Industrial computers: Advantech to grow into vertical market solution provider
Shanghai, China –
corporate executives were pleased to show off their home country of China during their annual World Partner Conference here, but the bigger news was how they are positioning themselves to grow beyond their success as a Taiwanese maker of general purpose industrial computers and automation equipment. The plan, already established and delivering results, is to move from “application ready” to “service ready” product development, and embrace both vertical markets and the Web 2.0 world of global collaboration.
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“State boundaries define less and less the boundaries of corporate practice,” said Adventech CEO and founder K.C. Lui. The Internet is creating a flat world, he said, and a Web 2.0 model uses the power of the Internet to enable collaboration. The theme of this partner conference, “global integration, mass collaboration,” reflects Advantech’s goals. Tools like corporate blogs and Wikipedia site for partners and customers will allow collaboration to take place across company divisions and among partners and customers, he said.
Advantech is not a huge name in North America at the moment, but they do have an established presence. Twenty-nine percent of the company’s almost one-half billion dollars in revenue is from North America. Advantech CFO Dora Chang reported 21% year over year growth for the company overall, with 21% from Industrial Automation (“eAutomation”), 34% from Industrial and Network Computing (“ePlatform”), and 17% from the new “eServices” initiative, which is
In North America, Cincinnati, OH, is at the center of activity for Advantech eAutomation , while the
Advantech ePlatform embedded computing products
and configure to order services (CTOS) and design to order services (DTOS) programs. Advantech already does a lot of private labeling for U.S. manufacturers needing high quality industrial computers, “and we’re big enough to scale operations,” said Mike Berryman, market development manager for the Industrial Automation group. That “enables us to handle the smaller runs typical of industrial automation products, which may produce tens or hundreds of products, rather than hundreds of thousands,” he said.
Collaboration with North American customers has already occurred, according to Lynette Anderson, global marketing manager for eAutomation. “We’ve already done three user forums this year in North America—the first on Industrial Ethernet, the second on PAC [programmable logic controller] technology, and then on embedded hardware and software.”
“That’s a huge change for Advantech, Anderson added. “We want to hear from our North American customers about what their needs are and have them participate in our product roadmap planning, so they can get their voices heard and their needs met. We hope to expand on that next year and do technology forums on PACs and other automation topics or vertical markets, in which we have our solution partners present as well.”
Tom Barczak, vice president of I2Infrastructure, an
business, is a manufacturing IT consultant and Advantech partner based in Baltimore, MD. He says five years ago the company had no process in place for the small runs Berryman described. “We needed a security application for an HMI that could go totally dark [and still be on]. We gave them the specs and in 48 hours they told me they could do it, how long it would take and how much it would cost. Now they have a process in place for those types of one-off products.”
Anderson says the company’s main strength is its large product line and broad expertise: “The breadth of products for the automation market that Advantech has is enormous, and [customers] can come to us a get what they need—one source for most of their automation needs.” The vertical market definitions are a step toward specialization, and being responsive to customer requests in specific areas. The services-ready platform business targets machine builders designing medical solutions, self-service (retail) kiosks, digital signage solutions, vehicle computing and fleet management, and “real estate intelligence,” which is a combination of building automation and consumer home automation technologies.
— Renee Robbins , senior editor
Control Engineering News Desk
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