Management views at SPS/IPC/Drives 2005

By Control Engineering Staff December 28, 2005

Continued growth and success of the European electric automation show SPS/IPC/Drives has previously been reported in Control Engineering , for example, in Daily News for Nov. 22, 2005 . New records were again set for the Nov. 22-24 event for number of exhibitors, display area, and number of visitors. Another important element of the show was the extensive Conference program, which drew 446 attendees this year. This number has remained relatively steady over the past several years.

Staying on track

For the first time simultaneous translation for English speakers was provided during the opening press conference—indicating international growth of the show as well. Some 192 companies outside of Germany exhibited in 2005, accounting for 17% of the total, compared to 15% last year.

Joseph Rath, president of Mesago show management, reflected about the notable, steady growth of SPS/IPC/Drives, reminiscing about the simpler, formative days in Sindelfingen (near Stuttgart), where the presentation and press coverage of a smaller show seemed easier. Amidst steady growth of this Exhibition and Conference, Rath suggested that continued growth “will level out soon as saturation and merging take place.”

In a similar vein, Wolfgang Tondasch, chairman of the Exhibitors advisory board and affiliated with Panasonic Electric Works of Germany, said, “It’s important to not lose our track and scope. We need to continue to concentrate on the core of electric automation.” Relative to further growth, he added, “This includes examining the fit of newer exhibitors.”

Conference chairman Prof. Klaus Bender, cited this year’s “high-demand” conference topics as secure control solutions and industrial safety (distinct from security, per se). Topics not in demand for the conference were energy savings and embedded controls. This was an interesting but surprising revelation, given the practicality and current worldwide need described by the first topic and that leading-edge developments drive the second topic.

Dr.-Ing. Karl Tragl, president and executive VP of engineering and manufacturing, Bosch Rexroth: “PC-based control architecture will grow.”

Wide expertise at Bosch Rexroth

Expertise in wide ranging technologies, PC-based control, and other developments at Bosch Rexroth were topics of discussion at the show with Dr.-Ing. Karl Tragl, president and executive VP of engineering and manufacturing for the Electric Drives and Controls Business Unit of Bosch Rexroth AG.

Automation architectures available from Bosch Rexroth allow implementing a user’s system based either on a controller, drive, or industrial PC—depending on the application and customer decision, he explained. “A controller-based approach provides the highest capability, which comes at higher cost, while for a cost-driven customer, PC-based control may offer the desired performance and least cost,” said Tragl. “PC-based control architectures will grow.”

Unusual among automation companies, Bosch Rexroth’s technology spans across electric, hydraulic, and pneumatic controls. Choice for a given case is determined largely by application physics and also from customer input. “Normally, a customer has a preconceived approach in mind,” remarked Tragl. “We have to make sure the customer gets best value for the solution chosen.” To accomplish that, the company’s matrix organization has developed “application-specific baskets” of different technologies made up of various predefined modules. These modules reflect the company’s expertise in specific fields, he explained.

Relative to the recent acquisition of Nyquist BV—a specialist in motion control for semiconductor manufacturing and other industries ( Nov. 16, 2005 Daily News )—Tragl said Bosch Rexroth “needed specific controller (or system) solutions,” having only a “drives” solution in house for the semiconductor automation sector. Nyquist motion control systems have focused on Firewire (IEEE 1394) communication, whereas Bosch Rexroth has centered on SERCOS interface and other industrial communication networks. Tragl told Control Engineering that Firewire is well suited to semiconductor fabrication environments and “it would be no problem to support both Firewire and SERCOS.” The company may also leave open the common interfaces established for products developed by Nyquist with its previous partners.

Phoenix Contact: Globalization and more

Globalization, China, and PC-based controls were among topics that Roland Bent, executive vice president of Phoenix Contact, discussed with Control Engineering . Relative to his company’s globalization strategy, he cited the need for “innovation-competent” teams made up of development and marketing engineers available to satisfy local customer needs. Market strategy is based on the three essential elements of innovation, market coverage, and competence.

Roland Bent, executive vice president at Phoenix Contact: “Successful international business is always local.”

Phoenix Contact considers the U.S. and China its two most important international markets. In line with expansion in those areas, Bent mentioned the recent announcement to build a new 4,200-sq m (45,200-sq ft) North American logistics center for local market needs to be completed in 2007. A Center of Competence is currently being set up in China. “It’s essential to be competitive, not only at headquarters, but to act as a local company,” said Bent. “Successful international business is always local.”

On China, he referred to Phoenix Contact’s 10-year presence there, which today amounts to a€40-50 million business, involving 500 people and 15 sales branches. A production facility also is in place to support the China market. “The objective is to sell in China,” stated Bent. To do that, however, we must keep local competition low, stay ahead of imitators, and above allinnovate, he explained. “We need to be faster, more efficient, and offer more to the customer.”

As for PC-based control, Bent sees reliability becoming a lesser issue for the technology—due to in-use improvements, for one. Phoenix Contact applies PC-based control in an embedded system version. “PC-based control is accepted in the industry,” adds Bent, citing application examples of a wind-power station and an Audi auto production line that switched from PLC-based to PC-based control with reportedly cost-effective results.

Frank J. Bartos, executive editor, Control Engineering,