Dig­i­ti­za­tion: Cre­ating tar­geted added value

“More is better” is nei­ther true in med­i­cine nor in dig­i­ti­za­tion. Dig­ital solu­tions have to be applied at very spe­cific problem areas. The new Pex­cite soft­ware plat­form pro­vides ­cus­tomers in phar­ma­ceu­tical pro­duc­tion with smart solu­tions that really make a dif­fer­ence. Harro Höfliger has con­tributed two impor­tant appli­ca­tions to date and entirely changed the way the soft­ware team operates.

Hardly any other topic sym­bol­izes speed as much as dig­i­ti­za­tion. Dig­ital trans­for­ma­tion is sup­posed to help accel­erate processes and make them more effi­cient – prefer­ably straight­away. But as the saying goes: if you are in a hurry, go slowly. Simon Schnait­mann, Depart­ment Leader Dig­ital Solu­tions Cus­tomer Ser­vice at Harro Höfliger, explains: “Such a change requires plan­ning and patience. In the long run, only tailor-made solu­tions that are industry-spe­cific will pro­vide a mea­sur­able added value. The idea of a cen­tral plat­form offering cus­tomers just that is, there­fore, the right approach.”

Col­lec­tive expertise

The soft­ware plat­form Pex­cite was devel­oped by the Excel­lence United partner Uhlmann Pac-Sys­teme. The open plat­form enables the simple inte­gra­tion of inde­pen­dent and cross-sector solu­tions and the com­pre­hen­sive con­nec­tivity of multi-vendor machines. This ensures reli­able pro­duc­tion processes.

The idea behind the open system is to pool a mul­ti­tude of smart solu­tions from machine man­u­fac­turers, sup­pliers, phar­maceutical com­pa­nies and other process par­tic­i­pants. On the one hand, users ben­efit from exper­tise-based dig­ital solu­tions pro­vided by industry-related part­ners and, on the other hand, from the con­ve­nience and sim­plicity of a uni­form user interface.

Tobias Miunske, Account Man­ager Dig­ital Solu­tions at Harro Höfliger, explains the system using the com­pany as an example: “As a machine man­u­fac­turer, we know our machines best, as well as the spe­cific require­ments and needs of our cus­tomers. With this knowl­edge and our expe­ri­ence in the phar­ma­ceu­tical envi­ron­ment, we have devel­oped two appli­ca­tions that are now part of the ­Pex­cite platform.”

Simon Schnait­mann, Depart­ment Leader Dig­ital Solu­tions, and Tobias Miunske, Account Man­ager Dig­ital Solu­tions (from left)

Mul­tiple product vari­ants? No problem!

One solu­tion that the soft­ware spe­cial­ists at Harro Höfliger have devised is the Pro­duc­tion Order Man­ager. Fabian Elsässer, Director of Engi­neering and Tech­nical Ser­vices at Harro Höfliger, explains: “If there is a high level of product vari­ance on a machine, the per­ti­nent infor­ma­tion needs to be man­u­ally adjusted for each new pro­duc­tion order. This is prone to errors, and errors occur­ring in pro­duc­tion are expen­sive for our cus­tomers. Wher­ever pos­sible, we try to reduce oper­ator influ­ence with dig­ital tools and inter­faces. With the Pro­duc­tion Order Man­ager, we have suc­cess­fully imple­mented this task.”

The appli­ca­tion enables the cen­tral plan­ning of pro­duc­tion orders. Manual transfer and input of infor­ma­tion via the HMI is no longer required, the use of the cor­rect mate­rials is ensured. The machine oper­ator can flex­ibly create tem­plates with stored product para­me­ters and transfer them dig­i­tally straight to the machine. Once they are stored, orders can be repro­duced at any time. The system detects input errors, which fur­ther increases pro­duc­tion reli­a­bility. More­over, the oper­ator has an overview of all infor­ma­tion that is required to pre­pare and run production.

“Errors occur­ring in pro­duc­tion are expen­sive for our cus­tomers. With the Pro­duc­tion Order Man­ager, we reduce oper­ator influ­ence wher­ever pos­sible.“Fabian Elsässer, Director Engi­neering and Tech­nical Ser­vices at Harro Höfliger

Learning about maintenance

The second solu­tion pre­sented by Harro Höfliger with the launch of Pex­cite is the Main­te­nance Man­ager. The appli­ca­tion sup­ports the plan­ning, imple­men­ta­tion, archiving and opti­miza­tion of main­te­nance pro­ce­dures, thus helping to avoid machine down­time. Luise Räuchle, Product Man­ager Dig­ital Solu­tions at Harro Höfliger, explains: “So far, we have been sub­mit­ting main­te­nance plans for our machines on paper, but this is set to change. In the Main­te­nance Man­ager they are dig­i­tally stored and can be easily admin­is­tered. Upcoming main­te­nance tasks and the nec­es­sary infor­ma­tion are dis­played auto­mat­i­cally.” Regard­less of their loca­tion, main­te­nance staff can ­access expla­na­tions, photos and other infor­ma­tion on nec­es­sary main­te­nance steps from var­ious terminals.

Räuchle: “Another advan­tage of the appli­ca­tion is that new infor­ma­tion and find­ings can be added at any time. For example, the oper­ator can adjust main­te­nance inter­vals based on expe­ri­ence, thus ensuring that future main­te­nance steps are only per­formed when they are nec­es­sary. The Main­te­nance Man­ager stores this infor­ma­tion and learns from his­tor­ical and cur­rently avail­able data. This is an impor­tant step from pre­ven­tive to pre­dic­tive main­te­nance of machines.”

Changing our views and being more flexible

In order to enable the devel­op­ment of prod­ucts such as the Main­te­nance Man­ager and the Pro­duc­tion Order Man­ager, soft­ware devel­op­ment at Harro Höfliger was com­pletely restruc­tured. Fabian Elsässer explains: “Dig­i­ti­za­tion requires agility when devel­oping solu­tions. Classic project and require­ments man­age­ment costs too much time; devel­op­ments often come too late or fail to meet the con­stantly changing market require­ments. Since 2019, we have there­fore been working with three Scrum teams that can act in a quick, flex­ible and cus­tomer-ori­ented manner. By involving our cus­tomers, we receive direct feed­back for our product development.”

Luise Räuchle, Product Man­ager Dig­ital Solu­tions, and Fabian Elsässer, Director Engi­neering and Tech­nical Ser­vices (from left)

What is Scrum?

Scrum is an agile method for soft­ware devel­op­ment and project man­age­ment. A clear allo­ca­tion of roles, defined respon­si­bil­i­ties and events within a soft­ware project ensures a con­stant increase in product value. At the center of Scrum is the self-orga­nized team: it is an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary group that brings together all the rel­e­vant skill sets for the imple­men­ta­tion of a product idea.

The Scrum Master is respon­sible for the smooth orga­ni­za­tion of the devel­op­ment process and elim­i­nates pos­sible obsta­cles. The person respon­sible for the product, the so-called Product Owner, col­lects, defines and pri­or­i­tizes require­ments from cus­tomers, the market and from sales.

“The Main­te­nance Man­ager learns from his­tor­ical and cur­rently avail­able data. This is an impor­tant step from pre­ven­tive to pre­dic­tive main­te­nance of machines.“Luise Räuchle, Product Man­ager Dig­ital Solu­tions at Harro Höfliger 

Luise Räuchle is cur­rently in charge of this task at Harro Höfliger. She explains: “I intro­duce the idea for a new product to the devel­op­ment team and explain the added value it should pro­vide for cus­tomers. The idea, ele­ments, fea­tures and func­tions of the product are defined on so-called story cards.” This results in the Product Backlog, a col­lec­tion of all require­ments, func­tions and fea­tures that the product should have from the user’s point of view.

On your marks, get set, go

Tobias Miunske con­tinues: “The mem­bers of the devel­op­ment team then work in two-week devel­op­ment cycles, so-called sprints. In daily 15-minute meet­ings the team mem­bers dis­cuss with their Scrum Master what they have achieved, where there are prob­lems and how they can be solved.”

At the end of each sprint, the team presents a ready for sale product com­po­nent to the Product Owner at the Sprint Review Meeting. Luise Räuchle: “If the result meets the require­ments, we will update them in the product backlog or adjust them – for example if the cus­tomer require­ment has changed in the mean­time or a new pri­or­i­ti­za­tion is required. Then we can start the next sprint.”

Simon Schnait­mann, Depart­ment Leader Dig­ital Solu­tions at Harro Höfliger, sum­ma­rizes: “An essen­tial aspect of Scrum is that the com­plete devel­op­ment process of a project must add to the value chain: every­thing super­fluous is omitted. This is also in keeping with our idea of tar­geted dig­i­ti­za­tion. With Pex­cite, where our existing solu­tions are uti­lized and many new ones will follow, we are con­sis­tently moving forward.”

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Photos: Janine Kyofsky, Illus­tra­tion: Bernd Schifferdecker