FORCAM: Driving Productivity: Digital DNA for Your Smart Factory

Franz E. Gruber, Founder and Chairman When Erich Buehler, Dipl.-Ing. (Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science) accepted his new role as IT Project Leader at Daimler-Benz AG, he imagined a system that would monitor the thousands of machine tools within the powertrain division. He developed a prototype, but there were a few glitches that left Buehler disgruntled. And it still required significant human intervention. Disappointed, Buehler took note of a few machines connected to a system provided by FORCAM, a Germany-based technology firm for manufacturing businesses. FORCAM’s technology was already able to relay the same productivity information automatically and in real time. Erich Buehler was impressed with the offerings and initiated a project rollout to deploy FORCAM’s then-current product suite, FactoryFramework™, to more than 5,000 assets worldwide. Since then, Daimler has witnessed double-digit growth in shop floor efficiency. FORCAM was founded when Franz E. Gruber, a former IBM manager and SAP executive, identified a need for managers in manufacturing to gather data and integrate operations on the shop floor. Today, the company has grown to become a shining example of how a small team can make a big difference in the manufacturing sector. Pioneering the use of cloud-based in-memory technology on the shop floor, FORCAM has become a one-stop shop for plant managers and is empowering manufacturing organizations such as Daimler with analytics and intelligence that have become a necessity in the industry. “Our award-winning Manufacturing Execution System (MES) technology measures and visualizes the output of machines and systems of Daimler via a web-based real-time application, creating the transparent factory wherein downtimes and waste can be eliminated immediately,” affirms Gruber. “The global rollout of FORCAM’s technology solutions across all the 5,000 assets of Daimler was a momentous event,” notes Gruber.

Leading by Example

“FORCAM’s philosophy is to help customers achieve outstanding and sustainable improvements in productivity,” affirms Gruber. “And to accomplish this mission, we provide cutting-edge technology, along with extensive training and tutoring to support our customers.”

FORCAM empowers companies to monitor and analyze shop floor equipment and interface this data with any ERP system, allowing its customers to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. FORCAM educates its customers through the FORCAM Academy—the company’s internal consulting body. The academy provides holistic after-sales solutions to ensure that clients continue to use data effectively and maintain global competitiveness.

Improving the Next Generation of Manufacturing

“We at FORCAM follow a golden rule—act respectfully, at all times,” reveals Gruber. “We
strongly believe in our values and give utmost importance to accountability, courage, curiosity, patience and freedom in our workforce,” he explains. The company lays strong emphasis on listening to customers, a trait that took center stage during vie hours of the 2008 financial crisis, a time when there was huge cry for a solution that provided the ability to monitor any equipment regardless of location, time-zone or operational language.

Developed during the height of the recession with inspiration from Warren Buffett’s maxim, “Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful,” the company recently launched its latest software release and flagship offering—FORCAM FORCETM. This manufacturing intelligence solution was developed with current industry needs in mind, including key functions such as in-memory technology, cloud-ready Java-based J2EE architecture, track and trace technology, energy management, complex event processing (CEP), and multi-lingual (Unicode) and multi-time-zone support. “Using our flagship offering, a machine in Germany using Deutsch can be compared with a similar machine running in China using Mandarin in respective time zones with FORCAM FORCETM,” says Gruber.

Technically speaking, FORCAM FORCETM consists of a suite of modules that deliver a factory-wide, cross-industry solution that combines the collection of machine data, visualization, production data management, alerts, labor tracking, and ERP integration. These core modules, working together to monitor and inform, promote a deep understanding of Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), a key performance indicator that is used globally by manufacturers to monitor and benchmark operations.

FORCAM’s philosophy is always is to help customers achieve outstanding and sustainable improvements in productivity

FORCAM’s latest software release, FORCAM FORCETM, works at the individual machine level, enabling manufacturing order data to be streamed from the top floor to the shop floor. Production can easily be monitored and live data gathered during actual operation. This data is not only fed back into the ERP system but can also be accessed from any mobile device or tablet. Senior Management can correct any deviation from the target in real time and ensure a more efficient and leaner production process.

Teaming with Next-Gen Technologies

FORCAM is widely acknowledged for being a pioneer in Industry 4.0—an initiative that aims to usher in the next generation of manufacturing—and is transforming its customers’ factories into true cyber-physical systems (CPS). These systems mirror the factory and its equipment virtually and in real time to any mobile device, collecting data during operation from any machine CNC or PLC and any IT system,

Our solutions meet the needs of driving productivity at any discrete manufacturer. Over 60,000 machines are already connected globally

including SAP. Powered by these technologies, FORCAM has successfully deployed its solutions across automobile, aerospace, defense, medical device, oil/gas, and many other manufacturing domains globally. “Our solutions meet the needs of driving productivity at any discrete manufacturer. Over 60,000 machines are already connected globally,” says Gruber.

FORCAM offers flexible machine connectors and powerful plug-ins to ensure seamless integration of all PLC and CNC equipment. These tools enable the collection of signals relating to many aspects of machine operation—alarm, tool allocation and transmission of NC files— to be captured and streamed with objectivity and accuracy, a level of interoperability that was previously unknown in the industry.

Unlocking Innovation

FORCAM has a vantage point that sets it apart from its competitors. The company’s Return-On-Investment (ROI) strategy employs an outcome-based pilot program, proposing at least 10 percent growth in productivity based on the data collected from the installed systems. FORCAM’s solutions deployed at Audi AG showcase these proven methodologies, as the automobile company witnessed a 20 percent rise in overall productivity in the first year of deployment. Through FORCAM’s Advanced Shop Floor Management solution Audi was able to monitor its production and infrastructure in real-time allowing for detailed analysis, thus enhancing general productivity. GKN Aerospace, another company utilized FORCAM’s Shop Floor Management System tool for improving manufacturing productivity, making it incredibly easy for GKN Aerospace to achieve unprecedented improvements in their production.

“We are a true pioneer of the Industry 4.0,” says Gruber. “And we don’t really have a competitor that does everything we do.” Going forward, FORCAM aims to continue to develop solutions and build on the existing suite of offerings. “We aspire to have a global footprint. The global rollout of FORCAM FORCETM and negotiations with international technology vendors and distribution partners to speed up this roll out are a step in this direction,” claims Gruber. “Acquiring a subsidiary in China, developing an offshore development site in India and attempting to enhance our presence in the U.S. are some of the other initiatives that will help us become a ‘True Global Company’,” he concludes.


Ravensburg, Germany

Franz E. Gruber, Founder and Chairman

Providing analytical solutions to complex manufacturing industries through innovative Shop Floor Management technology.