- One of the largest electronics manufacturing organizations in the automotive industry is under new management: Henner Cnyrim is passing on the responsibility for Continental’s electronics plants to Hans-Jürgen Braun.
- Cooperative robotics and big data: on the path to the production of tomorrow with Industry 4.0
With 27 plants and approximately 35,000 employees worldwide, Continental’s electronics plants are one of the largest manufacturing organizations for automotive electronics in the world. Starting April 1, Dr. Hans-Jürgen Braun (51) is taking charge of the Continental electronics plants, as his predecessor Henner Cnyrim (60) is retiring. “Electronics production in the automotive industry is facing major challenges: Components are coming directly from the entertainment industry and are getting smaller and smaller. The development and industrialization cycles in the automotive industry are also becoming ever shorter. We must therefore make adjustments in production and continue to deliver the highest efficiency and quality,” explains Cnyrim.
The ever increasing demand for advanced driver assistance systems, e-mobility, multimedia and connectivity in vehicles has led to a sharp increase in the importance of electronics production. Solutions conceived by Continental include methods such as big data analysis or collaborative Industry 4.0 robotics. “We have already laid down the groundwork here at Continental for connected and intelligent production that is able to meet the requirements for efficiency and quality in shorter development cycles,” explains Cnyrim. He adds, “Each of our plants is already collecting 1 terabyte of raw data on a monthly basis and our products themselves know which process step they’re on, whether or not they have passed a quality check, and which step comes next.” With predictive analysis procedures such as neuronal networks, decision trees, multi-variant adaptive regressions, and many more, it will also be possible to derive future decisions from historical data. “This will not only reduce error rates and improve quality, but shortened logistical processes and optimization of both component pairings and intelligent process regulations will also reduce costs, thanks to Industry 4.0’s data analytical procedures,” Braun explains, outlining the benefits. Classification, cluster, and regression algorithms enable, for example, the use of intelligent combinations of process variations in order to reduce costs.
Long-term tests and initial implementations take place for example in the production of Continental’s injection systems.
Even so-called collaborative robotics, which is the close cooperation between employees and robots, is an innovative approach taken by Industry 4.0 which can greatly change the work organization of tomorrow. “The benefits of collaborative robotics can be seen in its ergonomics and efficiency increase, as well as in its flexibility. Modern robots can be programmed for new work steps in fewer minutes,” says Braun. “Collaborative robotics therefore offers the chance for manufacturing locations outside of the best-cost countries to secure a competitive position.” For this reason, Continental has already founded 3 robotics competence centers in Germany, USA, and China, and actively works to bring these new possibilities into production.
Combined production: Benefits through process and technological standards
Continental has already made progress on its path to connected and highly efficient electronics production: “When I took over as manager twelve years ago, the electronics production at Continental consisted only of a heterogeneous organization,” Cnyrim explains. “Once combined, we could introduce, check, and further develop process and technological standards across the board. Only in this way were we able to set up highly efficient and qualitative production on a global scale. The organization also helped with the integration of new plants. Thanks to comparable processes and results, we could and can flexibly and quickly react to new structures and requirements worldwide.”
Aside from the continuously increasing importance of automotive electronics and the centralization of electronics production, one of the main tasks for the aptly named Central Electronic Plants (CEP) consists of integrating the production from large acquisitions such as Motorola Automotive (2006) and Siemens VDO (2007) into the corporation.
Hans-Jürgen Braun, who has a doctorate in mechanical engineering, has many years of experience in production and production engineering: After holding positions at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation, and at Bosch and Behr, Braun joined Continental’s Powertrain division in 2010 as operations manager of the Engine Systems business unit. Most recently, he was in charge of coordinating all operations of the Powertrain division, before now taking over as head of the Continental electronics plants.