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E+H outlines Industry 4.0 vision

March 17, 2021

Endress+Hauser is betting cloud-computing will play a central role in managing and visualizing non-control data from process instruments.

For five years, process instrumentation specialist Endress+Hauser has been all in on the industrial IoT (IIoT), and on Feb. 4, leaders of its Digital Solutions business convened a press conference to update the progress it's made—and how the fourth industrial revolution will continue to transform the company’s value proposition.

“Change is something we have to anticipate and include in our own development,” said Dr. Rolf Birkhofer, managing director, Endress+Hauser Digital Solutions. Despite the company’s roots in hardware devices, software and services resident in the cloud will increasingly be the means by which E+H delivers value in the future. “What we have today on the cloud will only be a small part of what we’ll have in the future,” he said, explaining that the cloud will grow in influence because it facilitates always-on, always up-to-date platforms that require less installation effort and investment cost. “Plus, many software applications will only be available on the cloud going forward,” he added.

E+H’s five-year journey has already resulted in some 200 patents in the Industrial IoT realm, Birkhofer reported, and led to the 2018 launch of the company’s Netilion digital services platform. Looking at the potential for continued growth by delivering more value in the IIoT realm, Birkhofer noted that 52% of identified IIoT needs are within E+H’s area of specialization, plus 64% of IIoT projects are relatively limited in scope, totaling less than $100,000. “We decided ‘let’s focus here,’” Birkhofer said. 

That focus has broadened the company’s product offering to include a range of connectivity solutions for bringing non-process data up into the cloud, including FieldPort, FieldGate and FieldEdge devices, plus Netilion-ready sensors that connect directly to the cloud via cellular networks and NB-IoT.

By leveraging digital solutions, the company believes in can substantially increase its value proposition to users in three dimensions: overall system availability, instrument reliability and workforce efficiency. Better leveraging of instrumentation diagnostics holds the potential to increase production uptime by 0.5-2%. More reliable instrumentation, in turn, promises a 2-15% reduction in instrument replacement costs. And digital tools and services that improve the workflow efficiency of field engineers can yield productivity improvements on the order of 10-20%, according to Birkhofer.

“Technology only creates value if there is a use case,” continued Steffen Oschsenreither, business development manager for IIoT/Industrie 4.0, Endress+Hauser Group. “Our focus is to create a consumer-like experience.” As an example, he cited the company’s Micropilot FWR30 radar gauge that leverages cellular wireless networks to communicate fluid levels in barrels and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs). “It’s an application that in the past was simply too complex and costly,” said Oschsenreither. The battery-power gauges are designed begin delivering value within 10 minutes of being unpacked. “We assume users—like consumers—won’t read the directions.”