We have interviewed Christian Gabriel, head of General Automation at KEBA Industrial Automation GmbH, about the pain points experienced by machine manufacturers with regard to automation; what the Kemro X automation platform is all about and how it is different from solutions from other providers. Straight talk from KEBA.
What are the current challenges facing machine manufacturers?
And what are the real pain points for machine manufacturers?
Gabriel: I can think of a few. Resources, for example. Many machine manufacturers have an outdated system architecture that has been maintained by one single developer for years. Continuing to develop such a software is difficult because only one person has the required know-how.
Today there is a focus on a modular approach and re-usability. Young engineers are not interested in maintaining and continuing 30-year-old codes. They want to introduce new technologies and new tools, such as free libraries. It helps to create a modular structure to allow a better distribution of resources (think: continuous integration, continuous development).
Machine manufacturers are also experiencing staff shortages regarding qualified personnel who know how to operate machinery. Machine operation must be as simple as possible so that anyone can learn it. For this reason, emphasis must be placed on an adequate user experience and UI design.
Another pain point is time-to-market: Product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter. New features are expected on a continuous basis, and not every seven years as in the past.
This increases the share of system engineering, but the desire for full compatibility remains. Under this aspect, too, a flexible system architecture is highly important. It allows the quick roll-out of new features without disrupting or reducing productivity.
Using the Linux platform and KEBA connectivity developments enables us to deliver out-of-the-box products which help machine manufacturers get their solutions on the market quickly. And even for those applications that were programmed by the machine manufacturers themselves and that do not have any abstraction layers, standardization will provide significantly improved solutions in the future.
What does Kemro X stand for?
Gabriel: Kemro X is a complete automation system – an end-to-end system for hardware and software. All mobile and stationary panels, drives and hardware types as well as the engineering tool are built into it. The overall structure is modular, and the modules can be used like apps on a smartphone. These can be KEBA modules or standard modules from the Linux world as well as customer-specific modules.
Because Kemro X is Linux-based and open, customers can easily integrate their own software modules as well as third-party software. This allows them to protect their know-how and remain independent. Our open system architecture makes it possible to use a variety of systems while hiding this fact from the user.
What was the original idea behind Kemro X?
The advantage: Our solutions have been able to mature over more than 30 years
What does Kemro X cover today?
Gabriel: Over the years, we have developed a large array of software units, or KEBA apps, if you like. It’s a modular system that can be used for any automation machine manufacturer's wish to implement.
From engineering tools to simulation tools: Control engineering, mobile and stationary operation panels, HMI framework, drives, safety, motors, I/O units – in short, everything a machine needs for moving towards the “Smart Factory” – is already available and is being constantly developed.
There are several providers of automation platforms on the market. What sets KEBA apart from the competition?
Gabriel: KEBA is active in a broad range of sectors and industries and has developed and implemented innovative features for prominent customers, which has given us real depth and breadth of experience in many areas.
These custom-developed, industry-specific technologies can be subsequently developed further and used or offered across a broader spectrum.
The advantage: Our solutions have been able to mature over more than 30 years and have been running on Linux as series products for our customers for more than 10 years already. The know-how obtained in one specific industry becomes part of the solution for general applications.