Quality takes top priority
In the age of digitalization, companies are constantly striving to balance quality, performance and costs. Jerich International is investing in the future and enhancing their picking work stations with image processing technology by ivii – all the while keeping the focus on the person. Herbert Jerich Jr., Juliane Jerich and Wolfgang Ferk talk about quality assurance in the automotive logistics.
Jerich International and the KNAPP Group, to which ivii belongs, are both family-run companies operating internationally. What do they have in common?
Herbert Jerich: Both companies strive to find the optimal logistics solution, with Jerich International focussing on the supply chain and KNAPP on tailor-made warehouse logistics solutions.
Wolfgang Ferk: Open, cordial and informal interaction with all employees is very important both for KNAPP and Jerich. Both companies maintain a strong focus on sustainability and innovation in their respective fields.
Hashtag innovation: Within the KNAPP Group, ivii is the specialist in image processing. Why is this technology interesting to Jerich?
Quality is our top priority. We are an OEM supplier and our quality-check employees work eight hours a day, applying the six eyes principle when checking the vehicle body parts. Lack of concentration for just a moment, fatigue or distraction can lead to errors. We can accept 3 errors by the employees – for about 100,000 parts a year – otherwise, we would risk losing our important status as an A supplier. In the worst-case scenario we might even loose our supplier accreditation. The wrong vehicle body part is just as much an error as a barcode that has been mistakenly covered. We were looking for the system that most closely resembles the human eye – the digital eye – to fulfil these high-quality requirements and to reduce the strain on our employees. That’s how we arrived at the image processing system of ivii.
High quality requirements and reducing employee strain were the focus of the project. How did ivii approach this task?
W. Ferk: We cooperatively developed a concept in several stages. The solution consists of a smart work station equipped with the ivii system and situated in the goods-out area. Jerich is currently testing a prototype of this ivii.smartdesk. Later, there will be an optimization period for clearly defining processes and for sharpening the image recognition precision, also focussing on ergonomics and design.
What have you already observed using the ivii.smartdesk?
Juliane Jerich: Process optimization has clearly progressed. We were able to reduce the six eyes principle to a two eyes principle. The employees can now focus on different activities in the process for which up to now no resources have been available. The table also looks great! Working with new technologies motivates our employees. The technological advantage enables us to gain more customers; the quality provided by the system offers our customers one hundred percent security.
On humans and automation: Do your employees perceive the system as surveillance or support?
J. Jerich: Initially, our employees were a little sceptical about the cameras. But as soon as they realized that the system is actually a support for them, these worries subsided. The new activities are a big motivation for our employees. The picker’s responsibilities are various: placing the parts on the work station in the correct position, operating the system correctly, registering new parts of the article range and teaching them to the system. Without the human input, the system would be worthless.
Let’s look ahead: What do you expect from the completion of this project?
H. Jerich: I want to be the innovation leader with the warehouse of the future never before seen by the automation industry – that’s why we are investing. Next year we are building a 15,000 m2 warehouse with innovative work stations and robots supporting our employees. Here I’ll be able to show my customers the future-oriented manner in which we work. With KNAPP and ivii, we have found a competent partner to realize these aims.
About workplace design in the future: What would a future workplace by ivii look like? Which industry sectors would profit the most?
W. Ferk: At the end of the day, it is all about optimizing the daily routine, regardless of the sector or technology. The employee is supported by technology but is still the operative agent. There is no better employee than the human, so why not give them relief from heavy lifting, support them with robots and give them different tasks to do? Visual systems by ivii provide an ergonomically designed workplace for the employees where physical effort is reduced using intelligent image processing solutions. Quality requirements in the distribution and automation sectors are not decreasing, quite the contrary! That’s why technological support for the employee makes sense. Robot and human are not working against each other but hand in hand, preparing for the future.
Gamification is often named as one of the trends in future workplace design. What do you see as the significance of gamification in employee motivation?
W. Ferk: Gamification is a trend we considered when designing the workplace for one of our customers in the USA. The playful approach brightens the daily work routine.
How do you motivate your employees at Jerich International?
H. Jerich: In our company, the playful approach is not that important in the production sector. The employees are motivated by the new responsibility they get when using the ivii.smartdesk. Personally, I don’t think that a playful approach is important at work. The productivity of each individual employee, however, should be encouraged. We motivate our employees by organizing different activities, team-buildings and customer events.
J. Jerich: At the end of the day, our quality depends on our employees. We depend on the performance of our employees and want to ensure that they are doing well. The company climate is relevant to employee commitment, reflected by the fact that, in urgent cases, it’s no big deal for employees to work a little overtime. Appreciation and teamwork are essential elements which characterize us as a family-run company. Communication as equals is also an important value.
Why is image processing a trending topic for the future?
W. Ferk: Image processing is becoming more and more important to the automation and intralogistics sectors. With optical systems, we can support the employees during their work. The algorithm of our Vision systems can always be applied, regardless how many hours a day. Fatigue and the likelihood of confusion or distractions that may lead to errors are completely eliminated by the Vision systems. Features that were only detectable by the human eye can now be checked using image processing algorithms.
Deep learning is another significant trend in the image processing sector: The number of parts to be checked only increases the longer a Vision system is in use. After a while, it’s simply too much work to teach in the parts manually. This is the point where Deep Learning comes into play: Based on experience and the photos of parts it has already learned, the intelligent algorithm knows where to allocate the new part. The ivii system learns based on the values from its past experience.