Digitization in automation

Published on Jun 17, 2019


"From vision to practice"

Digitization has fundamentally changed mechanical engineering. Modern production systems are no longer based purely on mechatronic solutions; instead they employ a combination of electronic components and state-of-the-art IT. However, in the past, the word “digitization” was generally abstract, rather than tangible. PIA Automation has changed that with a practice-oriented symposium featuring prominent speakers on June 6 in Bad Neustadt.

As part of the official opening of its new Headquarters in Bad Neustadt, PIA Automation demonstrated digital automation in practice, using the concrete examples of PIA machines and solutions, and with the support of its expert partners: Festo, Siemens, Balluff, Beckhoff, montratec and Viewpointsystem. Along with a professional exhibition and factory tour through the company’s modern premises, more than 200 visitors were treated to a series of exciting technical presentations.


"Data is the new oil. Information is the new gold."

In his opening remarks Johannes Linden, CEO of the PIA Group, underlined the importance of digitization for the automation industry. With its “PIA 4.0” vision, which is rooted in digitization, the PIA Group aims to increase its global market presence and offer customers real added value – in keeping with the motto of the symposium.

Thomas Ernst, CSO of the PIA Group, and Claude Eisenmann, CDO of the PIA Group, were the first speakers. In their discussion the two experts focused on the growing importance, and increasing value, of digital solutions. As a globally active automation specialist, PIA Automation is at the forefront of digitization – and can certainly be described as an “Industry 4.0 enabler”. But innovative solutions rely on close examination of customers’ existing digital competencies and tailoring to the specific conditions at a company. In today’s market providers must meet the needs of a range of technological environments and corporate cultures. Thomas Ernst and Claude Eisenmann explored those challenges.


Open exchange as the foundation for digitization

The introductory remarks from PIA’s experts were followed by a presentation from Heiko Geng, Head of Product Management Digital Business at Festo. He described the advantages of open data systems and open communication – not just with customers but also with other companies – on the path to digitization.

Then Peter Deml, Head of Factory at the Siemens electric motor plant in Bad Neustadt, addressed the effect of advancing digitization will have on employees in his presentation “Structural Transformation in Production”. He argued that the high level of complexity resulting from the customisation of products means employees require intensive support on the road to digitization: while the use of digital media is firmly established in people’s private lives, companies must now get their employees on board and make use of their digital competencies at work. Deml impressed the audience, describing how Siemens produces more than 30,000 servomotor variants a year in Bad Neustadt.

He was followed by Claude Eisenmann, who presented the flexible piaSphere modular system, which allows the secure transfer of data from the field to the cloud. Blueprints were at the core of the professional exhibition, where all the partners presented their innovations. A highlight of the exhibition was the PIA Innovation Lab, headed by Claude Eisenmann. It gave the eight partners the opportunity to impressively demonstrate how three customer systems could be digitization using highly innovative methods and tools.

The presentation by Peter Zech, Head of Digital Management at the Siemens electric motor plant in Bad Neustadt, was titled “The Digital Twin in Practice”, and explained its applications in process planning and optimisation. He was followed by Sebastian Müller, Director of Product Management and Sales at montratec, who explored how development and delivery times can be optimised with the help of flexible transport systems.

Josef Papenfort, Product Managemer TwinCAT at Beckhoff, continued the series by addressing how PC-based control technology can make machines more efficient.

Thomas Ernst (CSO, PIA Holding)

"Our event shows that there is great interest in practical examples of I4.0."

Andreas Wick, Technical Strategist IIoT in Customer Support & Training at Balluff, then described the opportunities and advantages offered through the integration of intelligent field devices in IT systems. His presentation also explained why it is essential to make systems open and think cooperatively.

Sven Hugo Joosten, Head of Sales at Viewpointsystem, described the practical applications of Eye Hyper Tracking in industrial environments: For example, eye tracking allows customers to offer cross-border support. The principle is similar to screen sharing, which is often used in IT. In the future, it will be possible to use the eyes as means of communication in industrial settings by accessing another person’s field of vision. The application was demonstrated using a live link to the PIA location in Grambach, Austria.

Christian Bachmeir, a professor at the University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt’s Institute for Digital Engineering, explained an approach to the development of flexible IIoT systems, which offer decision makers well-founded information.

That was followed by a practical demonstration by Thomas Stix, Sales & Realization Manager Digital Service at PIA Austria, who presented piaOptimum, an application for the identification of bottlenecks and process optimisation in complex assembly systems.  

Thomas Ernst took stock at the end of the symposium: “In recent years there has been a focus on discussing Industry 4.0, and there have been numerous events around the subject. That is why we were surprised to receive so many registrations so quickly. It shows that there is great interest in practical examples of Industry 4.0. We expect that PIA will hold further events of this kind in the future.

All presentations and other impressions of the symposium can be found on our event page.