Digitalization proved to be a central topic at this year’s Ligna trade fair. Henkel is convinced that digitalization must be an essential element in the woodworking industry’s approach to meeting the major challenges ahead – from increasing individualization requirements to ensuring quality and efficiency while reducing delivery times. To seize its full potential, digitalization must entail a process that brings all members of the supply chain closer together. With its leading market role as an adhesive supplier and its production process and application know-how, Henkel aims to support its customers in their digitalization journey.
“Over the past years, our customers in the wood and furniture industry have pursued an extensive optimization process, especially when it comes to their internal operations,” explains Oliver Klewe, Business Development Manager for Furniture and Building Components at Henkel. “To successfully master the challenges ahead, however, and continue this optimization, the necessary next step is to link the entire supply chain closer together. Discussions with our customers at Ligna made it unmistakable: digitalization will be key in this.”
The quadruple challenge: individualization, reliably high quality, cost efficiency and short delivery times
Individualization of furniture is one of the leading trends driving the need for efficient production of small batch sizes – down to batch size one. Consumers today want to be able to choose from a nearly endless combination of surfaces, structures and materials, door and drawer types, adapting a kitchen, for example, to their specific personal tastes. “At the same time, there’s no room for compromise on quality, and pressure to keep prices competitive is increasing as well,” says Klewe. “A further consumer trend is intensifying the challenge: In the age of same-day delivery in online shopping, customers are not willing to accept long lead times. For many, having to wait several weeks or even months for a new kitchen cabinet is a deal breaker.”
The combination of these factors is creating a real challenge for the industry. Different designs, forms, coatings and surface materials require different applications, materials and bonding technologies. “This leads to a complexity not unlike that seen in the automotive industry, with implications for stock-keeping, production processes to mention just two of those challenges,” Henkel’s expert states.
Unlocking the power of data integration with Henkel
Digitalization of ordering and production processes has become a necessity to remain competitive. This makes collaboration across the entire value chain obligatory, allowing for an integrated information ecosystem that essentially spans from consumer all the way back to the raw material provider. “We want to help our customers unlock digitalization’s potential for control and transparency in the production process,” Klewe explains. Collaboration has always been a central approach to Henkel’s business, working together with our customers and industry partners. Klewe adds: “The next step for us is to extend our portfolio to include support empowered by digital processes with our smart service project Henkel Connect.”
The company is currently running a pilot for the 3D thermoforming application with Henkel Connect. With this solution, a sensor kit monitors different variables in the application process such as pressure, temperatures and humidity. The data generated is stored in a secure cloud, where it is processed in a structured manner and made accessible for the customer. This provides customers with high-precision process control, enabling quality documentation and ensuring continuously high output quality in production. Reliable output quality further allows for optimized raw material use – including adhesives – reduces waste and thereby improves production efficiency. Additionally, storing application process information can prove valuable with the increase in applied materials to match the individualization needs: The optimal parameters for the different materials and applications can be archived and retrieved at any point in time when needed. This information could also be used to optimize processes for other production sites or machine lines.
“The information stored can also be shared with Henkel’s technical customer service. Should any issues arise, it is possible to provide remote support in resolving them as quickly as possible. The application data can also be curated and analyzed for the customer, providing previously unreached detail and insight levels. This shows how digitalization provides true additional value for our customers and at the same time provides us with additional opportunities to grow our solution portfolio and hence our business Klewe summarizes. “The basis for all of this is partnerships built on trust, and we are looking forward to enabling our customers to create a competitive advantage through digitalization.”