Dillinger makes your plates talk to you: Plate processing à la carte – via Smartphone

By Dr Wolfram Hölbling, Dillinger

Customers of Dillinger receive specific data from the original certificate (as a PDF file) via scans of the barcode
Customers of Dillinger receive specific data from the original certificate (as a PDF file) via scans of the barcode (photo: Dillinger)

Dillinger, Europe’s leading producer of heavy plate, is working at full throttle on the digitalisation of its value chain. The company is backing design-thinking processes in innovation management to meet its customers’ present and future needs as efficiently as possible. The first fruit of this customer-focused development method is the E-Connect app, which provides customers with immediate, plate-specific information at the swipe of a barcode, anytime, anywhere in the world. The user can interlink this data on the “talking plate” with a large range of services and calculation tools available on the higher-level E-Service platform.

Working with Dillinger has never been as convenient as now: at the push of a button, the customer is given valuable information, around the clock – with no waiting times, and anywhere in the world. This steel producer, a global quality and technology leader, is unceasingly searching for new and better solutions, to proactively fulfil customers’ expectations. For this reason, the company consistently exploits the potentials of digitalisation, always aiming to optimise cooperation using new services.

The app E-Connect from Dillinger creates links to the higher-level E-Service platform
The app E-Connect from Dillinger creates links to the higher-level E-Service platform (photo: Dillinger)

The basis and central element in this is the E-Service customer information platform, which is also configured for mobile terminal devices. This intuitive tool on the Dillinger website gives steel stockholders and users immediate access to all the relevant data on all aspects of their orders – in German, English or French. A Product Finder assists them in selecting the best grade of steel for their needs. Feasibility checks and notes concerning possible additional requirements, such as ultrasonic inspections, thus transform the extensive delivery range into a tailor-made program. In addition to their delivery history, customers also have all relevant order data, such as invoices, inspection documents and certificates at their disposal for download at any time. Thanks to the simple-to-use search and sort functions, material analyses, standards, specifications and all approvals can be found here quickly and easily.

The E-Service platform’s service package is rounded off by a series of high-performance calculation tools for welding characteristics: carbon equivalent, preheat temperature, hardness in the heat-affected zone during welding, etc., can thus be obtained directly for working and welding of top-quality Dillinger steels.

Using the characteristics data calculated using the app, customers of Dillinger can immediately optimally adjust their welding system
Using the characteristics data calculated using the app, customers of Dillinger can immediately optimally adjust their welding system (photo: Dillinger)

The benefits of this platform, which can also be accessed while travelling, using a Smartphone or a Tablet, for Marketing/Sales teams, stockholders and steel users are readily apparent: thanks to access to their own individual, continuously refreshed data, irrespective of time and location, they are always up to date. In the case of orders, for instance, divergences such as delays – and also pre-deadline completion! – thus make communications and planning changes possible at an early stage.

In addition, time-consuming searches for the information needed, followed by printing-out and copying of documents, are now a thing of the past. This relieves employees of tiresome administrative tasks, accelerates implementation and minimises the risk of transmission errors. For steel users, not only the plannability of warehousing and production processes, but also productivity, are boosted.

Groundbreaking dialogue between plate and Smartphone
Dillinger has now expanded this useful E-Service kit with another module: the E-Connect app now also immediately provides the customer with a plethora of plate-specific information. When the customer scans the barcode on the plate in front of him using a Smartphone, he receives not only the specific data from the original certificate (as a PDF file) for that plate, but also general order information, the results of the inspections and tests performed, and the chemical analysis data. The customer can then export this data in machine-readable formats, such as CSV, XML and JSON, or use the link provided to connect it to the tools available on the E-Service portal.

The immediate availability of this data, of great relevance for the entire goods-reception and production processes, means significant time-savings: the search for the plate number and the appurtenant data in a mountain of papers is now superfluous, as is the necessity for on-site measurements and calculations.

Thanks to the data obtained from the barcode, customers of Dillinger can immediately optimally adjust their welding system
Thanks to the data obtained from the barcode, customers of Dillinger can immediately optimally adjust their welding system (photo: Dillinger)

The customer can also immediately use the dimensions obtained by scanning the barcode, and sort the plates, even while they are being unloaded, by heat, order, thickness, width and mechanical strength, to accord with his production planning. In addition, the reference number enables him to check the plates straight into his system at goods-reception and to thus assure all-inclusive start-to-finish material tracking in his production process. Thanks to the certificate data, yield strengths and mechanical-strength data obtained from the barcode, and using the characteristics data calculated using the app, he can also immediately optimally adjust his welding system, with correspondingly low tolerances in the end product.

Not least of all, precise advance knowledge of the plates’ material properties shortens the start-up phase and thus boosts not only quality but also productivity. The barcode is normally applied to the front and rear faces of the plate, with the result that it can be accessed even when the plate has been partially used. The plate markings assure access to the required information in cases in which the barcode is missing or has been damaged. Dillinger can also provide customer-specific barcode configurations if required.

Joint product development with our customers
The E-Connect app runs with all browsers, and thus on both iOS and Android devices. It can be loaded via the Dillinger website, and does not need to be downloaded from an app store – and is therefore automatically always completely up to date.

Problem situations from customers’ everyday work were discussed in supra-departmental workshops, in order to jointly find precisely tailored solutions
Problem situations from customers’ everyday work were discussed in supra-departmental workshops, in order to jointly find precisely tailored solutions (photo: Dillinger)

For smaller companies, in particular, Dillinger has thus installed an additional service screen: in addition to direct communications with their personal Dillinger contact, they can now view all information on the plate currently being processed at any time.

In order to guarantee genuinely high benefits and user friendliness for the app, Dillinger’s Innovation Management team put its faith during the development phase in customer-focused design-thinking methods. Problem situations from customers’ everyday work were discussed in supra-departmental workshops, in order to jointly find precisely tailored solutions. The specific ideas thus evolved were presented to the users in the context of on-site customer forums and individual workshops at every development stage, in order to permit incorporation of the feedback from practitioners into the continuing process.

The E-Connect app, the first product developed in this way in close cooperation with customers, therefore answers a market need which conventional solutions have up to now not been able to satisfy.

Digitally networked partnership
Dillinger also intends to pursue this path together with its customers in the future: a successively expanding digital portfolio on the web portal is to make interaction with customers ever more transparent, ever more efficient and ever more flexible.

In future, customers will be able to communicate securely with their trusted Marketing/Sales contact using the new, central communications route, irrespective of working hours, and with no use of paper. The next milestones on Dillinger’s course are already coming into view: tracking of plates from production through to the agreed destination will be possible in the near future.

Also conceivable is that, at a later time, the machine reads the barcode directly, or that claims can be communicated in a time-saving manner by app to the responsible Marketing/Sales employee using a barcode and a photo of the point in question on the plate. The E-Service portal and the E-Connect app embedded in it thus mark for Dillinger the start of a digitally networked, future-orientated partnership, by means of which the steel producer tangibly reduces the increasing complexity of the globalised world for its customers.

Dr Wolfram Hölbling is Marketing Manager and provides technical support at Dillinger
Dr Wolfram Hölbling is Marketing Manager and provides technical support at Dillinger (photo: Dillinger)