ProCheck - Verification of internal material flow processes by CPS-based process mining

High Variant Diversity, Small Lot Sizes and Flexibility - Mastering the Individualization of Production with Process Mining

Process-Mining in der Produktion mithilfe von CPS
© ©zapp2photo -

As the possibilities offered by digitization solutions increase, so do the demands that the market and customers place on manufacturing companies: However, wishes for example for the production of several product variants in small batch sizes, maximum flexibility, speed, efficiency or guaranteed delivery times require transparent and optimized material flow processes.

With increasing individualization of production, however, the complexity of the internal material flow increases because a wide variety of tasks and process steps have to be considered and integrated. Efficient control of material flow processes is elementary in this context. However, this requires appropriate data: many reference projects show that the physical processes involved are often not sufficiently mapped in the digital world at SMEs - they are not adequately recorded and stored either manually or in terms of information. In addition, it is rarely transparent which processes have actually been executed at the current time or what their status is. In such an environment, timely, individual and perhaps even automated control is not possible. The consequences are inefficient process flows, delays in production, insufficient utilization of resources or poor product quality.

The goal of »ProCheck« is therefore to enable automated and continuous analysis, optimization and verification of material flow processes in small-scale production operations. Process mining methods are used to analyze and record the processes. The focus is on spatially distributed processing or assembly steps of individual orders.



Create data, use data - process mining in material flow

The innovation of the research project:

In »ProCheck«, process mining methods are also made usable for physical material flow processes. Physical processes are to be transformed into informational processes. Process mining describes analysis techniques that enable the collection, verification and optimization of processes on the basis of data traces that arise during process execution in IT systems. In order to be able to use these methods for material flow processes, process-specific information about the actual process sequences is required as a database. However, this database is not available in IT systems for small-scale manual production. Therefore, cyber-physical systems (CPS) will be used to collect sensory data in the processes in order to create the data basis - so-called event logs - for process mining via a new type of data processing. Cyber-physical systems are networks of small computers equipped with sensors and actuators that are built into materials, objects, devices and machine parts as so-called embedded systems and are interconnected via the Internet. In such an Internet of Things, the physical and digital worlds connect. Event logs are digital traces that processes leave behind in IT systems when they are executed. In ProCheck, CPS thus help to map event logs about material flow processes from reality in the IT systems. The scientific goal of the project is to collect raw sensory data directly in the production environment by using CPS and to automatically generate process characterizing information as event logs from the raw data. Based on this, suitable process mining methods are to be developed for the application field of material flow processes of manufacturing SMEs for the comparison of actual process executions with target process models - so-called conformance checking.

More transparency, optimized processes, new business models: customer benefits on several levels

The research results generated can therefore be exploited on several levels: The generated new methods, algorithmic procedures and software components for the observation and optimization of material flow processes by means of CPS-based process mining can, on the one hand, be applied in manufacturing SMEs and, on the other hand, be taken up by SMEs to generate new software, hardware or consulting products. The benefit is clear: The use of CPS technologies in combination with novel sensor data analysis and the possible application of suitable process mining techniques creates more transparency about actual processes. As a benefit, savings can be achieved through increased efficiency by avoiding superfluous process steps and uncovering bottlenecks. Furthermore, energy consumption and material loss can be reduced through better control of logistical processes.

Conformance checking - the comparison of the target process model with the actual process execution - also makes it possible to uncover compliance violations in the process and avoid them in the future.

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