In this Q&A, Timo Kröger, head of electrical departments, rubber machinery division, Troester GmbH & Co.KG discusses the increasing importance of smart machinery to the rubber industry:
ERJ: How would you describe the level of adoption of remote machine-monitoring capabilities in the rubber industry today?
TK: Since more than three decades Troester offers options in remote machine-monitoring. Already in the 90ies our customers would get alarm and event messages routed from the Troester machine through MS-DOS based computers to the customers enterprise IT (office areas).
Now, since the new world of "apps“ on smart devices like watches, phones, glasses and tablets, those HMIs, open up huge possibilities in providing information to the staff in production, maintenance and administration. The challenge nowadays is to filter and select valuable information out the massive data.
Providing the operator or technician with smart machine and process data is one of the key competences that suppliers to the rubber industry need to have these days.
ERJ: How has Covid affected adoption of ‘remote’ technologies and how do you expect uptake to develop over the next 2-3 years?
TK: Surely Covid is “heading up” the discussion, this article is a proof of that. The technology was available and used before, but the current situation certainly accelerated the demand also in the rubber industry. Together with our customers, we are literally are forced to extensively use remote equipment for installation and commissioning.
Previously focused on monitoring and troubleshooting, this technology is now actively supporting installation and commissioning teams all over the world. As a company supplying fully equipped high performance extrusion and calendaring lines all over the world our current task is to support our customer and local engineers on site.
Troester experts are guiding through the cold and wet commissioning for the leading brands of the tire industry. As a consequence we will use the currently generated experiences as part of our new service initiative started end of last year right before Covid-19 struck the whole industry. We do expect a reduction in overall traveling for service and commissioning within the next 3 years while being able to increase our service “presence” in the field.
ERJ: What are the main reasons for adoption and are you seeing now changes in customer requirements?
TK: As stated, for running projects our focus was to provide an instant coverage of installation, commissioning and service requests. It is a bit too early to say how all this will affect our customers’ demands in the future.
The trend into the new technologies has definitely been there before. Covid directly provided the strongest possible argumentation to customers and suppliers that remote technologies like augmented reality not only provide a huge potential but can offer a definite efficiency and cost benefit.
Before Covid, the remote support was more a feature to cover small maintenance issues who could prevent occupying highly trained service personnel for a whole week - with 1 day working and 4 days of traveling. Now, we see that the customers is are also much more open to the discuss of remote support.
ERJ: Are there still particular barriers holding back the rubber industry from wider adoption of remote technologies?
TK: Of course cyber-attacks are currently a threat and even more likely to happen than before Covid. But with strong efforts to be taken on both sides, customer and supplier, safe strategies will be established to eliminate these barriers. A qualified supplier is a strategic partner for his customers also in this field.
ERJ: Finally, please identify a recent development, which you believe will significantly increase the value of remote monitoring for tire and rubber product manufacturers.
TK: In one word, then it is: smart glasses
In a sentence: glasses, cause they will combine augmented reality, maintenance support an remote support.
ERJ: Thank you very much