Control solutions on the forefront
Beijer Electronics’ Chief Technology Officer Tommy Håkansson offers his insights on how the company plans to simplify IIoT technology in 2018 – with the ultimate goal of helping customers move their machine data to the cloud in just 10 minutes.
What is Beijer Electronics’ view on digitalization, Industry 4.0 and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) solutions?
Tommy Håkansson: These three elements are all inter-connected. We’ve seen IoT solutions coming for quite some time now - especially on the consumer side. Our industry is a little bit more conservative. The technology needs to be proven before it is used in factories.
In the manufacturing industry, these technologies - intelligent machines and so on - will be crucial for companies to stay competitive. We see them taking their lead from the consumer solutions which already have incorporated Artificial Intelligence, augmented reality and other advanced technologies to offer the flexibility and efficiencies that Industry 4.0 is all about.
Beijer Electronics presence, historically, has been on the factory floor, using our products to connect and control machines. Machines generate data, and it is this data that we want to extend to the cloud to utilize in IIoT scenarios. We see this as a natural extension to our core business.
What does Beijer Electronics offer to help customers digitalize their solutions and make use of IIoT?
TH: Beijer Electronics’ solutions take machine-generated data and place it in the cloud to be analyzed more intricately. The ultimate goal is to create “smart” machines and factories.
That is why our vision is all about simplicity, and giving the power to our customers to manage their own machines and data analysis. It is also about creating intuitive user experiences, while reducing cost and complexity at the same time.
To do this, we plan to launch our “Fast track to the cloud” suite later in 2018. The plan is to enable our customers’ automation engineers to configure and deploy an IIoT system in their organization within ten minutes.
This is the type of intricate, technical work that has traditionally taken hundreds of man-hours - man-years, sometimes - to configure. So to be able to give our customers the ability to create cloud connectivity across the whole factory floor - in multiple global locations - in such a short space of time is quite a challenge.
"The plan is to enable our customers’ automation engineers to configure and deploy an IIoT system in their organization within ten minutes."
Which customers and industries can benefit from Beijer Electronics’ offer within digitalization and IIoT?
TH: The majority of our customers are machine vendors. That is to say they develop machines which they then sell to manufacturing organizations to use in their factories. Our solutions help customers keep track of their products wherever they are in the world by taking data from local machines and placing it in the cloud.
We are talking to a lot of companies and are beginning to pilot installations of our new automation technology. Ultimately we are providing tools that will allow our customers to create their own IIoT solutions and manage their machines more effectively.
What are the competitive advantages provided by Beijer Electronics cloud technologies?
TH: Beijer Electronics solutions provide a number of advantages. One key area is the remote commissioning of software and functionality, meaning companies don’t have to upgrade software on site.
Our dashboards help customers keep track of machine performance and look at KPIs and other key data on any device. This brings significant insight and transparency on the characteristics of the machine which can be used to determine its value and performance.
This leads naturally to predictive maintenance. Normally, on a machine, there would be servicing and upgrade work carried out at regular intervals - say, twice a year. Predictive maintenance is the logging and analysis of data about the condition of the machine in the cloud. This means you can actually predict when the machine is going to fail and schedule maintenance before that happens.
How do Beijer Electronics IIoT solutions differ from other companies within the automation business?
TH: It is the whole idea of “Making the complex simple”. As far as I know, we are the only provider of complex Human Machine Interface (HMI) solutions to make our tools accessible to all.
Our customers do not require high levels of technical competence. Users don’t have to have hands-on experience with automation, telemetry, web design, cyber security or other specific elements of IT. We make sure our tools are simple and easy to use. We put a shield around these complex skill-sets and try to make the automation process deployable with in ten minutes - regardless of the engineer’s technical capabilities.
Exemplify how the phrase “Making the complex simple” comes to life in Beijer Electronics’ offering?
TH: We are simplifying things in so many ways. Our solutions are designed to make life easier for customers throughout their entire workflow. Post-automation, a customer will see an immediate reduction in engineering costs, a shortening of the time-to-market for their machines and increased transparency of key data.
This also extends to the modification of existing solutions. Customers using a consultancy model require additional assistance and labor whenever they need to implement modifications and upgrades. Once you have installed our solutions, you can add new KPI metrics, dashboards or other features within 10 minutes again and again.
We have done all the hard work in the development process to minimize complexity. Once it reaches the customer, ours is essentially a low-touch “Do it yourself” model requiring minimal support and maintenance.
It has been our philosophy for many years with all our products. We are providing the tools and giving our customers the power.
What can customers expect from Beijer Electronics in 2018 in terms of new products, software and services?
TH: We have two main areas to focus on this year. In the spring, we are looking forward to launch our new IIoT gateway solution - BoX2 - which will act as a data collector allowing companies to extract previously untapped data from any of their legacy machines. It is compatible with almost all models and brands from any factory floor over the last 25 years, and will mean richer insights can be gathered regardless of the age of the original technology.
Later in the year, we are extremely excited to be launching our “Fast track to the cloud” suite of products. This is the technology that will give customers the 10-minute automation deployment capability.
Along with this we will continue to strengthen our offer within HMI and automation solutions.
We believe this is the start of a great year!