A major challenge for SMEs, which are daily involved in worldwide competition, is the efficient management and control of production and its comprehensive use of in-house knowledge. Methods and technologies have been researched by the BMWi-promoted network IMAP to use them for an integrated assembly portal with flexible and adaptable tools to support the production processes of SMEs.
The construction drawing of the current contract lies on the work table. The worker knows jobs like this – he is qualified to manage each level of each order. He has listed his knowledge about the process and he is able to handle the contract quickly and accurately. One week later: The worker is sick. A colleague settles a similar contract. But he cannot understand the notes made by the ill worker; that is why he is uncertain to manage the information of each operation. He restarts the settings of the machines and has to accept time-consuming, expensive mistakes.
Most of all SMEs operate with a flexible assignment of personnel. The workers use different materials and manage different machines, depending on the specific work order. In this context, they develop practical knowledge, memorized by themselves and written on personal papers. Colleagues normally have no access to this knowledge.
The joint project IMAP has been a cooperation of the Fraunhofer IGD, Fraunhofer AGP, software providers and industrial application partners. IMAP focused semantic and efficient solutions for the use of knowledge in SMEs. It ran until the end of July, 2012, and addressed the functional increase of installation planning, assembly process and knowledge engineering to keep the competitiveness of SMEs in the world market.
A building block system based upon a portal system has been developed as an example for maritime industry by Fraunhofer IGD and Fraunhofer AGP. The range of functions was adaptable for each operation and expandable for different requirements. All entrepreneurial information was bundled in a common data pool. The portal system administered and distributed work orders and enterprise data centrally for the employees.
This system received machine adjustments and specific information about the work order, work process and product, indicated by the respective worker. Practical knowledge could be called up any time by every worker and important information was quickly exchangeable because of the portal system. Processes of production and assembly could be efficiently planned and managed even by disruption of operating routines. This reduce of workload motivates und supports employees in all departments. The portal systems provided additional information about the production process and presented the workers contribution in production and assembly.