Modular Electronics Factories vision at Industry 4.0 conference in Tallinn 2016

Interview with Terry London (Product Owner, Proekspert) at “Industry 4.0 in Practice” conference. To participate Modular Electronics Factories platform sign up for a demo.

There are millions of software developers in the world. But the world does not require software, the world requires user-friendly functionality that both looks good and serves real business purposes. This is where Proekspert comes in.

How do you bring factories in to the Industry 4.0 era?

In our vision, tomorrow’s factories should resemble today’s mobile platforms. Five years ago we were still buying feature phones – your selection was based on features. Now you’re in charge of the building – you select a platform and the applications to go with it. The same should apply to Industrial factories. When upgrading and assembling a factory you are mostly dependent on expensive solutions from proprietary factory line providers. The majority of Estonian factories creating custom products are operating according to the high mix/low volume model. These factories thus need to change their product directions often. A single factory line can consist of tens of machines, meaning that they have at least 3 different machine providers. The machines have limited connectivity, in order to create a complicated manufacturing execution solution every single machine needs to be integrated with the IT system, one-by-one. Replacing a device means creating all those interactions again, it’s expensive and time consuming.

We on the other hand want to offer a plug-in based solution which could be shared across different factories. With this, platform factories will enter the Industry 4.0 era with a flexibility and automation in production that keeps them competitive.

Proekspert has worked with a wide range of industries, can you name a few?

Our biggest focus goes on intelligent machines and their secure interconnection. For example, we are behind the development of leading drives that are used in the ventilation of car tunnels in Monaco. We’ve also worked with other, traditional industries like food production. We focus a lot on electronics assembly at the moment is because this is one of the most demanding industries. ODMs are eager to use the fastest and newest machines out there. Other industries are moving in a similar direction but rely more on human workforce and older equipment. Our platform integrates people, software and machines.

Have you actually been able to implement your modular approach in Industry or is it still at the visionary level?

We have reached a pilot phase where we are developing the approach together with early adopter customers. We have taken an open approach to speed up the time to market and are currently onboarding new pilot customers on daily basis.

The modular approach promises greater flexibility and agility, is it the most important aspect here?

We are talking about affordable and fast adaption to change. Similar to the smartphone platforms, we don’t foresee all the services and applications different developers will be creating moving forwards. The platform approach enables development of new services that will positively surprise us and our customers. All industries are affected by the fourth industrial revolution. This increases the importance of security concerns and reliability of connectivity for factories that have so far preferred to stay offline. This mind set will change in coming years, industry is moving forward and hybrid cloud solutions will become prevalent.

Phones and factories – can these two be brought to the same level?

Factories involve a great deal of care in people, business and technological aspects. Smartphones might seem simple but they have become essential and critical parts in our everyday lives – from managing other devices to dealing with financial decisions. A couple of years ago the first real-time trading app was released, Proekspert was behind the development. When it comes to trading every split second counts and the business impact of these decisions can be large. In electronics assembly the machines are very complicated and work extremely fast, the business stakes are high so, similar to trading, there has to be trust built into the system, integrations and its interfaces.

Proekspert’s software is actively used in the beer industry, why does it appeal to Proekspert?

Proekspert aims to be involved in developing products that change the world for the better and make people’s lives simpler, we are always on the lookout
for improving products and providing more business value. For example, for the drives behind the beer industry we are able to measure and analyse the performance of these motors and give accurate feedback based on our findings.

All these readings are extremely critical for the motor and system’s health. We are driven by a passion to develop future proof solutions that free up people’s time so they can concentrate on things that really matter, for example beer.