, or a maximum of one year. After that, the processes are optimized to such an extent that TULIP significantly increases the profitability of production. Above all, the ease of use of the TULIP platform motivates a company's employees to build their own apps. This is a creative process that can lead to ever new applications.

You had mentioned manual assembly operations and quality controls as concrete examples. With a concrete view to the store floor, TULIP also runs directly on the CELOS interface. Can you name any applications where operators can benefit from TULIP apps directly at the machine?

TULIP can be used directly on the CELOS interface of DMG MORI machines.

A good example is automation solutions, which nowadays are increasingly flexible in processing even small batch sizes. It is necessary to keep an overview over several shifts. Without this overview, a workpiece could in the worst case be machined with the wrong NC program – resulting in a potential collision and machine downtime. One customer has created a TULIP app that records all raw parts before they enter the automation system and also handles the posting of finished parts. This ensures correct and process-safe processing of orders.

What about the data security of the customers? For example, do TULIP users know at any time exactly who has access to the data at any given time and for what reason, and is it basically possible for customers to determine sovereignly and at any time when which partner has access to the data?

Access to data can be solved on the customer side via existing authentications in the companies and with the help of role profiles within TULIP. These define who is allowed to see and change what. Basically, however, TULIP pursues the goal of transparency in order to avoid redundant data and to link processes with each other. TULIP does not want to create data silos. In the relationship between customer and supplier, TULIP offers both the standard REST API and a way to connect TULIP instances of customers and suppliers. Data is stored in Europe through Microsoft Azure.

TULIP stands for digitization that puts people at the center. How does that manifest itself in practice?

We now have many examples where people on the shop floor can solve their day-to-day problems. With TULIP, we have a tool that can be used in the guardrails of central IT. We also operate the agile development approach, which focuses on many loops including feedback and learning. So we don't want to build solutions past the problem. A good example is also the internal testing in our monoBLOCK Excellence Factory. When it was designed and built, DMG MORI heavily involved the team there to make the assembly of the machines as ergonomic and efficient as possible for everyone involved. This also involved the creation of the TULIP app, in which the individual employees were able to get involved. In other words, they undertook the digitization according to their requirements and did not have to submit to any rigid systems.

One challenge in digitization continues to be how to deal with the large amount of data. How does TULIP capture this in context with ERP and MES, for example?

ERP and MES are higher-level systems that manage processes from order entry to production to order completion, and the people on the store floor often do not have direct access to this information. With TULIP, the relevant available information can be made available to the people on the store floor clearly and quickly. Furthermore, there are always steps on the lower process level that are not recorded or specified by an MES, for example quality gates or releases. At this point, Excel tables or even paper documents are usually used again. TULIP Apps act here as connectors that can display information from the ERP system live and feed back data from production. To put it exaggeratedly, TULIP “forces” a company to “think in data”. This is an important step in digital transformation. Areas need to talk about processes and data and find a common company data model.

Does this allow conclusions to be drawn indirectly or directly about the respective operators?

In principle, yes, but TULIP can also be used with anonymous accounts. Thus, no direct relationship of data to persons is possible. In the case of very sensitive process data, the TULIP app can be adapted accordingly so that no conclusions can be drawn. Only the relevant process data is then stored. The rest can be deleted automatically.

With TULIP, you support the digital transformation of entire process chains, even away from machine tools. What are your visions in this context?

TULIP supports assembly with step-by-step instructions and can also be connected to IoT equipment such as pick-by-light systems.

TULIP can act here as a central building block of digitization, because IoT equipment can be integrated very easily – for example barcode scanners, torque wrenches or pick-by-light systems in assembly. It is also already possible to use TULIP in conjunction with cameras. Through movement or colors, an app can detect changes in condition or hands and people in dangerous zones. Automatic detection of bad parts by artificial intelligence is also conceivable. The powerful thing about TULIP is that it all comes “on board” with the platform.

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