Solutions—as Individual as You
Production plants are becoming more and more automated, process plants more complex, and machines are starting to complete production steps autonomously. There’s no question that industry is evolving, and with it the requirements for industrial sensor technology and explosion protection. It is no surprise that these changes are influencing the types of problems and tasks that customers and partners bring to Pepperl+Fuchs Group employees. By offering individual solutions, we are supporting our customers and guiding them toward a digital future.
Just thinking about the number of technical devices and applications you use daily makes you realize that new technologies have brought about a lot of change in the past few years and will continue to do so. From self-parking cars and robotic vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers to smartphones and smart home devices, new technologies are constantly being developed to make our lives a little easier. The things that make our private lives more comfortable and "smart" have already been implemented on a much larger scale in industrial environments. Plants are increasingly being networked to make them easier to monitor; processes are safer and more efficient; and many steps in production, logistics, and other areas take place automatically. These and other changes in the industrial world not only mean improved safety, quality, and efficiency, but also that even more complex solutions are needed—solutions that somebody has to develop. After all, with new technologies and opportunities, the tasks, challenges, and problems of plant operators, OEMs, and system suppliers will also change.
Pepperl+Fuchs offers more than “just” products, so our customers can continue to focus on their own core business and entrust a specialist with finding solutions to their automation tasks. Depending on the requirements, experts at Pepperl+Fuchs develop, plan, and implement complete solutions for factory and process automation that are specifically tailored to the project and application of each customer. Whether the problem concerns a small part of a process, an individual product solution, or an entire process flow, Pepperl+Fuchs handles every step of the project for its customers, from solution design and detailed engineering to timely, high-quality manufacturing and commissioning. Especially for small and medium-sized companies with neither the capacity nor the expertise to focus on large-scale automation tasks, this approach provides real support for day-to-day operations.
We offer our customers a service that goes far beyond simply providing components.
Individual Solutions for Factory Automation
"While individual sensors were in demand a few years ago, today our customers are looking for customized, comprehensive solutions," explains Ralf Rössling, Head of Smart System Solutions at Pepperl+Fuchs. Rössling and his team plan the projects and create complete, ready-to-use solutions for factory automation projects. These solutions don't just include individual components and the corresponding accessories but also customized software and connection to the customer's ERP system. "We offer our customers a service that goes far beyond simply providing components," says Rössling.
The "cases" that Rössling and his team work on come from a wide range of sectors, including the automotive industry, warehousing, material handling, and aviation. The tasks and solutions that the experts implement using technologies from the Pepperl+Fuchs product portfolio are just diverse as the industries themselves. In the past, many different solutions were implemented using RFID components combined with specially programmed software, for example. "A good example is the use of RFID solutions for servicing tubes in plants," says Rössling. "We used RFID tags as electronic nameplates, that can easily be read with our RFID handhelds. With software developed especially for the customer, plant employees now have mobile access to all the relevant information for servicing a particular tube at the touch of a button." This combination of RFID handhelds and customized software not only simplifies the service personnel's work but also increases safety and efficiency during tube servicing at the customer’s plant.
In combination with customized software, R2000 2-D LiDAR sensors are also part of complete solutions that Pepperl+Fuchs has already implemented. A combination of numerous R2000 laser scanners that are aligned with the object in different positions and calibrated to each other can be used to precisely detect very large objects. Using data from the individual R2000 sensors, the Pepperl+Fuchs software creates a pixel cloud to generate an image of the object. This image can be automatically synchronized with CAD data or uploaded to the cloud, depending on customer needs. There is almost no limit to the size of the object—even a plane can be recorded using multiple coordinated R2000 sensors. “We use the R2000 for many applications in addition to object detection, like reliable route monitoring. It isn't widely known that our sensor technology can be used to implement solutions like these, and this is a key reason why we offer both individual components and the whole package," explains Rössling. "We don't just draw on our entire product portfolio, but also on our expertise in software development and programming."
From Quote to Certification and Everything in Between
Process industry plants pose increasingly complex challenges, not least in terms of explosion protection. Numerous legal regulations must be complied with, because ultimately, people and the environment must be protected even more so than plants and machines. To meet the demanding requirements of the process industry, Pepperl+Fuchs has set up special Solution Engineering Centers (SECs) worldwide, where skilled experts plan, develop, and construct engineered solutions on a daily basis. Customers get complete solutions that are ready to operate and have all types of protection, including certification for use in hazardous areas. The SECs manage every step of a project so plant operators can concentrate on their core business. During engineering and in-depth project planning, engineers in the respective SEC work in close cooperation with customers to take every requirement into account. The SECs rely on an extensive product portfolio with various electrotechnical functions in various designs—for example, products made from plastic, glass fiber reinforced plastic, aluminum, and stainless steel. After receiving customer approval, the planned solutions are built in modern production cells according to the highest quality standards. Agreed upon timelines for engineered solutions are, of course, adhered to. Comprehensive quality testing at the SECs ensures that customers receives a complete, ready-to-use total solution that can be directly deployed in the plant.
The SECs must meet a wide range of product requirements. "Our engineers are never bored," explains Herbert Schober, Executive Vice President of Electrical Protection Equipment and Solutions Global at Pepperl+Fuchs. "A few years ago, for example, we were faced with the challenge of using our solutions to deploy non-explosion-protected devices in tunnel construction, i.e., in hazardous areas. For us, this was a completely new application field." Yet, the experts at Pepperl+Fuchs familiarized themselves with the topic and found the perfect solution for the customer. The underground navigation system and the uninterruptible power supply for the customer's tunnel boring machines were built into a flameproof aluminum enclosure with Ex d protection, so neither could cause danger to the workers in the tunnel. "Even if an explosive atmosphere were to penetrate the flameproof enclosure, the enclosure would be able to withstand the pressure resulting from an explosion, thus preventing the explosion from becoming a hazard to the surrounding area," explains Schober. To facilitate access to terminals and signal cables, SEC engineers combined the Ex d enclosure with a connected control station with Ex e (increased safety) protection.
Pepperl+Fuchs supports its customers with a range of tailor-made solutions for use in hazardous areas.
Solutions such as these are in greater demand than ever before. "This is also due to the fact that even larger companies no longer have the resources to plan projects themselves and are shifting these tasks to manufacturers more and more," explains Schober. "So, Pepperl+Fuchs supports its customers by offering a range of tailor-made solutions for use in hazardous areas, ensuring that customers always get the exact solution they need."
The Right Medicine
Pepperl+Fuchs customers always get the right solution for the unique requirements of their plant, including operating and monitoring systems. Industry experts like Stefan Sittel, Business Development Manager at Pepperl+Fuchs, work with the SECs to compile a customized package containing the optimal blend of hardware and software functionality for customers such as pharmaceutical plants. "Operating and monitoring systems resemble pharmacies themselves: there is no universal remedy for every plant. Various connections and protocols must be combined with control panels and PCs to meet a wide range of requirements. There are also many different types of enclosures, keyboards, mice, and peripherals specially developed for hazardous areas, such as RFID handheld readers," explains Sittel. "Depending on the ambient conditions and the customer's request, we can adapt our HMI systems precisely to individual application requirements."
Operating and monitoring systems resemble pharmacies themselves: there is no universal remedy for every plant.
Many standard mounting options already allow for more flexibility in the application. In the Pepperl+Fuchs HMI portfolio, customization is not limited to hardware components. "If the customer also has specific mechanical requirements for our configurable HMI systems, we can tailor them individually to their needs," explains Sittel. "This is also true for additional software features with the flexible thin client firmware RM Shell 5. This significantly increases efficiency in the pharmaceutical industry through customized hardware and software.
Combined and Comprehensive Expertise
Customized solutions are not only produced in the SECs and the teams led by Ralf Rössling and Stefan Sittel, but they can also be found in many other areas of the Pepperl+Fuchs Group. From engineered product developments, tailor-made vision systems, and smart automation systems for the aviation industry to individual process analyses and IoT solutions, customers have access to a powerful network of additional expertise. For example, the start-up Neoception develops innovative software solutions and industrial IoT services that are specially tailored to customers' business processes and requirements. Using customer-specific analysis, the team helps to increase the efficiency of plants and processes, and tap into hidden potential.
The different companies within the Pepperl+Fuchs Group work together, too. "For example, if a customer requests individual IoT services as an add-on to a project, we work closely with our colleagues at Neoception to come up with the complete solution," says Rössling. "Similarly, Neoception uses Pepperl+Fuchs RFID solutions when a customer requests an identification task." The experts at Pepperl+Fuchs not only combine their own team’s components and expertise, but also integrate other partners from the group to provide the customer with the ideal complete solution. "It is the combination that solves the customer's problem in the end," says Rössling.