Endress+Hauser’s Frank Hils shares his views on local and global industry trends

Frank Hils, Director of Projects & Solutions, Endress+Hauser visited Australia recently. He took some time out from his schedule to talk to Kevin Gomez, Editor – PACE about current and impending developments in the industry.

Why hasn’t Profibus made much headway into Australia’s manufacturing sector?
Well, I don’t know the Australian market well enough. Fieldbus technology actually started in the manufacturing industry and from there it moved into the process industry. This is from a technology perspective.

The other aspect to consider are the contenders on the systems side. Profibus was pushed by Siemens, by European manufacturers, so it’s more or less a question of who dominates a certain market. You could also turn it around and say that Profibus PA supporters did a great job in Australia, because the adoption of Profibus PA is very strong here.

Do users still have concerns about wireless applications?
Of course. People always have concerns if they are confronted with a new technology. You can address that in two ways. On one side, you can come up with calculations, technology, architectures, and try to remove that fear.

The other approach is, to tell them, ‘when you’re afraid, step back and don’t use it.’ The people who are not afraid start to use it and then, just by their experience, the fear starts to fade. Of course, the first time you apply a new technology it is a learning curve. It would be not fair to say, ‘just take the new technology and you will not encounter any challenges’.

When challenges arise, it is important that a user have a partner on the other side who takes care not just to supply the technology, but also to help them take that technology on board.

In wireless for instance, we decided not to merely supply components which are WirelessHART compatible, but to also provide an entire service package around it. It starts with consulting, site surveys, commissioning support and performance monitoring to reduce risks.

Usually, users are not afraid about the technology, but about the business impact. We recognise this and do not position ourselves merely as a supplier, but also as a partner when adopting new technologies. There are many measuring points and several instances where no measurement is possible with today’s technology.

Here, wireless technology and wireless components provide a solution. There are risks and customers are looking for someone who will accompany them on that path.

How do you see the two competing wireless standards evolving?
There are always different approaches to solve a problem. Now, I need to separate my role as a representative of the HART Communication Foundation and my position as a supplier.

As a member of the HART Communication community, as a member of the HART Board, I can assure you that WirelessHART technology is absolutely applicable to the target industry, which is the process industry and the sensor and actuator world. This is where HART is positioned and what it claims as their area of responsibility. Here, WirelessHART is the right technology.

Now, as a member of Endress+Hauser, as a supplier, we listen to our customers. If there are other requirements which go beyond what HART claims as their area of responsibility, we would need to provide other technologies.

We have provided Profibus as well as FOUNDATION Fieldbus in our product basket and both are very successful.
I’m pretty sure that the requirements in the market are diverse. If we find a consistent demand for other technologies, we are prepared to supply that as well.

The question is whether the market demand is big enough. For the time being, we are committed to WirelessHART with our product range. There are several product components on field devices as well as on system integration, which we already provide. We do not have any plans currently to move into the product stage with ISA100.11a.

What do you see as the opportunities in Australia for Endress+Hauser?
We have a good product portfolio, especially for the major industries in Australia, one of which is mining where we have level, flow, as well as analytical instruments. The other major industry here is primaries, which is coal or raw material. Here too, we have a very strong product basket.

I must also add the environmental industry – water, wastewater, desalination. Of course, we also have a very competitive product range for the food industry.

But again, it is not just the products. It is the application know-how, the industry know-how, the bundling. It is the services around that which means commissioning, installation, design, engineering. Very often, people underestimate Endress+Hauser’s capabilities; they see us as an equipment supplier.

In fact, we have added many more capabilities. We are a partner and deliver not just devices, but also engineering and integration. This is something we keep on developing, and I see Australia as a growth market.

What is the rationale behind your involvement with SAP?
We see more customers starting to look with a little bit of scepticism at their investments in ERP systems. They have invested in a CMM (computerised maintenance management) system but still have paper interfaces, inconsistent workflows and islands of activities with data redundancy. How can they get rid of that?

We see the integration of the field level (and the information which is produced) and the ERP level, becoming more and more important.

I’ll give you an example in the area of maintenance management. Today, it’s common practice to have a team doing device calibration and regular recalibration and these records are locked up in a cabinet or stored in an isolated system.

At the same time, others on the ERP level have their plant maintenance module who try to exchange information with the device calibration team. This raises issues of redundancy, inaccuracy and loss of information. Today, the technology is available both from the SAP set as well as from the field device side, to integrate this information.

At Endress+Hauser, we position ourselves as the supplier of the device, as well as the related calibration services, calibration management services, calibration system and integration into the SAP system.

Why did Endress+Hauser venture into the ERP arena?
It’s customer demand and we are in the good position to do this. Our own IT infrastructure is based on SAP and we have an in-house SAP team. We utilise this knowledge not just for internal purposes, but also externalise that and make it available to our customers.

We see that as a natural extension of the activities of field devices. It is about integration of the field devices and its value in the relevant environment.

What developments do you see in the area of instrumentation?
On the industry front, there is the tendency towards bioprocessing, miniaturisation and online diagnostics. It’s no longer just traditional process measurements, but also quality related measurements.

This has an impact on the essential supplier. So we are working on further extending our range, both in the volume as well as in the quality or properties of liquids or solids. The analytical world is an area of strong investment.

What solutions does Endress+Hauser offer in the area of energy management?
We have all the necessary equipment on board to measure energy consumption. Then, of course, we have energy monitoring systems, so we collect all of that information and provide software in conjunction with this.

But it is not just the products and the software, it’s also the integration service and the project services. Once you monitor that, the customer is not satisfied and also want to optimise.

Recently, we acquired a small consulting firm [Systemplan] which advises companies on ways to optimise their energy bills. This is something which we intend to expand in the future. For us, it became obvious that the real customer need is not in the monitoring, but in managing and reducing the energy bill.

We position ourselves as a partner to assist companies measure their energy consumption accurately, and then offering advice on how to optimise their energy. We would never get involved in a situation where we do energy consulting in isolation. The energy consulting is always an extension to the measurement, to the monitoring, to provide insight to the analysis.

The [Systemplan] acquisition happened less than a year ago. At this time, we do not plan to launch this service in Australia. But the intention is to provide the service globally over the next three to four years.

How did the GFC impact Endress+Hauser?
It affected us. We reacted with prudence but we did not cut down in our service to the market. We tried to keep as many people on board as possible and I think our customers respected that. When the economy picked up again over the last two years, we were able to secure additional market share as we do not have a hire and fire mentality.

What are some of the challenges for the instrumentation industry?
Well, there are many challenges. One of course, is globalisation. If you look at growth markets such as India and China, there are different local requirements. There are different, let me say, certifications.

Unfortunately, we see a tendency towards protectionism which then shows up in special requirements for certification. This is short-sighted for countries and for regions.

In the end, it is the user who pays, because this requires additional administration and investment, and delivers no real value. We certainly see this as a threat.

In the following video, Frank Hils discusses the contributions Profibus has made to the Process industry and reviews the 'work in progress' between Endress+Hauser and Profibus over the last 20 years.


Endress+Hauser Australia

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