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Liebherr introduces intelligent assistance system for component

Fast and reliable identification increases productivity

Anyone who provides good ideas at Liebherr, such as saving costs or shorten through put times, will be rewarded. Andreas Just from the Liebherr location in Ettlingenn is a personality that acts directly. Since certain time the time consuming and cumbersome identification of individual engine parts, on the basis of drawings, has been a thorn in the side of Liebherr. Particularly since the company is growing dynamically, the time for identifying parts with the available personnel is becoming increasingly scarce and the quality of the result is thereby considerably affected.


"There needs to be an easier and faster way” was Andreas Just thought before he started his research about optical recognition solutions. Through his Internet research, he became aware of the solution from Optimum datamangement solutions GmbH and the Smart Klaus. "I then went to Karlsruhe and tested how the assistance system works in combination with intelligent image processing. What I saw was exactly the solution I was looking forˮ he remembers. Andres Just was immediately aware of the fact, that the Smart Klaus” drastically shortens throughput times - by more than 50 percent -, increases productivity, provides security in identification and creates scope for highly qualified work. He submitted the solution as a suggestion for improvement and received management approval - along with a bonus. On the basis of his preliminary calculation, the investment pays for itself after just one year and saves the company almost five-figure annual savings.


Liebherr Ettlingen GmbH is a specialist in the reconditioning of drive components. "We recondition engines, gearboxes and hydraulic components, repair them or assemble exchange components or assemblies from stored parts. We are a remanufacturing company “, explains Andreas Just. In the diesel sector, the Ettlingen location supplies worldwide exchange engines. The delivery list includes more than 600 engine variations that have been developed over the decades. Spare parts must always be available for these, e.g. to be assembled into a replacement engine on request. The parts of disused engines form the reservoir - as well as for general overhaul and repair, also known as "Reman". The abbreviation stands for "Remanufacturing" and reconditioning of engines and other components. 2013 the ten thousandth Reman hydraulic component was delivered and 2016 the five thousandth Reman diesel engine. Planned deliveries for 2018 are in total 7,200 components, of which around 1,100 are engines, with an upward trend. On a daily basis, up to seven disused engines from excavators, wheel loaders, mobile cranes or other construction vehicles are delivered to the farm in Ettlingen. Those are dismantled by fitters, the individual parts are inspected, the reusable parts and components are washed, stripped of paint, rusted, preserved, provided with the correct identification number and then systematically stored in a high-bay warehouse. "Per engine there are up to 100 parts that need to be identifiedˮ explains Andreas Just. Although some parts can be recognized by the employees at first glance, many have to be compared in detail with the construction drawings. "This can take between four and five minutesˮ, according to Just. Especially in the case of pipes with different bends and lengths or complex parts with different bores. This requires a very precise look and measurement in order to not confuse anything, otherwise the part will not fit when it comes to the assembly of a replacement engine. This can be really stressful because any incorrect storage with a wrong identification number can lead to delays during assembly and jeopardize the delivery targets.


Since January of this year, Smart Klaus has been integrated into the work process in Ettlingen. Gradually the intelligent colleague is trained by highly qualified specialists. At the beginning of February, more than 1,500 parts had already been taught in, and by the summer of this year there had already been more than 5,000. Weight and contour are the main characteristics our Smart Klaus searches for. In the case it is insufficient to identify a part with a certainty over 90 percent, we can additionally teach in up to 100 special features - from the number and diameter of holes and gears to reflections, typefaces or surface finish”, explains Andreas Just. Even though every additional feature slows down the recognition process, the Smart Klaus is incredibly fast. Therefore, only a few number of parameters is sufficient.

A recognition with 90 percent security, is sufficient to assign the correct identification number. "He usually recognizes a part in 10 to 20 seconds” Sebastian Kurpiers says, team leader of the diesel department in Ettlingen. The speed of the Smart Klaus also increases productivity. The considerably faster throughput time increases the number of parts stored and thus offers capacities to accelerate the assembly of exchange engines and to handle more orders.


For Sebastian Kurpiers, the decisive factor is not the faster throughput time, but the time freed up for the qualified specialists. They can now concentrate on using their high qualifications to further increase quality standards, measure parts more precisely and eliminate sources of error. There are many large parts that still have to be measured and identified manually. Once the Smart Klaus has been intensively "learnt", even an assistant can take over the diagnosis. But the time has not arrived yet. Still many small article details need to be taught in to the Smart Klaus. "Each equal part looks differently optically, says Andreas Just. "There are discolorations, traces of use, rust - this requires fine-tuning of the parameters".

Sometimes it is sufficient to turn the corresponding part or place it at a different angle so that it is illuminated differently and the Smart Klaus can then identify the part. In many cases it is sufficient to adjust the contrast or limit the weight. "We gain experience with each new part so that we can adjust the recognition software more specifically, explains Andreas Just. The reassuring thing about the Smart Klaus is that the detection with the intelligent image processing (once it has been optimally adjusted) provides one hundred percent security. Employees are more relaxed and don't have to check three times to see whether the correct identification number has really been assigned.