, ,

Factory2Fit Spotlight – Dr Frank Frauenhoffer

Factory2Fit Spotlight Feature

Dr Frank Frauenhoffer

Managing Director & Founder, Amorph Systems (AMS)

Today, we’re shining the F2F spotlight on Dr Frank Frauenhoffer – Managing Director and Founder of Amorph Systems in Germany – one of the three SME partners in project. Frank describes the expertise that AMS brings to Factory2Fit and the role they play. 

Thanks for speaking to us today Frank. Could you start by briefly describing Amorph Systems and what you do?

We are an information technology company, with headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany – where I am based. We have two further locations in Romania – in Timisoara and Oradea. We develop in-house solutions mainly in the areas of connection and integration of equipment and devices to upper level IT systems, like MES, or OEE, or other IT systems. Furthermore we develop advanced solutions for airport logistic forecasting and control.

I’m Managing Director of the company. It’s still a relatively small company – we have around 40 employees.

What does your typical working day look like?

It’s difficult to describe a ‘typical’ working day, as the work varies widely from day-to-day. As Managing Director I have many tasks to perform, ranging from administrative aspects to technology aspects, and coordinating the different projects we run in our company.

Currently, one of my main tasks is in the area of business development, relating to a new product we’re developing – the Amorph I40 Connector. This is also part of what we brought into the Factory2Fit project. One of our targets within the project is to further develop this product. Hopefully there will be a successful launch of the Amorph I40 Connector at the beginning or middle of next year.

Where are AMS’s customers based?

Our main customers, on the production side, are currently based in Germany. In our second business division, the airport domain, our customers are located worldwide.

What do you enjoy most about the role?

On one side, I really enjoy the wide variety of tasks I’m performing within the company. And on the other side, I like the freedom that comes with not being part of a very big organisation. Being in an SME you have much more freedom to decide which direction you go in.

But, overall, my favourite part has to be the area of business development – to bring in new things, develop new products, and bring them to the market. This is what I like most about my role.

How do your professional interests match the objectives of Factory2Fit?

The most direct and obvious match between AMS’s professional interests and the objectives of Factory2Fit is our new product, the Amorph I40 Connector, which we brought into the project and will develop further.  The most important part of the project is to bring adaptability to different systems in the production domain, and this is exactly what our product does. So I think there’s a perfect match between the project’s objectives and what AMS plans to develop as new products in our company.

Could you tell us some more about the Amorph I40 Connector?

The Amorph I40 Connector is the piece of software that allows connection between equipment, devices and upper level IT systems like, for example MES or ERP. But it also connects to all other kinds of resources – e.g. human data gathered from smart devices, like smart watches or smart wrist belts – and brings them to a common standard format. So that this data, this information, will become exchangeable by all kinds of upper-level systems, like MES, ERP, and other kinds of systems that can then use this information.

AMS brings another expertise to Factory2Fit, in the area of standardization. Can you tell us a bit about this?

Yes, in fact this is also one of my personal hobbies. For several years now I’ve been engaged in the area of standardization. I read many, many standards and I always take a look at what’s new in this market. I’m very engaged, for example, in the standards that are coming from ISO (International Organization of Standardization), DIN (German Institute for Standardization) and NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), because these are very important for industry purposes. And there are now also a lot of standards covering the interoperability between different systems. So this is one of our main interests.

What is unique about Factory2Fit in your opinion?

I’ve been working in the manufacturing business for over 20 years now and have participated in many industry projects and many European-funded projects during this time.

What makes Factory2Fit unique, in my opinion, is the importance of highlighting the human workers at the centre of the project. The other projects I’ve been involved with deal with topics such as throughput enhancement, more efficiency, cost reductions, etc. These are all economic parameters. Whereas, in Factory2Fit, human factors are really taken into consideration, as a very important part of the project. This is unique, at least in my experience.

What does Factory2Fit have in common with other EU-funded research projects?

What they have common is the collaboration that always takes place between different companies and R&D institutes. This is a very important and interesting opportunity. Because, typically in pure industry projects, you don’t have this wider collaboration and you don’t have this participation of people with really different experience coming together.

Also, there is the possibility of developing new innovative things, due to the opportunity of getting funding – development that is driven by innovation from the outset, and not just cost. We, as a very small company, could not afford this kind of R&D, without the funding and support we get from the European Union.

All of these funded projects demonstrate that the European Union is working well in being innovative and bringing new things to market.

Has anything surprised you in the first eight months of the project?

At least at the beginning it was very surprising for me, because previously in funded projects I was used to working with pure engineers with pure economic managers in the different companies.

In Factory2Fit we have the importance of bringing in the human factors aspect. So for me this is the first time working together with experts from the psychology area, for example. This brings new insights into how companies work and are interrelated. Psychologists bring a very different perspective to the production environment compared to an engineer or an IT person like me.

Do you see challenges for Factory2Fit? And if so, what would you say is the biggest one? 

I really think that we are working in quite an innovative area. So we are trying to combine, on the one hand side, a lot of information from equipment and devices. And on the other hand, we are now trying to collect information from humans, by means of, for example, smart sensors and smart watches.

So we are beginning to incorporate data from humans, such as heart rates and blood pressure, etc. I think this is quite a sensitive topic. It doesn’t only bring advantages – there are also ethical considerations to be addressed. And I think this is the main challenge – to cope with these ethical issues that come up, as well as the innovation that we’re driving.

Can you briefly describe the coordination between Amorph Systems and the other Factory2Fit partners? Do you build on each other’s expertise? 

In Amorph System we are mainly working in Work Packages 1 (Concept framework and use cases), 3 (Methods and tools for continuous adaptation of the manufacturing process) and 5 (Industrial pilots in automated manufacturing environments). Up to now we have mainly worked with Finnish partners VTT and Prima Power as part of Work Package 1. We also got input from other partners, and collaboration worked quite well.

We have now started work on Work Package 3, which is very positive. So now we have an increased collaboration with CERTH in Greece, and the other partners involved in this work package.

And we are also collaborating with the two other German partners – Continental and TUC. We recently had a workshop in Limbach in Germany, together with these partners. These kinds of events are improving the collaboration with them.

And finally, could you choose 3 words that describe the overall impact of Factory2Fit?

‘Adaptability’: this is also important with our objectives in the project – both for AMS and the entire project – to be able to develop systems that are highly adaptable, to both the technical resources on the shop floor, and now also adaptability to the humans. And this is the new theme for this kind of adaptability.

‘Human-Machine Collaboration’: creating a symbiosis between both humans and machines.

‘From Data to Information’: In the project we are dealing with many different information sources. So one big aspect is bringing them together in a kind of knowledge repository. From my understanding, this is a big challenge – to come from pure data to really usable and reusable information.

Many thanks for taking the time to speak to us Frank. We look forward to hearing more about your work in the project.