PIA Digital & Innovation Lab

Published on Jul 22, 2019


Under the umbrella of the "Digital & Innovation Lab", PIA – together with industry and research partners – is testing innovation projects in digitization to enable customers to achieve even higher system availability.

The PIA Digital & Innovation Lab is an integral part of the "PIA 4.0" vision to drive digitization projects worldwide across departments, divisions and locations. Every innovation or new technology aims to improve OEE (overall equipment efficiency). Claude Eisenmann, Chief Digital Officer responsible for PIA 4.0, explains the approach: "We follow the 'Technology to Business' principle, i.e. new technologies are tested and checked for their relevance in terms of profitability, quality improvement and performance. The goal in each case is an MVP (minimum viable product), a product that promises added value and can therefore be included in the portfolio."

Annually in September/October, Technology & Innovation Roadmaps are laid out to determine which use cases could be worthwhile in the following year. There are 19 such roadmaps in this business year, for example for robotics, cobotics, image processing, module standardisation and industrial security. One example from industrial security illustrates the procedure: A company presented PIA with a device (hardware and software) whose integration can protect a production system even more reliably against cyber-attacks. What sounded good on paper was then actually tested at the PIA sites in Grambach (Austria) and Bad Neustadt (Germany), i.e. wired and configured on appropriate lines, and the results were compared. Factors such as profitability, initial costs, assembly and configuration effort and relevance for the operations must now be weighed up before a final assessment can be made.

Claude Eisenmann (CDO, PIA Holding)

"We want to accompany the customer on their journey in the world of digitization."

Symposium 2019: Experience innovation live

At a PIA Automation symposium on digital automation in June 2019, projects from the Digital & Innovation Lab were presented live in ten "Innovation Show Cases" together with partners. Customers and visitors were able to experience a concrete implementation of a use case. With the help of the various projects, the customers’ digitization roadmaps can be checked, illustrated and supplemented, as Claude Eisenmann emphasizes: "We want to accompany the customer on their journey in the world of digitization with ground-breaking concepts, concrete software products and associated services."

Another important aspect of the Digital & Innovation Lab is the minimisation of risk through trial and error. The research drastically reduces the technical risk that new developments pose for customers. "Mistakes or failures in an innovation project are an important finding too," says Claude Eisenmann. "It’s possible that the product cannot be offered economically, that it doesn’t offer the necessary technical flexibility or robustness, or that the function isn’t wholly convincing. In this way it’s only tested on a small scale within the Digital & Innovation Lab rather than failing while being used worldwide by PIA."

Ensuring data connectivity easily

During the symposium, an illustration of what can be achieved by research in the Digital & Innovation Lab was given by a spontaneous live demonstration with one of PIA’s sensor and device manufacturers. At a screwing station, two gateways were first tested by connecting them to an IBM Watson platform as well as to the Bosch cloud platform. Both platforms showed what data could currently be monitored at the station. The device manufacturer Balluff, together with a PIA expert, was then able to quickly couple an own new IO-Link smart device to the gateways and therefore also display data such as temperature, motion, axis speed or sensors live in both IIoT platforms. "By testing new gateways, we can guarantee very flexible data connectivity and easily link all data producers in the site to different IIoT platforms," says Claude Eisenmann – a success for the Digital & Innovation Lab.