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12.10.2021

Making companies crisis-proof: Resilience as an extended security concept

Companies today face a variety of increasingly complex risks. Not least the pandemic has shown how crises can pose an existential threat to companies. The FReE tool of the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, allows companies to measure their resilience and subsequently be prepared for upcoming crisis scenarios.
 

Companies today face a variety of increasingly complex risks. Not least the pandemic has shown how crises can pose an existential threat to companies. The FReE tool of the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI, allows companies to measure their resilience and subsequently be prepared for upcoming crisis scenarios.
 
Our world is highly complex and prone to disruption: Natural disasters, cyberattacks, power outages, terrorist attacks, pandemics and other crisis scenarios can threaten companies existentially. The corona pandemic has shown us how vulnerable the German economy really is: According to the Federal Statistical Office, in 2020 the economy fell into a deep recession after ten years of growth; especially in the second quarter of 2020, economic output saw a historic slump. There will be other crises after this pandemic. The classic methods of risk analysis and risk management, which only take into account expected risks, do not adequately protect companies against major losses.

“Companies often only consider the most likely scenarios rather than focusing on possible crisis events,“ says Daniel Hiller, Head of business unit Security and Resilience at Fraunhofer EMI in Freiburg. Teams at Fraunhofer are establishing resilience as a new security concept to help prepare organizations and companies for crises. The results of their research work include the online tool Fraunhofer Resilience Evaluator FReE and the KMU-Lagebild software, both designed to enable companies to measure and evaluate their resilience and to carry out a resilience analysis before, during and after a disruptive event.
 
The five-stage concept “Prepare, Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover”
The online tool FReE allows companies to plan resilience strategically, to implement the abstract concept in their company and to put it into practice on management level. FReE is based on the five-stage concept “Prepare, Prevent, Protect, Respond and Recover.”  

The software comes with a list of 68 questions related to the five resilience stages. The answers provide the company with some initial information needed to assess resilience. The five stages are ordered chronologically, starting with a what-if scenario. During this Prepare stage companies prepare for disruptive situations, which helps avert damage using preventive measures during the Prevent stage.

“An aluminum processing plant, for example, might want to protect its premises with security fences and cameras, because thieves usually break in at night to steal aluminum,“ says Hiller, illustrating the first two stages using a classic example. The Protect stage, as the name suggests, aims to protect; this might include safeguarding important infrastructures or buildings with additional concrete layers or walls. If it was not possible to stave off the disaster, the Respond stage comes into play. It is now important to quickly identify the cause and extent of the damage and to preserve critical supply functions. After the incident, companies should systematically draw lessons from the crisis in order to be better able to avert future risks and to boost their resilience in a cyclical iterative process – researchers call this stage Learn and Adapt.
 
The FReE tool takes the user through the list of questions, which are ordered chronologically into the sections before, during and after a disruption and cover all company divisions. These including personnel, finance, infrastructure and technology. The tool allows you to filter by division during the evaluation process. “For example, a controller can set the filter such that only results related to finance are shown,” says Hiller. Possible questions include: “Is there a disaster manager in the event of a disruption?“, “What are their qualifications and powers?” or “What are the financial reserves for emergencies?” The evaluation is shown in the radar chart, with the worst result being at zero percent in the graticule.

FReE is available in three versions: The free web-based quick version includes 15 questions. The full version, which includes the complete list of 68 questions, is available on a project basis. The accompanying consulting project is based on the paid version. As part of the consulting project, Hiller and his team work together with the companies to develop appropriate measures to boost resilience and eliminate weak spots. Furthermore, additional questions can be added to the FReE tool to adapt it to the needs of specific industries. Many SMEs are already using the quick version and are planning to update it to the full version.

KMU-Lagebild project
While FReE enables companies to assess their resilience on their own, the KMU-Lagebild project supports them in carrying out a comprehensive resilience assessment. The researchers model all procedures and processes on the computer using the available data. By inputting hypothetical disruption scenarios, you can see how the system reacts to them and which countermeasures have to be taken. “By asking yourself not only what the most likely disruptions are, but also what potential incidents there are, you broaden your view of the risks. What’s more, resilient companies exhibit a high level of adaptability and flexibility,” says Hiller in summary.

More information:
SMEs resilience corona crisis
Source:

Fraunhofer-Institut für Kurzzeitdynamik, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI [Fraunhofer Institute for High-Speed Dynamics, Ernst-Mach-Institut, EMI]

(c) Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH or Messe Frankfurt GmbH
05.10.2021

Heimtextil 2022: International Reunion eagerly awaited

Meeting business partners, discovering new products and gaining inspiration – all will be possible again when Heimtextil 2022 opens its doors in Frankfurt am Main from 11 to 14 January. With registrations from around 1,600 exhibitors from 50 countries, the Trade Fair for Home and Contract Textiles anticipates a highly promising return to the international stage. The Heimtextil Team has begun the decisive preparatory phase for this international meeting place for the sector with great commitment and enthusiasm.

Meeting business partners, discovering new products and gaining inspiration – all will be possible again when Heimtextil 2022 opens its doors in Frankfurt am Main from 11 to 14 January. With registrations from around 1,600 exhibitors from 50 countries, the Trade Fair for Home and Contract Textiles anticipates a highly promising return to the international stage. The Heimtextil Team has begun the decisive preparatory phase for this international meeting place for the sector with great commitment and enthusiasm.

“With four months still to go, there has been a tremendous response to Heimtextil 2022, especially from the international side. The yearning for personal encounters and the chance to examine the latest products in reality is greater than ever before. We are looking forward very much to welcoming the sector back to our fair and exhibition centre and have complete confidence that Heimtextil 2022 will be a safe and successful event for all concerned”, says Olaf Schmidt, Vice President Textiles & Textile Technologies, Messe Frankfurt.

Trendsetting themes and a multifaceted product spectrum
In addition to the extensive spectrum of products to be seen, Heimtextil 2022 will offer inspiration and an attractive range of information services and events to help visitors discover the latest market developments in the sector. In particular, the presentation of the Heimtextil Trends provides in-depth insights into tomorrow’s furnishing themes. Also at Heimtextil, Interior.Architecture.Hospitality will spotlight offers for (interior) architects and hospitality experts. Moreover, particular emphasis will be given to the on-trend subject of healthy sleep, including numerous advisory services and products for the specialist bed trade. In this connection, the Heimtextil Sleep & More Conference will be a meeting place for representatives of the specialist bed trade with a high-grade programme of lectures, discussions and product presentations to choose from. Another important focal point at Heimtextil 2022 will be far‑reaching aspects for greater sustainability. Naturally, detailed information will also be available about this topic. Other highlights include presentations by Trevira and DecoTeam.

Digital services to supplement the trade fair
The range of products and information at Heimtextil 2022 will be rounded off by a blend of digital services. For example, the complete spectrum of Heimtextil Trends will be available for the first time in digital form – richly illustrated and visualised with the latest colours, designer features and short films. The Future Materials Library is also online with a first-class selection of sustainable material innovations. Also in planning are videos on demand about many of the items on the programme and tours of the fair via audio guides.

Another digital service provided by Messe Frankfurt is the order and data-management portal Nextrade, which offers a digital 24/7 business relationship between dealers and suppliers. The first digital B2B marketplace for the home and living, Nextrade brings together the demand and supply sides of the whole sector online and thus generates substantial value added for both sides.

(c) Checkpoint Systems
28.09.2021

Checkpoint Systems: Retail Technology Solutions – Success needs a Team

Checkpoint Systems, a division of CCL Industries, is a global leader in retail solutions. The portfolio ranges from electronic article surveillance as well as theft and loss prevention to RFID hardware and software and labeling solutions. The aim is to provide retailers with accurate, real-time inventory, speed up the replenishment cycle, prevent out-of-stocks and reduce theft to improve product availability and the customer shopping experience.

Checkpoint Systems, a division of CCL Industries, is a global leader in retail solutions. The portfolio ranges from electronic article surveillance as well as theft and loss prevention to RFID hardware and software and labeling solutions. The aim is to provide retailers with accurate, real-time inventory, speed up the replenishment cycle, prevent out-of-stocks and reduce theft to improve product availability and the customer shopping experience.

Textination spoke with Miguel Garcia Manso, Business Unit Director Germany at Checkpoint Systems, where the 44-year-old industrial engineering graduate has been working since 2018. With many years of international retail experience, he knows the needs of the retail industry very well. Before that, Miguel Garcia Manso lived in Madrid for almost 15 years, where he worked for the Spanish food retailer DIA. There he also accompanied the introduction and roll-out of article surveillance projects.

 

If you had to present Checkpoint Systems and its portfolio to someone who is not a retail professional – what would you say?

We are the retail partner and our job is to help retailers make shopping as pleasant as possible for their customers. Put simply, our solutions ensure that the right product is in the right place at the right time when the end consumer wants to buy it, instead of standing in front of an empty shelf in the worst-case scenario. Our portfolio ranges from individual anti-theft products to solutions that cover the entire supply chain and provide the greatest possible transparency of inventory.

 

It's been a long journey from the 1960s, when a small team in the U.S. developed a method to prevent the theft of books from public libraries, to becoming the international leader in 21st century article surveillance, operating in 35 countries. What legacy is still important to you today, and how would you describe the spirit at Checkpoint Systems?
 
Both questions have the same answer: On the one hand, innovative strength and, on the other, consistent exchange with the retail industry. Both have been in the focus at Checkpoint Systems from the very beginning. We develop our products and systems in close exchange with the industry, actively seek dialogue, listen to what is needed in everyday life, etc. This is very important to us and is also regularly used as a selling point for Checkpoint Systems. We definitely want to continue this.

 

You offer hardware and software technologies for retail, which is a very complex market. How do the requirements of retailers from the fashion, outdoor and textile industries differ from those of other industries?

The reasons why retail companies contact us are similar across all industries. They all want to delight their customers, retain them in the long term, and generate more sales. The ways to achieve this may differ: From omni-channel strategies for the fashion sector, to article surveillance solutions for high-priced electrical or cosmetic products, and to RFID-based fresh food solutions for food retailers to reduce food waste.
The requirements of the industries differ, especially when it comes to labels. Depending on the size and price of the product as well as the desired technology, we recommend different labels – or develop them in close coordination with the customer. For the Polish fashion company LPP, for example, we have just developed a special dual RF and RFID tag that blends harmoniously into the store design.

 

Magic word RFID – the contactless and automated reading and storing of data based on electromagnetic waves is the centerpiece of your technologies. You even encourage your customers to develop their own RFID strategy. What do you mean by this and are you sure that all retail companies will be able to do this on their own?

We develop the strategy together with our customers, usually as part of a pilot project. Until a few years ago, the introduction of RFID technology was actually more complex and usually involved a project lasting several years. Today, however, we can quickly calculate for each retailer in the context of a small pilot project, how much more profitable they can be with RFID and what their return on investment is. We usually start with a store scan, followed by pilot testing in selected stores, including individual training and on-site support. And by the time it is implemented in all stores, the customers themselves are RFID experts and have an understanding of what they can do with the real-time data. 

 

What does the keyword "customized" mean for Checkpoint Systems? To what extent can you map the individual needs of each customer? Or can you make every retail company – whether chain or boutique – "happy"?

We give high priority to personalized solutions. This concerns, on the one hand, the product itself and, on the other, the size of the company. As you already indicate, large retail chains obviously have different needs than small boutiques. For O₂, Telefónica Germany’s core brand, for example, we have just specially adapted our AutoPeg tags for theft protection. Instead of the standard yellow, the tags for O₂ are white with blue lettering to match the store design.
This also shows the development in the area of article surveillance in general: When article surveillance was still in its infancy, antennas and labels were mainly functional. Nowadays, they blend harmoniously into the overall look of the store design. Retailers no longer have to choose between design and functionality.

 

How is innovation management practiced in your company and which developments that Checkpoint has worked on recently are you particularly proud of?

In recent months, we have worked intensively – together with the German Employers' Liability Insurance Association (Berufsgenossenschaft Handel und Warenlogistik) – on the testing and certification of our article surveillance systems and now we can proudly say: We are the first manufacturer in Germany whose EAS systems have been tested by the CSA Group, an internationally recognized and accredited provider of testing and certification services. The CSA Group has confirmed that our radio frequency-based EAS systems comply with all standards and guidelines applicable in Germany with regard to exposure to electromagnetic fields. No safety distances need to be maintained.
The background is as follows: Retailers in Germany are obliged to prepare a risk assessment if they use an EAS system. The CE declaration of conformity, which they receive from the manufacturer when purchasing an EAS system, is not sufficient for this purpose. By testing our systems, we have created the best conditions for our customers to make such an assessment. We have also provided the relevant documents to the Employer's Liability Insurance Association.

We are also proud of the fact that we have managed to increase the clearance widths of our NEO antennas for article surveillance from two meters to 2.70 meters. This gives retailers significantly more freedom in store design. In general, store design is also a good keyword at this point: With our free-standing antennas, the design of the NS40 or even the possibility of incorporating antennas into checkout systems, we have contributed a great deal to making article surveillance aesthetically pleasing and harmoniously integrated into the whole.

 

The Covid-19 period was a disaster, especially for the stationary retail. In recent months, companies have increasingly moved in the direction of e-commerce – whether via individual store solutions or marketplaces – in order to compensate for at least part of the decline in sales. What is your advice to retailers: Can only omni-channel businesses be successful today and in the future?

Yes, that is definitely our advice to retailers. Omni-channel solutions are not going to disappear, but will continue to become more common and will be indispensable in the near future. Retailers are well advised to adapt to this new situation – also regardless of Corona – and to invest in the expansion of functioning omni-channel solutions. Customers expect the product they want, to be available when they enter a store. And if not, that they can easily have it delivered to the same store or shipped to their home. This only works with very high inventory transparency, for example through our RFID solutions.

 

Keyword: economic efficiency. Creating the much-vaunted personalized perfect shopping experience for the customer costs money, doesn't it? Stock availability, reducing inventories through clearance sales, shelf management, logistics and returns processing – to what extent can you support retailers in increasing their profitability?

NOT creating the perfect shopping experience costs a lot more – dissatisfied customers who haven't found what they want won't come back. To keep up with customer demand, many retailers therefore stock far too much products. In our experience, this amounts to an average of 42,000 items. That costs. These retailers pay high costs for warehouse space, need a lot of time for inventory processes, and end up having to reduce products significantly in order to reduce inventories.
The key to greater profitability lies in inventory accuracy. With the help of RFID technology, we can increase this to up to 99 percent. This allows us to avoid under- or overstocking, reduce the amount of storage space required, and optimize processes, including inventory. RFID can read hundreds of tags simultaneously and is more accurate and faster than manual counting. Experience shows that retailers can increase their sales by an average of three percent with our RFID technology.

 

Even if the situation in retail has eased to some extent as a result of the vaccinations, the shopping situation in on-site stores – viewed optimistically – also requires special precautions, at least for the next few months. With "safer shopping," you offer a package of various components for this purpose. What does it cover?
 
SmartOccupancy is our simple solution for controlling the number of people in salesrooms in real time. The system counts the number of people entering and leaving using Visiplus 3D, an overhead people counting sensor. When the maximum capacity is almost reached, SmartOccupancy sends an alert to the staff. This allows the staff to respond to current occupancy counts in real time, contributing to a safer environment for employees and customers. Those responsible can use SmartOccupancy to implement official instructions on the maximum number of people safely and reliably; manual counting is no longer necessary. A visual capacity indicator clearly shows customers at the door whether they are allowed to enter the store or not.
The second solution is primarily of interest to the textile and clothing industry as well as the footwear market: Inventory Quarantine is a software solution for secure, automated returns (SaaS-based). It allows retailers to park returned goods in an automated quarantine queue for a few hours. After the pre-defined time has passed, Inventory Quarantine notifies employees via push message that the piece of clothing or shoe can be cleared back to the floor or re-tagged as available in the online store. This means that items are only released when they are deemed safe for resale – while ensuring that items are put back on sale promptly. The solution helps retailers keep track of returned goods and minimize the time when products are not available on sale.

 

"Ethical consumption has finally become an attitude and has arrived in the middle of society," trend researcher Peter Wippermann commented on the results of the Otto Group's latest trend study "Living More Consciously". What does sustainability mean to Checkpoint Systems as a company, how do you reflect this finding in your product portfolio and how do you support your customers in achieving sustainability goals?

Sustainability is definitely an important topic for us at Checkpoint Systems. We regularly review our products and processes to see how we can work even more resource-efficiently, reduce production waste and lower our CO2 emissions. This also includes, how we can further reduce the power consumption of our antennas. We only develop and sell RF antennas. This technology is not only safer in terms of exposure to electromagnetic fields, but also more environmentally friendly: RF antennas require 40 to 70 percent less energy than other technologies.

Source:

The Interview was conducted by Ines Chucholowius, Managing Partner, Textination GmbH.

Photo: pixabay
21.09.2021

Virtual Quality Inspection Optimizes Production of Filter Nonwovens

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

Nonwoven production received more attention than ever before from the general public in Corona times, because the technical textile is crucial for infection protection. The ultra-fine nonwoven products are manufactured in so-called meltblown processes. A cross-departmental team at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern is optimizing the entire production chain in the »ProQuIV« project. Simulations help to guarantee the product quality of the filter material despite fluctuations in production.

The abbreviation »ProQuIV« stands for »Production and Quality Optimization of Nonwoven Infection Protection Clothing«. This is because bottlenecks in the production of these materials were particularly evident at the beginning of the Covid 19 crisis. For the meltblown nonwovens, this optimization of the product quality is also particularly difficult because the textiles react very sensitively to fluctuations in the manufacturing processes and material impurities.

Digital Twin Keeps an Eye on the Big Picture
»Meltblown« is the name of the industrial manufacturing process whose ultra-fine fiber nonwovens are responsible for providing the crucial filtering function in face masks. In this process, the molten polymer is forced through nozzles into a forward-flowing, high-speed stream. It is stretched and cooled in a highly turbulent air flow.

»The overall process of filter media production – from the polymer melt to the filter medium – presents a major challenge in simulation,« explains Dr. Konrad Steiner, head of the »Flow and Materials Simulation« department. »In the project, we kept the big picture in mind and developed a completely integrated evaluation chain as a digital twin. In doing so, we take several key components into account at once: We simulate the typical production processes of nonwovens, the formation of the fiber structures and then the material properties – here, in particular, the filter efficiency. This allows us to quantitatively evaluate the influences of the manufacturing process on the product properties.« In each of these individual areas, Fraunhofer ITWM and its experts are among the leading research groups internationally.

Homogeneity of the Material – Fewer Clouds in the Simulation Sky
In the meltblown process, a key factor is the behavior of the filaments in the turbulent, hot and fast air flow. The properties of the filaments are strongly influenced by this air flow. The quality of the filaments – and thus the quality of the nonwovens – is influenced by many factors. Dr. Dietmar Hietel, head of the »Transport Processes« department, knows what this means more precisely in practice. His team has been working at Fraunhofer ITWM for years on the simulation of various processes involving filaments, threads, and fibers. »The focus of the project is the so-called cloudiness, i.e. the non-uniformity of the fiber distributions in the nonwoven,« explains Hietel. »We are investigating the question: How homogeneous is the fabric? Because the quality of the products can be greatly improved if we increase the uniformity. Our simulations help figure out how to do that.«

Objective Evaluation of the Homogeneity of Nonwovens
The researchers also use appropriate image analysis techniques to quantify this cloudiness. The power spectrum plays a special role here. »The cloudiness index (CLI) describes homogeneity complementary to local basis weight and its variance,« describes Dr. Katja Schladitz. She brings her expertise in image processing to the project. »Our CLI ensures a robust assessment of the homogeneity and can thus be used for different material classes and imaging techniques to be used as an objective measure.« The frequencies that go into the CLI calculation can be chosen so that the CLI is meaningful for the particular application area.

Filtration: How Efficient Are the Filters?
For the upscaling to industrial processes such as mask production, the ITWM expertise in filters is also included in the project. The »Filtration and Separation« team led by Dr. Ralf Kirsch has been working for years on the mathematical modeling and simulation of various separation processes.

»What's special about this project is that we calculated the efficiency of the filters for fluctuations of varying degrees in the fiber volume fraction,« emphasizes Kirsch. »This allows us to specify up to what level of cloudiness the required filter efficiency can be achieved at all.« As a current example of this, the figure depicts in the graphic the efficiency of a filter material for N95 masks as a function of the inhomogeneity of the nonwoven.

ITMW Methods Support Across the Entire Process Chain
In »ProQuIV«, digital twins and calculations from Fraunhofer ITWM support a holistic view and better understanding of the processes. The production of technical textiles thus not only becomes more efficient, but the nonwovens can be developed virtually without having to realize this in advance in a test facility. In this way, production capacities can be increased while maintaining or even increase the quality. Together with long-term partners from industry, the research can be put into practice quickly and efficiently.

Simulations save textile companies experiments, allow new insights, enable systematic parameter variations and solve upscaling problems that can otherwise lead to bad investments during the transition from laboratory plant to industrial plant. However, virtual implementation of nonwoven production also opens up new opportunities for optimization at other levels. For example, acoustic insulating nonwovens or even hygiene nonwovens can also be optimized in terms of their product quality precisely with regard to the material properties to be achieved – while taking into account the process fluctuations that occur.

The project is part of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft's »Fraunhofer versus Corona« program and was completed in April 2021. The results will flow into several follow-up projects with the nonwovens industry.