Industry 4.0: how Advantech is driving European manufacturing

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) is driving a new revolution in manufacturing, providing globally integrated systems which offer the tantalising prospect of improved decision making. Advantech’s Solution Ready Package (SRP) is leading from the front.

Jash Bansidhar, Sector Head of Industrial IoT Europe, Advantech 

The problem many manufacturers have in Europe is that much of the region is dominated by brownfield sites. They’re filled with heterogeneous proprietary technologies dating back years, creating challenges for managers that need to integrate and connect and monitor these production assets. But things are changing, thanks to IIoT-led innovations, led notably by Germany.

The IIoT offers manufacturers the opportunity to move away from a highly localised to a global-but-centralised approach – enabling improved decision making and providing customers with real-time information about the products they’ve ordered.

The System-Ready Packages

Open, internet-connected modular solutions can integrate data from different facilities and assets at every layer and bring it into a centralised control room where it can be visualised and used to power competitive advantage. This is the value of Advantech’s solution-ready packages. It uses pre-programmed algorithms designed for specific application domains so that 80 per cent of the implementation work is done for the manufacturer. The remaining 20 per cent is all configuration, which optimises for the individual customer: no more programming required.

Once done the system can be rolled out across Europe and worldwide using Advantech’s global footprint. Operating expenditure, downtime of assets and other data can be used by managers to make key decisions and fed into AI systems to predict future scenarios.

Advantech is working hard behind the scenes to power this new industrial revolution. With a rich 25-year history in Europe, we’re adding all the time to our offices in 10 countries, more than 60 partners and 400 employees. The technology is already here for manufacturers to transform their operations, they just need to prioritise innovation and competitive advantage.

Need information and support for your IoT Projects?  Contact Advantech

Video Transcript:

Hello, and welcome to Business Reporter's Industry 4.0 campaign. I'm Alastair Greener, and today, I'm talking to Jash Bansidhar from Advantech.

Good morning.

Alastair, good morning.

Tell us more about the major players in industrial IoT. What sort of industries are they coming from?

The traditional players in industrialised activity, which is more related to manufacturing, are coming from the OT, the operation technologies. And gradually, also, the players from the IT sector, they started to enter the operations field. Those players are driven by innovation from different continents. Germany is a very important country with innovative players, Europe in general. But also Asia and China has leading OT, IT manufacturers who are entering the IoT market.

If you look to manufacturing today, it's all happening on the manufacturing plant, which is localised. The step that industrial IoT wants to make is to bring that localization more to a global centralised approach, where you can monitor and make decisions on what is happening in your production. But not only that, because me, as a consumer, I like to have real time information, visibility about what is happening with product or the solution that I ordered.

The great advantage of industrial IoT is that a consumer, who is me, has visibility over the order that he has placed. Because the system is integrated. It's not only a plant. It's not only the supplier or the consumer. It's an integrated ecosystem that creates visibility in real time. And that is a very exciting era.

It's quite interesting. When we look at industrial IoT, one of the big things is the factor of machinery being connected. How is this driving the need for centralization and also the need for automation platforms?

That's a challenge, because Europe has a lot of Brownfield. It's already installed many years ago, and they are producing it in factories for a long time. Those solutions are proprietary, closed, because a machine is built from a machine manufacturer installed in a factory to produce something. Different machines have different type of technologies.

And the challenge there is how to bring the information from all those assets, all those equipments, which are installed many years ago with traditional technology, into the IoT world, which are, let's say, innovations happening in the past few years. And the challenge for Europe, as a manufacturing territory, is to speed up this innovation and to empower those assets to become internet connected. And that's where Internet of Things is happening in the industry.

And it's a challenge, isn't it, dealing with legacy systems that you have? And how much is this lack of centralization because of the legacy systems, how is that affecting efficiency?

Manufacturing is happening not only in one country but in many countries. And the same company are producing for the local market in different sites. Each manufacturing site can have a centralised system, but it's very local, so how to bring that together using IoT technology. And the challenge is not how to do it, because the technology is already there. The challenge is to create a mindset in the manufacturing, the producers itself, to prioritise that so that they can get competitive advantage by monitoring on a global scale what is happening in their production. And connecting all those assets with an open modular solution, that is where Advantech has proven its benefits for these kind of companies.

What you're talking really about here is integration. And if we are integrating these different factories and different organisations throughout Europe and so on, what are the different layers of that centralization that need to exist to enable that to happen?

It starts on the lowest level, on the sensor and IO level, because those assets are already there, the Brownfield history. How to get those information into a centralised system, so you need to go through different layers-- the IO layer, the POC, layer, then the communication, and then the visualisation, and getting all those data in a central database and monitor it. And at the end, predict what might happen in the near future. And those layers are coming from different suppliers-- some proprietary, some open. And how do you integrate that to become visible in the centralised system? That is the challenge, I think, that the European manufacturers are facing today.

Tell us a little bit more about Advantech, and you have this system ready platform. Tell us how that works.

What I just explained are all the layers, and how to bring all those information to a centralised system. You can do it in different ways. The traditional way is to built a proprietary solution to bring that information to the control room. But with the SRPs, the solution ready platforms, manufacturers can easily connect their existing assets, use the pre-programmed algorithms already in the Azure gateways. And also the visualisation of what you want to see, and bring that information to your central control room, based on which, you can make your prediction or your analysis or your decisions.

So the advantage of the solution ready platform for us is that it saves time of implementing those solutions. And it is almost ready. 80% is already done, because it's focused on the specific application and the specific domain. The rest of the 20% you need to optimise, because each production site is a little bit different from the other. So the optimization is easy by configuration. You don't have to programme anymore. That is a big advantage, creating fast implementation, fast time to market, fast analysis.

And once that works out, you can roll it out globally. Because the system is certified and proven, and you can roll it out all of your assets on worldwide scale. And that's where Advantech. Because with 35 years of experience in the market, we have a global footprint that we can help manufacturers to implement those solutions, not only in Europe, but also in other continents.

You talked about visualisation. What are the key benefits of a centralised visualisation?

Let me give you an example of our own manufacturing. We have sites in Asia producing our IoT technologies. And with these technologies, we integrated that also in our manufacturing to see what is happening in this production. It's not anymore between the ears of operators. But we are bringing that information in our war room. It's a centralised system where you can see energy consumption, over-equipment efficiency, manufacturing, OPEC's costs, downtime of assets, and so on. So all those information are centralised. And based on that, our operational managers can make decisions, priorities.

And the next step, what we like to implement is artificial intelligence on top of that, so that we can get some predictions, what might happen. And at the end, the operator and the managers are making the decision. But they get some ideas what could be a solution or scenario that they could run. These advantages are connected to a centralised approach of monitoring and managing your operations.

You talked earlier on about the building blocks of industrial IoT. Whereabouts is Advantech in that? Where are you strongest?

35 years of experience started with two main technology roadmaps. First, the IT industrial computing. Nowadays, we are a market leader with 32% market share. So that IT technology on IPC base we built a great product portfolio. But we started also with the OT technology, with data acquisition. And today, everybody knows our [? ATA ?] modules. 35 years ago, we're the first. So these IT, OT technologies evaluated in the past years, which brings now the benefit of connecting both IT, OT technologies with our software to deploy it in manufacturing. So you can see that we master both key technologies to bring industrial IoT into manufacturing.

Now, Advantech is a global company, and you've got this new role that you've been developing. So how are you adjusting your marketing to match that?

Oh, that is quite exciting, I must say. Where, in the past, we were focusing on devices or a combination of devices, we started to add software functionality on it, making it solution ready platforms in a specific application. It means that the approach to the market is changing. We have first the prog division that are adding these solutions into the platform together with our partners. We call it Co-Creation partners. The footprint globally with our partners are leading a very fast integration of SRPs.

Imagine if we can bring the global part in that work into our product portfolio, how fast we can innovate with solution ready package. This is one step that is happening today. And the first kickoff for this Co-Creation partner discussion is already in June, aiming to an event in November in China, where we'd like to invite 6,000 customers to see the innovation on which manufacturing can quickly deploy information to monitor their factories.

What about Europe? Are there any specific challenges for European operations?

There will always be challenges, and Europe is growing double-digit in the past few years. So the progress is good. We've been building our company since 25 years in Europe. And with this situation, we have 10 countries covered by our offices with 65 of partners employing 400 people, doing a revenue of 225 million euro today. So the base is there, but the opportunity is happening locally.

Manufacturing is in this country. So we need to expand our operation. We need to improve the coverage of our sales offices. Like last year, we invested in Sweden with an office this year. We are establishing an office in Spain. And we will empower the Central East European organisation to cover the other countries where we are just starting. So if you look to the future of Advantech in Europe, we still have a lot of work to do. But the base is already there in a very healthy condition.

It's really interesting to see how industrial IoT is going to have a major impact in global trade and operations. And you've given us a fascinating glimpse into the future. So thank you very much indeed. Jash Bansidhar from Advantech, thank you.

Thank you, Alastair. It's nice to talk to you.


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