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Unlocking Digital Potential: Exploring the future of business development

Munich, April 3, 2024 - First the Internet, then social media, and now ChatGPT: digitalization is immersing us in a world of new possibilities and reshaping our working environment. This demands a constant willingness to change, yet it also makes our work smarter and easier. With the use of bots and AI, Oerlikon is driving digital transformation, taking an important step into the future.

The Digital Hub in Garching near Munich, Germany, is a significant driver for Oerlikon's digital transformation since 2019. The team of 48 pioneers from sixteen countries focuses on the digitalization of all areas of the company. Together with internal partners from IT, Business and Support Functions we are on a treasure hunt: Where does digitalization pay off for our business today and tomorrow? Which technologies should we adopt?

Innovation and digitalization serve as the cornerstones of our competitive edge, empowering us to deliver significant advantages to both our customers and employees.

-Sven Hicken, CTO OSS- 

Shifting the focus from repetitive work to more value-added tasks

One rewarding topic is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which relieves us from repetitive, monotonous tasks in our daily work. RPA is an emerging technology which allows software robots to imitate human behavior and interact seamlessly with various systems. The bot can perform various tasks such as extracting data, moving files and logging into applications. In a successful process automation with HRSflow, a bot releases production orders through PLM and ERP applications, saving a significant amount of working time. 

Since the start of the pilot in Q1 2023 the automation has saved around 1.050 hours and has an annual saving potential of around 2.000 hours after the successful roll-out in Q2 and Q3 2023. „By automating low-level, rule-based processes, RPA can shift the focus of the workforce from repetitive tasks to a more creative and strategic work that requires human judgement“, emphasizes Gregor Pudenz, Team Lead Process Automation - Digital Hub.

Fostering trend scouting and new ideas to drive digital transformation

AI solutions are an exciting topic for the future, for example for predicting trends such as customer churn. A prototype is already in the development phase, focusing on divergent customer behavior – a valuable sales support tool. Self-learning chatbots such as ChatGPT, which use language models and are interesting for customer and employee interactions, are also being tested. 

At Oerlikon, we already have more than 40 AI use cases at various stages of maturity. That's why it's important that we develop an AI strategy and governance model within 2024. This will help us select the most promising initiatives and the technologies that best fit Oerlikon in terms of effectiveness, sustainability and data protection.

We are in the process of defining a single online platform through which all Oerlikon employees can contribute with their ideas or demands for innovation and digitalisation 

-Christian Huber, Head of Digital Hub-

The digitalization of our coating service centers is also making progress. A Manufacturing Execution System (MES) is being implemented worldwide to digitize manufacturing, soon helping to plan and control it much more efficiently. With plant connectivity, transparency of coating processes is achieved in real-time. 4 coaters and 1 cleaning line have been successfully connected in a plant to use real-time machine data to book batches directly in the MES. The goal for 2024 is to connect 60 coaters and 29 cleaning lines in 20 additional plants to balance the workload. The so-called super production order, which groups individual orders into meaningful sets, also offers benefits. In a one-week test phase at our five sites in Germany, the super production order was used for more than 19 percent of our orders, reducing 1796 individual orders to 234 SPOs. This represents a significant time saving for the staff.

Reducing manual effort for our employees and costumers

Our digital sales platforms, like myBalzers, show that a close collaboration between all stakeholders is key for our long-term growth and success in the competitive market. "Our foremost priority in transitioning to digital ordering channels is to enhance the customer experience. By providing our customers with convenient, flexible, and accessible ways to place orders, we not only foster stronger relationships but also drive repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals", highlights Marc Stumpp, Head of OSS Sales Process Management. 

Orders via myBalzers reduce the manual efforts of order intakes and inform us about incoming orders several days in advance. "This allows us to better plan production capacities and lowers handling costs. However, these benefits can only be realized if we convince our customers to support us and they take advantage of the benefits of digitalization”, emphasizes Christian Zeller, Team Lead Sales - Digital Hub. This is a crucial point, as studies highlight that success will come to those companies that involve their employees and customers in the digital transformation.

Oerlikon remains committed to advancing digital transformation by leveraging technologies such as RPA and AI. We will further digitalize our coating service centers and sales platforms, fostering strong collaboration with all stakeholders — be they business partners, employees, or customers — to fully unlock the digital potential.

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