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Data beats guesswork

Materials, machines, processes. Continental records a vast amount of data throughout the tire production process. The expert team of Roland Wilmer is working on using this data as effectively as possible with sophisticated software and IT solutions.

Software would not spring to mind for many when it comes to tires. Nevertheless, IT solutions have been playing a significant role in quality assurance at Continental for a long time now. "Nowadays, there are practically no measures for the further development of quality management in which IT doesn't play a role," says Roland Wilmer, head of the Analytics & QM IT Solutions department for quality management in the Tire division. The trained chemist has continued to expand the department over the last few months, with more colleagues joining every year. Despite Wilmer's hopes, data analysts are in short supply. And finding somebody who is not only good at math and statistics but also familiar with tires is akin to matching six numbers in the lottery – and the bonus ball.

Furthermore, data analysis is an expensive business. It requires not only highly specialized personnel, but also high-performance IT solutions and a powerful computer center. "Analyzing large amounts of data is a complex process," says Roland Wilmer. As he explains, the image of somebody clicking the mouse a few times and then the computer spitting out the desired information is unfortunately far from reality. In actual fact, to process enormous amounts of data and gain new insights, experts are required to perform a multitude of operations. 

An end to the absurd amount of time and effort

Despite all the technical and personnel challenges, Continental is absolutely determined to be one of the first industrial companies in Germany to systematically analyze all production data. "The idea isn't new, but now we can finally put it into practice," says Roland Wilmer. After all, this approach promises major benefits for the corporation – from optimum management of factories and new possibilities for quality management to even more efficient research and development work.

One of the main tasks of Wilmer's team is to bundle all data accumulated by Continental in production and quality management on a single platform. "If, for example, a tire does not run smoothly during a test, at the moment we still refer to a variety of different systems for troubleshooting," explains Roland Wilmer. "It involves an absurd amount of time and effort." The solution that the team is working on together with their colleagues from IT immediately provides an overview of all data and special analysis tools indicate where the problem lies. Data experts are currently connecting the plants to the system one by one.

The end of the road, however, is still a long way off. "Countless other applications are possible," says Roland Wilmer. "Even innovative products and services are conceivable using the methods of big data analytics."