Machines that tweet
Mr. Hoffman, how do you assess the current market situation in the manufacturing industry?
Oliver Hoffmann: Companies have become highly unsettled and cautious as a result of the Corona crisis. The consequences of the shutdown are still difficult to assess: What slumps will I actually have to cope with? When will customers buy again?
However, we also sense a willingness among our customers to use the current situation as an opportunity to reorganize production and processes. Digitization plays a central role here; it is a success-critical part of the solution for greater efficiency, lower costs and sustainable cash management.
In the era of the industrial Internet of Things - the IIoT - a high-performance and adaptable IIoT platform technology is the royal road out of the critical consequences of the corona pandemic for companies.
Does this uncertainty apply globally?
Hoffmann: Sure, it's palpable around the world. But so is the will to change. In the USA, for example, the "America first" policy has led to production capacities being rebuilt or brought back.
For companies, however, this also means that they must continue to build and expand the corresponding infrastructures and logistics. In China, the program of the government in Beijing called "Made in China 2025" already provides large funding pots for the digitization of industrial manufacturing.
My assessment - not only for the USA - is that the willingness to invest in new technologies as well as cost reductions will again increase noticeably worldwide.
What distinguishes the era of industrial IoT from the era of MES - Manufacturing Execution System?
Hoffmann: The strategic dimension of intelligent manufacturing. In the factory, it is no longer just about singular performance evaluations of machines with nice charts.
On the contrary, digitally supported store floor management, data-driven manufacturing, is gaining strategic importance because enormous efficiency potentials are raised through digital transformation: through optimized global supply and service chains, through better processes and products.
These benefits translate into sustainably more efficient cost structures, higher cash flow, a higher return on investment and, ultimately, more secure jobs.
Only with intelligent digital manufacturing will companies be able to participate in the business processes of the future at all, because only with digitally controlled manufacturing will they remain competitive.
Which megatrends will determine the next few years?
Hoffmann: The technological megatrends in the IIoT are connectivity, digital twin, flexible platform technology, and edge and cloud computing. For me, the real strategic trend is stability combined with flexibility.
The situation of companies is like this: They own equipment and IT solutions worth many millions of euros. The systems are running and producing. At the same time, it is clear that they need to integrate future assets and IT solutions that offer them new added value.
For example, predictive or AI applications. Companies therefore need a solution that offers stability because it integrates today's assets and IT. But the solution must also be flexible enough to seamlessly integrate new assets and IT. It also needs to connect sites, empower people, and ultimately add value to the entire enterprise.
This is only possible through an open and intelligent platform solution that provides them with their own unified production data model, the "single source of truth" from manufacturing to financial planning, with which desired new third-party solutions can also work.
What is your offering in terms of strategy and technology?
Hoffmann: Companies need to get better every year to stay competitive. They also need to be able to join new global supply and service chains. Our solution has two strong pillars: first, an open, scalable and cloud-enabled IIoT platform solution.
It was rated "best-in-class" by analysts in the largest IIoT platform study in Europe, the PAC Radar. Second, we offer a partner marketplace with the most diverse applications and offerings so that our customers always have the most advanced and qualified solutions available.
We have also launched our new IIoT process consulting service, in which seasoned store floor professionals support companies. We are expanding IIoT process consulting into a comprehensive premium service offering.
What are the benefits of your IIoT platform solution for customers?
Hoffmann: Our customers receive three key benefits: Transparency, productivity, flexibility. In the commercial world, we speak of the "Board Room of the Future".
We offer the "Plant Room of the Future" for the factory. This means that, based on the uniform production data model generated by our central data layer, our customers receive transparency about the performance status of their plants worldwide.
They increase their productivity because weaknesses and waste can be identified and eliminated immediately. They also have access to a vital partner ecosystem with a wealth of applications.
They can integrate these via open web interfaces and thus drive many desired actions - from drill-down to individual machines to cross-plant scenarios such as global site comparisons on overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE.
Or we build appropriate predictive models with partners from the predictive environment to identify risk factors in production at an early stage and initiate countermeasures. In this way, our customers achieve comprehensive transparency, higher productivity and remain flexible in the long term.
What does the worker get out of it?
Hoffmann: Today's workers are highly qualified professionals who have long been familiar with digitization from their private lives. That's why our motto in the plants is "Empower Your Workforce".
We provide workers with real-time information for their area of responsibility so that they can make decisions quickly and accurately. Via open interfaces, we also provide access to entirely new app worlds such as Microsoft Automate for modern workflows, with voice bots or chat functions on request.
For example, in the event of a malfunction, a worker can use well-known apps such as Outlook or Trello to invite the maintenance team to an ad hoc conference call. Should a company wish, our experts can also have machines tweet about their condition independently.
What role does the partner ecosystem play for Forcam?
Hoffmann: A very essential role. We think IT providers are well advised today to deliver not only a leading flexible and open technology, but also a vital ecosystem.
We call it our marketplace, where our customers find high-quality partner solutions. We are just as happy to have such large partners as Microsoft, Accenture or the Chinese industry cloud specialist CasiCloud as we are to have smaller partners like Engomo or App4you.
What is the advantage of the Forcam?
Hoffmann: First, stronger customer loyalty through better service. In order to fully exploit the numerous and powerful opportunities of IIoT through our open platform solution, we also want to be able to offer our customers a broad range of composition and collaboration - high-quality apps, tools, technologies and solutions for very individual IT architectures. Secondly, Forcam is of course also focusing on commercial collaboration and monetary value from within our ecosystem.
Where do you see Forcam 2030?
Hoffmann: I think Forcam has a very good chance to conquer a significant role in the industrial platform economy. We have all the elements together for this: highly qualified employees, strong and innovative customers, a highly experienced and best-networked main shareholder, a leading solution for the IIoT era, and last but not least a vital partner marketplace with such big names as SAP, Microsoft, Accenture, DXC.
This ecosystem opens up new potential for us, for example to the SAP community. For SAP customers, the important thing is that the SAP world and Forcam complement each other ideally.
Thank you for the interview.
Flexible IIoT platform
- Gain transparency
- Increase productivity
- Ensure flexibility