classic | mobile



SKF ups the digital ante
4th Quarter 2018, Other technologies

Swedish group SKF has been implementing its digital transformation since 2015, investing close to R260 million to carry out its digital revolution at its historical Göteborg plant which has, for over a century, been producing the quality bearings on which the Swedish group’s success is based.

Over the years the plant has witnessed developments brought about by successive waves of automation, including the introduction of the first forklifts in 1970, the implementation of lean manufacturing 10 years later and the arrival of the first industrial robots in production in 1995.

2015 saw the Göteborg facility launch the complete modernisation of its spherical roller bearing manufacturing plant. The initiative, based on a model called World Class Manufacturing, saw SKF gradually opening more sites in a bid to bring production closer to customers. The objective was to increase customer uptime and productivity by helping to reduce their stock levels and improve lead times.

However, more sites led to a significant fall in production for European plants. The global bearing and rotating technology specialist reviewed its production tool and adapted it to a product catalogue that is as varied as ever but with smaller volumes to achieve the digitalisation goal which is not to produce more but to gain in flexibility.

Historically, the Göteborg plant ran four conventional production lines, each dedicated to the manufacture of only one type of bearing. Digitalisation resulted in the replacement of the four original lines with a new, almost completely automated 4.0 production line which can deal with different sizes and selections. Three of the previous lines have already been shut down while the life of the fourth line has been extended to serve as backup and will be shut down by December 2018 when the workshop’s digital transformation will be complete.

The digital transformation incorporates a range of solutions, from robots and automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) to sensors and tablets. There are 22 industrial robots on the new production line, which is divided into four distinct units corresponding to four production steps, namely grinding, assembly, marking and lubrication. In all, 25 different software applications are used to coordinate the process. A manufacturing execution system (MES) collects the production data in real time in order to control a certain number of activities such as the management of the AGVs. This system is in turn coupled with new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, linking production to demand to ensure the seamless running of the workshop operation which involves some 1500 trips by the AGVs daily.

In the grinding phase, the AGVs place the rings on pallets before being grasped by a massive six-axis robotic arm. Fitted with adaptive grippers on the wrist joint, the arm can grasp nearly 200 different types of rings. It takes just three seconds to automatically adapt to parts with a diameter of between 180 and 400 mm. Plunged into a closed chamber, the rings come out less than a minute later, ground and polished, for placement in a pallet whose volume is monitored by three 3D cameras. Once the pallet is full, an AGV takes it to the assembly island, after which follows the final two phases, lubrication and marking. The QuickCollect sensor developed by SKF ensures constant monitoring of machine operation. Operators who constantly move between workstations during the day are able to conveniently take instructions directly from their tablets.

With a wide range of solutions always available to solve a particular problem, SKF did not jump on all cutting-edge technologies. Instead, the company first thoroughly assessed each technology to ensure it met a real need before the process was integrated. For example, in order to be integrated into the new grinding unit, certain machines dating back to the 1980s were retrofitted with the addition of servomotors and an IIoT layer. Automation was done without interrupting production.

Digital transformation is an ongoing process at SKF as the company continues to strive in adding value by improving efficiencies, product quality and service delivery to the ultimate benefit of all its customers.

For more information contact Samantha Joubert, SKF South Africa, +27 11 821 3500,,

Supplied By: SKF South Africa
Tel: +27 11 821 3500
Fax: +27 11 821 3501
Share via email     Print this page  

Further reading:

  • Taking hydraulics to a new level
    4th Quarter 2018, Parker Hannifin - Sales Company South Africa, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    The recent introduction of versatile digital ecosystems connecting electronic control hardware and software to the cloud will be a game changer for mobile hydraulic machinery and equipment manufacturers.
  • Fashion and data combine to create iconic African designs
    4th Quarter 2018, Siemens Digital Factory & Process Ind. & Drives, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    Technology leader Siemens used data from the cities of Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg and wove it into unique fabrics which tell a story about each city.
  • Retrospective digitalisation
    4th Quarter 2018, Other technologies
    Nick Boughton, digital lead at systems integrator, Boulting Technology explains how plants with legacy equipment can retrospectively upgrade their facility to a smart factory.
  • How to prove payback on an ­Industry 4.0 project
    4th Quarter 2018, Festo, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    Festo not only implements IIoT functions and services into its product portfolio, but also adds training and consulting, for students as well as professionals, using the latest ideas in its Technology Factory at Scharnhausen, Germany.
  • Sensors for condition monitoring
    4th Quarter 2018, Instrotech, Other technologies
    Instrotech’s general purpose monitoring sensors are ideal for use with PLCs and other industrial controllers.
  • Approach and planning for effective maintenance
    4th Quarter 2018, Other technologies
    Marthinusen & Coutts promotes continuous improvement through engaging with its customers.
  • Disc couplings for high torque ­applications
    4th Quarter 2018, SKF South Africa, Shaft power components
    SKF’s range of disc couplings in a variety of configurations offer cost-effective, lubrication free service in medium to high torque applications that require torsional rigidity.
  • Motor control and protection products
    4th Quarter 2018, Magnet Group, Other technologies
    Magnet’s portfolio of space saving Eaton motor control and protection devices offers motor starting and protection solutions in diverse industries, including mining, oil and gas, pulp and paper, OEMs, the automotive sector and in general utilities.
  • Theft-proof couplers
    4th Quarter 2018, Other technologies
    Proof Engineering has pioneered the ProAlloy zinc coupler, presenting a three-in-one solution for industry: reduced theft risk, lighter weight and lower cost.
  • Revolutionary modular rope hoist
    4th Quarter 2018, Other technologies
    Demag’s modular rope hoist offers many options, such as five different sizes with load capacities of up to 50 tons, a choice of motors, a foot-mounted hoist, low headroom travelling hoist, double-rail crab, a standard headroom travelling hoist, as well as a smart SafeControl system.
  • The eight technologies that will transform manufacturing
    3rd Quarter 2018, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    Recent research identifies vendor challenges and solutions for new future technologies, including robotics, blockchain, AI and edge analytics.
  • Modern electromechanical ­machine design
    3rd Quarter 2018, Parker Hannifin - Sales Company South Africa, This Week's Editor's Pick, Other technologies
    Many leading motion technology suppliers have developed their product portfolio specifically for machine designers.

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    classic | mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.