AKRON—Much of the Western world is looking for a so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” and automated machinery can be a big part of that effort.
Different governments have different names for the initiatives, but they all revolve around the same objective: bringing manufacturing back to Western countries, according to Jan Grashuis, vice president of global research and development for VMI Holland B.V.
In Germany, it's called Industrie 4.0, in the U.S. the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition and in the Netherlands, where VMI is based, the program is called Smart Industry. But whatever the name, the keys are flexibility in specification and volume, fine-tuning to customer needs, and improving efficiency as a way to reduce cost.
“The trend is where production comes back to the Western world and production is less dependent on the cost of labor,” Grashuis said.
He gave a presentation titled “Modernizing Production Machinery to Gain Efficiency, Quality and Reduce Waste,” during the International Tire Exhibition & Conference, held Sept. 9-11 in Akron.
For the tire industry—for which VMI is a major supplier of tire making machinery—the major needs include improving quality while cutting waste, all with the goal of reducing the cost of each tire. “And the steps you need to do that in China are different than they are in Japan or in Europe or in the U.S.,” he said.
VMI's R&D team developed a tire cost model to see what each step of the process added to the cost of a tire, including transportation and storage in between steps. “We want to understand if we change something to the machine or add something to the machine, what it does to the total cost of the tire,” the VMI official said. “We want to make machines that are helping customers to make money in their setting.”
The machinery maker, he said, aims to understand all parts of the process, including such items as mixing and calendering, and not just what VMI supplies.