Smart connections

Smart connections

From sensor to Cloud

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As a result of Industry 4.0, digitalisation and automation will increasingly merge into each other. Michael Matthesius, Executive Vice President of the Automation Products and Solutions division explains the benefits that will open up for manufacturing companies and the approaches and solutions that Weidmüller is taking to support their customers.

WIN! Increasingly, Weidmüller has expanded its portfolio with electronic solutions and is now turning again to automation technology. Why is it doing that now?

Matthesius: It’s quite simple. The time is right for this move. Digitalisation opens up completely new possibilities and opportunities for organising, monitoring and controlling manufacturing processes. At the same time, Industry 4.0 is coming up with wholly new requirements that have to be addressed. The engineering industry for example, has recognised that digitalisation solutions are playing an ever more central role in the company’s success. This impacts on the expansion of individual services as much as on the design of data-based business models or Predictive Maintenance systems. Our mission is to make the opportunities of the current technological advances usable for our customers, and together with them to work closely on solutions for the future. To this end, we are developing balanced solutions for the integration of automation and digitalisation.

WIN! The demands placed on automation, control and data analysis are becoming ever more complex as Industry 4.0 moves forward. So clearly, it makes sense to bundle competences and skills through collaborations. How important a topic is this for you?

Matthesius: We are acutely aware of the importance of this topic for us. Nobody can keep pace with the rapid development of digitalisation on their own. Collaborations and the transfer of knowledge through joint development work are becoming increasingly important and will become even more so. We are already working closely with universities and research institutes such as the Fraunhofer Institute and will continue to expand these cooperations as well as partnerships with other companies in the coming years.

WIN! Communication-capable components form the basis for the networked and smart Industry 4.0. What does Weidmüller offer in this area?

Matthesius: Communication-capable components provide the environment for the rapid provision and handling of process data. Together with Industrial Ethernet components, they make it possible to have intelligent, safety-related networking in manufacturing and to enable a profitable data exchange between machines and IT systems. This creates the initial basis for future-oriented digitalisation solutions and for this reason, they are amongst our core products in this area. Here, we are focussing on our automation toolbox and also on Industrial Analytics.

WIN! On the subject of automation toolbox: you have announced that there will be further expansion here. How far have you got with this project?

Matthesius: It is our intention to drive the digital transformation forward, independently of the platform. It won’t be possible to master the Internet of Things without powerful automation technology. And that is why we have developed u-mation, an open, individually scalable automation toolbox. Our automation family is being developed step-by-step and is being continually expanded. Our innovative IoT controller for classical control tasks, u-control, has been added to the existing remote I/O system, u-remote.

WIN! And what differentiates u-mation from other systems?

Matthesius: We are not just offering another automation solution. From day one, we have made our automation toolbox able to work with Industry 4.0. The connection to Cloud systems is just as much an integral part as the possibilities of real-time communication and data analysis, all the way from the data gathering sensor to the Cloud. This is an important USP of our solution. With u-mation, we are offering a comprehensive toolbox for Industry 4.0 that can easily be adapted for different applications. This makes it possible for engineering companies for example, to master and to implement advanced technologies quickly and safely. The top and bottom of it is that the machines have to work – nothing more and nothing less.

WIN! u-control, your Internet of Things controller is designed for web-based communication. Can you tell us more about what it can do?

Matthesius: With its web-based engineering tool, u-control makes it possible to access machines at any time, from any location and with any end-device. In this way, control is becoming more independent of the hardware. The open web technologies mean that the user is not tied to a specific device or operating system. Individual requirements can be loaded as additional software onto the controller via an app, relatively easily.

A further significant advantage is that the controller uses IT technologies so that you only need an HTML5 browser to do programming in line with IEC 61131-3. This means that there is no need for additional training.

In my opinion, the powerful and flexible combination of hardware, software and engineering that u-control offers is currently unique in the market. While traditional SPS programming has remained very stable over the past 25 years, IT technologies have developed rapidly in the meantime. We are taking advantage of this and are building the bridge to this new world with our products. By doing this, we can support companies as they address the evolution of automation.

WIN! You already mentioned the area of Industrial Analytics. How is Weidmüller gearing up in this respect for the coming years?

Matthesius: With Industrial Analytics and the Cloud Service u-link, we are already the strategic partner for many companies when it comes to Analytics solutions. We are making the knowhow from our own manufacturing available to a whole host of well-known machine construction companies. We are able to work platform-independently and we can align ourselves very specifically to the requirements of the customer. Our advantage is that we combine application knowledge and Analytics know-how with each other. We can integrate data analyses from concrete applications and derive value-adding conclusions from this. It is also our goal in this area to establish and maintain close and long-term partnerships with our customers, in order to build a successful future together.

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