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ifm awarded: Pick Control and Pick'n'place

Since 2015, Allianz Industrie 4.0 Baden-Württemberg has been running a competition to find outstanding ideas within industry and science that fully exploit the potential of Industry 4.0. Two ifm solutions - ifm Pick Control and ifm Pick'n'place - have now been awarded.

Allianz Industrie 4.0 is a network founded and sponsored by Germany's federal state of Baden-Württemberg. Together with its partner organisations, its aim is to pool technological expertise in production as well as IT and communications so as to provide support for medium-sized industrial companies when moving towards Industry 4.0.

The coordination office is based at the headquarters of the VDMA regional association Baden-Württemberg.

The "winners" of the competition are listed under "100 Places for Industry 4.0 in Baden-Württemberg". The focus of this year's event was on artificial intelligence. ifm entered the competition with its Pick Control and Pick'n'place applications – and was declared one of the winners.

On 3 August 2020, State Secretary Katrin Schütz congratulated the latest winners of the "100 Places for Industry 4.0 in Baden-Württemberg" competition by video message. "Baden-Württemberg is a pioneer in trendsetting technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and in implementing innovative ideas for the industry of the future. With this award, we want to motivate small and medium-sized companies, in particular, to actively address the real opportunities offered by Industry 4.0," said Schütz. A total of 13 digitisation solutions in the field of production engineering, which companies and institutions use successfully on a daily basis, were rewarded.

How does Pick Control work?

Pick Control was developed to support ifm employees when performing manual picking, assembly and packaging processes without restricting their activities. The application works by combining object recognition – i.e. the hands – and the individual tracking of each recognised hand. A combined 2D/3D camera enables precise recognition of the gripping position.

Number of complaints reduced by 50%!

Thanks to the use of Pick Control, there has even been a 50% reduction in the number of packaging error complaints! The advantages of Pick Control are the live, non-restrictive feedback given to employees, the low investment costs and the competitiveness that it also provides to small and medium-sized companies where extensive automation is not possible or only possible to a limited extent. Further, it supports employees instead of replacing them, thus helping to preserve jobs.

By the way: Pick Control will also be available soon as the product "ifm mate"!

Pick Control works so well that ifm will not be the only one benefiting from the system in the future. Under its new name "ifm mate", Pick Control is currently developing into a real ifm product that will soon be available to ifm customers.

Pick'n'place – what is that?

The application is a complex production planning tool for printed circuit boards. PCBs for sensors, controllers, fieldbus components or dialogue modules are the electronic heart at the core of all ifm products. At ifm, PCBs are assembled close to Lake Constance in southern Germany.

The challenges of PCB assembly lie in the fact that 22.2 million PCBs with 1.2 billion components are produced each year, and in the fact that there are 2,600 PCB variants.

Planning production processes for PCB assembly at ifm were previously carried out manually. This required a high level of expertise and many years of experience to solve the complex and time-consuming planning task properly.

The Pick'n'place application now helps to ensure placement in the production flow, thereby maintaining the maximum efficiency of production sequences.

The aim of production planning is to group orders into clusters in order to minimise setup changes and thus downtime of the pick-and-place machines. This is the only way to ensure on-time production with maximum productivity.

And this is how it was done before:

Previously, there was no software solution available that met ifm's requirements for automating production planning.

The existing software solutions failed to take into account ifm processes upstream or downstream of the pick-and-place machine and were thus unable to determine optimum capacity utilisation.

And this is how it is done now:

Pick'n'place helps ifm production planning experts achieve optimum utilisation of the pick-and-place lines. With Pick'n'place, it is also possible to quickly achieve excellent production planning for very small and short-term production orders.

Production planning time reduced from 7 hours to 5-10 minutes (per day)!

Pick'n'place reduces the time required for production planning from 7 hours to 5-10 minutes (per day). In addition, the algorithm takes into account a constantly changing order volume and product variety and ensures optimum utilisation of the entire pick-and-place line, including upstream and downstream processes. Even in changing conditions, the application manages to find efficient solutions through continuous learning.

All these advantages make Pick'n'place an Industry 4.0 winner.