The Digital Industrial Company

visit-to-Phoenix

It had been well over six years since FEGIME Future last visited Strategic Preferred Supplier Phoenix Contact in Germany. The outcome of that trip was a video for the Congress in Budapest. This time the focus was on the host’s digital technologies and the opportunities new business models using these technologies can offer to wholesaler and supplier alike.

Phoenix Contact are a self-financed, family company founded in 1923. Today they have an annual turnover of €2.4 billion, employ 17,500 people worldwide and have a range of 65,000 products. They are also very proud that they still make most of their own components themselves. For example, at their Blomberg headquarters they produce 8 million screws a day.

But it was technology of a different class that was the focus of the meeting. It is Phoenix Contact’s ambition to be “The Digital Industrial Company” and at their Bad Pyrmont facility FEGIME Future began to see why. The building is managed and controlled by a state-of-the-art Building Automation System or Building IoT as it is sometimes called. The effects are immense. Here are just a few examples: the MYEMALYTICS app enables you to control the room environment (heating, light, blinds etc.) via Wi-Fi when you are in a room; sofas in seating areas are fitted with sensors that switch the lights on when someone is sitting on them; the lifts “learn” which times of the day to be at the bottom or the top to ensure optimal use and a balanced workload and use of the main doors is monitored for predictive maintenance. In the basement the group was able to see how the system’s energy management worked. Of course, construction costs are much higher when such a system is installed in a building but it halves the costs of maintenance. For more information:

Generating New Business Models

Predictive Maintenance & Augmented Reality are of course new digital technologies but – as FEGIME Future saw very clearly on their tour of the Bad Pyrmont facility – they are already in use today in many modern buildings and applications.

The most important questions are: What will be the role of wholesalers in the future value chain and which opportunities are open to them? To find some answers FEGIME Future applied the CANVAS method first to define customer segments, choose from these and then work out various value propositions that could then be offered to them as part of a wholesaler’s new business model. Phoenix Contact’s Industry 4.0 Specialist, Frank Knafla, led the group work and the results could well be the beginnings of a new project for FEGIME Future …      

An Inspiring Glimpse of the  Future

The first day was tough to beat – but Team   Phoenix Contact was well prepared. On the Friday FEGIME Future revisited the Blomberg facility and after a second very productive internal session took a tour of the site including much of the conventional production.

The best was yet to come. Blomberg today is also home to PROTIQ – a 100% Phoenix Contact company specialising in Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing). When it was first introduced this technology was used for design and prototypes but now it is also well established for production.

The whole process from the uploading of the 3D data through the choice of material and printing company to payment and shipping is done online via the PROTIQ platform (now also a market place) in an amazing 2 days’ “throughput time”. It is now also possible to use copper, zinc & brass as well as the more usual plastics as the process is very flexible. Its main additional advantages are in general the lower weight of the finished product and the lower overall cost. Managing Director and proud creator of the company, Dr Ralf Gärtner, was on hand to explain and give the group a tour of this very different production facility. And the results – as FEGIME Future can testify – are amazing.

In short there are very few limits: the material can be changed gradually throughout the same article, objects can be created in one piece without any need – or even possibility – for assembly. And it is all quite quick & easy.

Food for thought indeed.

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