DECISION FOR THE FUTURE
The groundbreaking for a new production plant for the Gustav Wolf Group was held in late October 2017 in the Polish village of Zimna Wódka. In attendance were local representatives from the Opole economic zone, important customers and Gustav Wolf employees as Managing Director Dr. Ernst Wolf stressed the importance of the new plant for the Group. The site positions the Gütersloh-based company closer to key customers from the automotive industry and ensures better coverage of the European economic area.
At the event, Dr. Ernst Wolf took the opportunity to highlight the key role played by the new plant: “Many people do not recognize that technological development is progressing at an exponential rate. They try to look to the past and project into the future. If this thing has happened in the past ten years, then that Thing will likely happen in the next ten years. This is a massive error to make, and it causes many industries to sleep through what is actually happening.” With the technical design of the new production facility, the Gustav Wolf Group has no doubt made a forward-looking decision. Production overall is facing major upheaval, whether it is production of wire, cars or PCs. The extensive spread of information and communications technology and its link to an Internet of Things under the striking name of “Industry 4.0” is generating services and data that allow for real-time production capabilities. The result is new opportunities to design processes on an ad hoc basis, to respond to customer demands more quickly and flexibly and to economically produce high numbers of variants for small order quantities. It makes new forms of customer-integrated Business processes possible. The term used here is “customer to factory.” “In future, the Gustav Wolf Group will not be able to do anything other than to stay one step ahead of the game in terms of innovation,” said Dr. Ernst Wolf in explaining the significance of Industry 4.0. The focus remains on People However, working people will continue to remain the focus, even in an integrated virtual factory. “Our qualified employees close the sensory gaps that will always be present. They have many years of experience in assessing and finding solutions for exceptional situations. And, as a labor force, they add their creativity and flexibility to our processes,” says Dr. Ernst Wolf. Introducing new key technologies at Gustav Wolf is not meant to place any jobs in jeopardy. Instead, new technology offers opportunities for support and development that until now have been unimaginable. In future, office and production staff will find Support in applying their skills more expediently, and will find themselves freed up from undertaking monotonous or physically strenuous tasks. Added value for customers the development of the Wolf Group is being followed attentively by customers as well. The transformation from a traditional family company from Gütersloh to a global service provider for wire and cable products was one that was highly valued. However, customers’ current estimation of the company shows that the focus is now more on significantly shorter response times and adaptability. This is true both of the organization as well as production side of things. In terms of production, the gradual development of information and communications technology has ensured that high-performance yet affordable sensors are now available today, even in the wire roduction industry. The next stage of development for Gustav Wolf at its Polish location now lies in putting production data for autonomously controlled processes to work. “In the long term we want to offer our customers quality control in real time.”
Opportunities from Industry 4.0
There was much discussion of the new vision for Gustav Wolf at the ceremony in Poland. Given the shortage of skilled workers, especially in Poland, however, the discussions always stressed that 4.0 will put the problem into perspective. The two project managers, Daniel Wolf and Hugo van den Broecke, made clear that production under the 4.0 principle lays the foundations for dismantling traditional structures. These are then replaced by flexible, configurable products and services and interactive, cooperative decision-making mechanisms. “A distinct approach to learning lies at the heart of the new organization. We are looking for talented people who find the potential offered by Industry 4.0 as thrilling as we do.”