toii® expert Oliver D. in an interview
Unique slitter knife assembly software, jointly developed by slitter knife manufacturers and shop floor IT specialists
toii®.Cut is the newly developed software module from thyssenkrupp Materials IoT for slitter knife assembly. The new application optimizes slitter knife assembly, thanks to unique automation, tool management and innovative options for cross-location collaboration among stainless steel and steel service centers.
Interview with Senior Developer and Architect Oliver D.
Oliver D., the senior developer and architect at thyssenkrupp Materials IoT who is responsible for the development, provides insight into the functions, technology, applications and development of the system. The engineer/IT expert has over 20 years of experience in industrial software development. With an interdisciplinary team of software developers, process optimizers and slitter knife manufacturers, he advanced toii®.Cut from an idea to a market-ready product. The team integrated operational excellence and many years of practical knowledge into the new product.
What is toii®.Cut and what is it used for in stainless steel and steel service centers?
toii®.Cut is a web-based module and part of our toii® IIoT and MES platform that is specially designed for slitter knife assembly for the coil slitting process. By integrating order data from ERP systems or through manual input, toii®.Cut automatically generates slitter knife assembly plans.
What changes does the automated generation of slitter knife assembly plans make in steel service centers?
toii®.Cut automatically specifies which tools must optimally be installed on the slitter head, and in which sequence, in order to cut the required coil widths. What used to be manually calculated and transferred to tables or was selectively output by standalone systems is now automatically available to any slitter knife manufacturer on the workstation screen: the automatically generated, optimal arrangement of the rotary knives. The goal of toii®.Cut is to maximally leverage the product width within the specified customer tolerances and, in doing so, increase the profitability of the steel service center. At the same time, the tooling time for knife heads is significantly reduced. In addition, toii®.Cut can be used to minimize edges while leveraging customer tolerances.
What is the main use or core benefit of toii®.Cut?
Cross-location sharing of the charts with the clearances between knives is one of the outstanding features. These charts list the defined offset between the top and bottom rotary knives. You could call them the “Holy Grail” of any steel service center. The offset is fundamental to guiding a precise, clean cut through any steel quality or material thickness with maximum process reliability. Until now, only obsolete, standalone applications have been available for slitter knife assembly. The option to exchange these charts between several locations enables all centers of an organization to share their best-practice experience and achieve significant overall improvements in both their slitter knife assembly process and results for their customers.
What are some other highlights?
Alongside the automated generation of slitter knife assembly plans and cross-location exchange of clearance charts, toii®.Cut facilitates centralized tool management. All the relevant data and condition information of the various knives are stored in the software. For example, which knife is available for which cutting process, whether they are worn or defective, or if they need to be sharpened. The corresponding knives are then highlighted in the tool management function. The management function can also be used on a cross-location basis for purposes of evaluation, for example.
What was it like to develop toii®.Cut? What know-how for steel service centers is in the product?
toii®.Cut was developed by practitioners for practitioners. Those aren’t just empty words: after all, we are in a win-win situation. We have thyssenkrupp Materials Processing Europe, which operates stainless steel and steel service centers, in our corporation. In other words, the software is developed in close partnership with the people who deal with the challenges of slitter knife assembly every day. Based on this partnership and collaboration, toii®.Cut offers solutions that truly meet the practical requirements of steel service centers and also generate significant benefits.
What were the main challenges that you had to resolve during the collaboration?
toii®.Cut was basically developed in response to specific challenges that our colleagues at thyssenkrupp Materials Processing had with their previous software for slitter knife assembly. The standalone applications used by machine manufacturers were obsolete and had not been developed further. They were also not web-based, which made it difficult to access them from different workstations. And they lacked the detail adjustments that are necessary for optimal slitter knife assembly. The assembly plans had to be manually revised repeatedly, which builds in a high potential for errors. We were faced with an entirely heterogeneous world.
How were you able to solve these challenges?
Completely new software emerged from our teamwork. Many experts were involved. What we now offer the market in the form of toii®.Cut is a preconfigured, ready-to-use system for shop floors that can also be adapted to the special requirements of any steel service center. For example, several clearance charts and a number of other parameters can be easily integrated.
What effect does cross-location use specifically have in practice?
It supports communication and transparency, creates mutual optimization potential and also has a homogenization effect. toii®.Cut enables the work processes required in slitter knife assembly to be standardized across locations. Since all locations have access to the same clearance charts, tool management and assembly plan functions, a consistent, company-wide standard can be created. This makes it easier to onboard skilled workers and give them advanced training. If the same user interfaces and functionalities are available at all locations, employees can be trained more quickly and efficiently. Particularly in times of skilled employee scarcity, this is extremely important. Further, homogenization minimizes the error rate. Using a standardized software platform reduces the risks of manual errors that can occur at different locations due to different systems and processes. In sum, the homogenization effect leads to a significant increase in overall efficiency because it ensures consistent quality. At the same time, it reduces administrative effort and the complexity of the process landscape.
And what about international locations?
toii®.Cut has a multilingual design and is therefore valuable for companies that do business around the globe. Currently, toii®.Cut is available in German, English, Spanish and Polish, and we are integrating other languages.
How does toii®.Cut fit into the existing toii® IIoT and MES platform?
toii®.Cut is an integral component of our platform, which enables us to map, analyze and automate the entire value chain of steel processing. The modules are designed to generate major advantages independently of each other. However, they have the greatest impact through harmonized data transfer between each other, which offers significant synergies. Knife widths are a good example: as soon as they have been generated in toii®.Cut, they are automatically transferred to toii®.Control. toii®.Control can then parameterize the automated separator shaft setup.
Does toii®.Cut also contribute to quality management and, if so, how?
Of course it does. Traceability is key on modern shop floors. toii®.Cut contributes to this by making the relevant slitter assembly plan and changes from the history available via the order number. This enables quality management to evaluate the processes in detail.
What are the technical prerequisites for toii®.Cut and how well can the module be integrated into an existing IT infrastructure?
toii®.Cut was designed with the express aim of being easy to integrate into a range of IT landscapes. The module can be installed on any current Windows server. This applies to both local, on-site installation and cloud-based solutions, which makes its flexibility even higher. As an interface to existing ERP systems, a REST API is available as standard. However, we can also adapt the connection according to specific customer needs: for example, to SAP or special ERP solutions. toii®.Cut is based on cutting-edge development platforms such as .NET, which means investment and future security for customers.
Which security measures have been implemented?
Security is, of course, an essential factor. This is why we realized a rights management function that works both locally and across different locations. It protects the data and ensures that only authorizes persons have access to specific functions or information.
Can interested companies test toii®.Cut in advance?
Yes, definitely. We offer a demo version of toii®.Cut, hosted in Azure. It gives customers the opportunity to test all functions under conditions that simulate practical use. This way, they can see for themselves what advantages the module offers.
That sounds very promising. And what about commissioning?
As a rule, the module is implemented and commissioned in only a few days. Of course, this varies depending on the specific configuration and requirements of the respective company. Our field engineering team supports the process from start to finish and ensures that everything runs smoothly. After successful commissioning, we continue to support our customers in order to ensure that they get the best from their investment in toii®.Cut.
Do you want to learn more about the knife making software toii®.Cut? Watch the video to get an overview of the functions and features of the module.
Do you have questions about the IIoT platform toii®?
Contact us, we will be happy to answer your questions.