In an interview with SPS-MAGAZIN, Andreas Baumüller, Managing Partner of the Baumüller Group explains which changes Industry 4.0 and digitalization are bringing and why traditional hardware should not be ignored.
Mr. Baumüller, everyone today is talking about Industry 4.0, etc. To what extent is the underlying technological change already influencing your company and its offer?
Andreas Baumüller: Our portfolio has already been continuously changing the path of components to the system provider since the 1990s. The customer has long expected that our motors, converters and control systems work together in the application. The approach of Industry 4.0 now goes a step further in allowing the user a more intelligent and advantageous value creation. However, this trend not only affects technology, but will also have a clear impact on the service side and with respect to the business models - as well as constant change, which we as an automation company must face.
Is this completely new territory?
Baumüller: It’s not only new territory. We have known about some of the elements for many years from large systems, such as those elements concerning availability. In addition to the installed components and their functions, smart maintenance and service concepts are especially a focus here, which keep the systems running efficiently with a high level of availability. In terms of added value through digitalization, we at Baumüller have already gained a lot of experience. After all, as a manufacturing company, we also rely on these tools to increase efficiency in our plants. We are virtually a manufacturer and user in one and can thus generate major customer benefits. The challenge for the future is to use these digital tools throughout the life cycle management.
With Baudis IoT or Ubiquity, Baumüller already has software products for the networking of machines, systems and processes in its product range. In the future, will these form the sole basis for unique selling points or will USPs still be generated on the hardware side?
Baumüller: The products mentioned certainly generate solutions with unique selling points for our customers. Nevertheless, the functionality forms the basis
of the application and is thus the most important reason for us to exist as a drive and automatization provider. With all the possibilities offered by digitalization,
the user will always focus on the specific benefit, which applies to retrofit projects as well as to the field of greenfields.
So the question of software and hardware is not an ‘either-or,’ but rather a ‘both as well as.’
Baumüller: Certainly. The software proportion of solutions for mechanical engineering has steadily increased in recent years and will continue to do so. For us as a solution provider in the automatization and drive technology field, software as well as hardware have been core competences for years, which we are constantly developing. Without our application and automation know-how, we would not be able to generate benefits from the advances in digitalization. In this respect, you should not drive digitization for itself, but you should always focus on the benefits.
This is where the topic of big data comes into play.
Baumüller: It's less about big data than smart data. Only through extensive application know-how and long-term experience can recorded data be transformed into useful information - this is the great art of truly optimizing the availability, efficiency or runtime of a machine in a meaningful way.
What challenges must Baumüller face next? Where is the company's journey taking them?
Baumüller: In addition to product development and digitalization, another focus is on expanding our markets. In doing so, we must adapt to the specific requirements of the respective markets and customers and continuously coordinate our offer of products, solutions and services. Our portfolio includes the realization of applications for drive and automation technology as well as digital solutions for both new and existing machines and systems. We succeed in this with our intelligent and economical product and solution portfolio, which we are constantly developing. At Baumüller, it consists today and in the future of hardware and software as well as the appropriate offering of services.