PIA Automation pursues Technology-to-Business strategy

by David Fleschen

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

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.

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

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.

Source and Photo: PIA Automation

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