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The “little” challenges within the CHALLENGE

Iber-Oleffs (IBER) main challenge within the STAR project is to become agile by good use of AI in the production process. This article is all about the little challenges they face in this journey.

IBER was born 25 years ago, with a small team of 25 people. During IBERs lifetime new projects arrived and thus IBER evolved to what it is today, a 500+ people company acting across several industries always with a special focus on technical plastic parts with kinematics. Although there were improvements in the work flows and processes over the years, the general philosophy and organization remained the same. Those were the days of mass production where customization was still a buzz word. Nowadays, the world has followed the mass of mass customization instead and organizations like IBER must quickly adapt to this trend or they run the risk of getting out of the business. In the STAR project, IBER saw the opportunity to run a first pilot of the new production cells with higher degrees of agility and autonomy.

The first of these “little” challenges were related to creating an island of customization within an organization that used to work towards mass production. It is like a piece of sand in a huge gear box. The IBER STAR team had to start from scratch a work with company colleagues to start this mind shift without jeopardizing the running production. This first challenge brought a good set of lessons learned that proved later to be very useful in other situations.

The second “little” challenge was the technological state of the art of the production lines that was in line with the philosophy of mass production. Lack of sensorization, no real-time monitorization in each workstation and so many other examples, are symbols of the history of the company. To be able to prepare the pilot, changes and adaptation of the work environment were needed far beyond what was forecasted. The team was able to understand this little challenge and in a reasonable amount of time span, to adapt the pilot areas to be ready and have the necessary technological upskill to give the mandatory output to enable the project to succeeded.

The third and last little challenge is about DATA! IBER never had to share production data with third parties. First because of the severe NDA with clients, secondly because it was never needed! Besides these two main reasons, IBER is a manufacturing site with not so many IT experts and IT expertise, meaning that training for technical teams and awareness for production teams were much appreciated and had quite an impact. Nevertheless, this is still an ongoing “little” challenge as the anonymization of the data is still something IBER is working hard on. The generation of Giga bites of information on real time are being stored in an internal database and must be transformed into valid information to be shared with the STAR partners to be further processed in the AI machine.

In summary, STAR has given IBER the chance to create not only a great pilot project for the use of AI in manufacturing processes, but also to begin a digital transformation Journey. The IBER team is excited with what the upcoming months will bring and also to see the impact of the pilot project in the full extent of the company.