Interview: With drive into the future
by Chief Editor Erik Schäfer, Konstruktion & Entwicklung.
How is Dunkermotoren working on the future in the Corona crisis? Managing Director Uwe Lorenz and Product Strategy Manager Tobias Pfendler provide answers in an exclusive interview with Konstruktion & Entwicklung.
Mr. Lorenz, "a crisis decelerates" is what you said in light of the first Corona pandemic lockdown in 2020. How did your company take advantage of this deceleration?
Uwe Lorenz: Deceleration is always relative, after all. I think the pandemic has decelerated on the one hand and accelerated on the other. Dunkermotoren gained experience at an early stage and in good time, especially due to its global positioning, before the pandemic spilled over into Europe. We were able to see what was being done in China, how the virus was spreading. That's why we put the protection of our employees first and foremost. In terms of the company and technology, we were able to slow things down. We were in the office and formed a crisis team. It was all about dealing with the pandemic, protecting our employees, but also protecting the company, the substance.
Acceleration: We have consistently and sustainably driven forward our Strategic Plan 2025, which we drew up well before the crisis - at the beginning of 2019. That's why I'm talking about acceleration. Because we used the deceleration to do our homework and drive forward our strategic alignment, with digitalization at the forefront. It's important for me to mention here that we already established a project team in 2019 that reports directly to me, with the task of leading Dunkermotoren into digital transformation. We have driven this topic forward consistently and well.
In 2020 - a time of uncertainty due to Covid-19 - Dunkermotoren celebrated its 70th anniversary. What do you see as the three most important lessons learned from these 70 years?
Uwe Lorenz: What we found very unfortunate is that we were not able to celebrate the 70th anniversary in person with our employees and our close business partners. Nevertheless, we did not miss the opportunity to review the chronology and history of the company and share it with our colleagues - with facts and also anecdotes that such a company history entails. The Dunkermotoren company and all the employees are very proud of their past and their origins. I also pay a lot of attention to this history. The company's innovation compass has shown over these 70 years that we have had our finger on the pulse of the times after the war and have shaped the future through innovation. This will of innovation encourages us to continue on this path into the future.
Let's get back to the missed 70th anniversary celebration: You also have to celebrate with personal contacts and conviviality, and that's why we have firmly resolved to make up for it.
The 75th anniversary would be a good occasion, and by then the pandemic should no longer concern us?
Uwe Lorenz: We will certainly be celebrating our 75th anniversary, but we are determined to make up for the 70th anniversary this year, if circumstances allow.
Tobias Pfendler: I don't have much to add. We have invested a lot of time in documenting the company's history. It was interesting to see how many things are repeated in the company's history. It was nice to see that from the very beginning, the company has always been continuously moving forward with groundbreaking innovations.
Digitalization is the big topic in the industry. In 2020, you took part in sps connect for the first time with a virtual trade show booth. What were your expectations?
Tobias Pfendler: I didn't have too high expectations - even in advance. I think it has to be said: It was rather sobering. But that actually applies to all previous digital trade shows. I think we're all looking forward to the time after Corona, when there will be "real" trade shows again.
Uwe Lorenz: I can confirm what Mr. Pfendler said. But on the other hand, we are all learning. Our virtual trade show booth, which is also on our homepage, is successful in my view - it fits the times. A lot of the digital events that were on show there were certainly not that good yet, because everything came very abruptly and was so new. But the combination of traditional, classic trade show contact and the digital - not necessarily virtual - new world is something we will have to include in what we do. I'm sure there's an ambidextry there and we'll have a good combination of the active, classic trade show and the digital world and we'll have to shape that with a virtual trade show booth moving forward.
At your virtual booth, you will be showing, among other things, your BG series with IQ encoder, which is designed as a plug & play system for the SIMATIC MICRO-DRIVE servo drive system. Does this mean that you manufacture the motors for the Siemens SIMATIC MICRO-DRIVES? How do your customers benefit from your cooperation with Siemens?
Tobias Pfendler: The MICRO-DRIVE system is a great controller for DC applications with comprehensive safety functionalities, like Profisafe profiles, but also like Safe Torque Off (STO), Safely Limited Torque (SLT) and much more. What is also an advantage of this system is the design via the TIA portal and the easy integration into the SIMATIC environment. Dunkermotoren offers a comprehensive portfolio for the MICRO-DRIVE controllers: Motors, gears, encoders and brakes. All of this is perfectly matched to each other. The encoders are supplied with a digital nameplate, there are pre-assembled cables and so they are easy to operate plug & play. The whole thing is designed with a high IP65 protection class and is available from stock within a few days. This means that customers benefit from the cooperation and compatibility of the SIMATIC MICRO-DRIVE and Dunkermotoren systems.
Do you supply all motors for the SIMATIC MICRO-DRIVE-System?
Tobias Pfendler: There is one other manufacturer, whereby we stand out due to our broad portfolio in the entire performance range and overall a very good price-performance ratio.
Future now! Your sps trade show motto also conceals your efforts in the direction of IIoT, i.e., the networking of smart and energy-efficient motors. What is your agenda here?
Uwe Lorenz: On the one hand, it is to be a leader in the networking and connection of drive solutions, which is de facto behind it. That we are one step ahead with our intelligent motors - where we were also a pioneer with integrated electronics - and that we really offer networking for our customers and our applications across the board. We also recognized this point in good time, addressed it at an early stage on the basis of our intelligent drives, based on the Motor Control Platform. The software - our firmware - the integrated electronics and now, on top of that, the networking via IIoT, this is how we want to drive this system forward consistently, innovatively, sustainably and with foresight.
How far along are you on this path?
Uwe Lorenz: I would say very far along. We are one of the first members of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance and are also part of (Siemens) Mindsphere (World) and are involved in a number of topics there. We have initial pilots, both in our Smart Factory - in our value creation and production - and also initial lead customer contacts.
Tobias Pfendler: We were already the market leader in smart motors and installed sensors and intelligence very close to the field before IIoT was an issue. So, the basis was already there and we can now focus on the device cloud.
In 2020, you joined the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance I just mentioned and also Mindsphere World e.V.. What was your motivation there and how does Dunkermotoren contribute to these two partner networks?
Tobias Pfendler: Mindsphere is the preferred IIoT ecosystem for Dunkermotoren. It is the basis for the timely development and deployment of cloud-based apps and functionalities. We are among like-minded people in the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance, where we are driving standardization with the goal of enabling customers to easily use components from different manufacturers in the IIoT environment. I think that everyone can benefit from this - from small medium-sized companies to global players.
Safety, energy efficiency, integrability, communication capability between motor, edge and cloud - the demands on the motors of the future are increasing. Are these also the topics you want to drive forward in the two partner networks?
Tobias Pfendler: These are definitely the central topics. In the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance, it's about us improving compatibility and minimizing a usage barrier for machine and plant manufacturers. We as Dunkermotoren alone would not be able to shape this; we need partners for this. Basically, it's about making sure our customers don't have to worry about connecting motors and integrating our apps into their world - that's our job.
Uwe Lorenz: That was our drive many years before to realize safety, energy efficiency and integrability in our motors. We see ourselves as a pioneer in this area, for example with integrated electronics, with the efficiency class, or in the area of sustainability. This is also what drives us to take the next step in networking, the cloud and digitization, and to help shape and profit from these developments.
One question in conclusion: What question did you miss, or what should we go into in more detail?
Tobias Pfendler: I would like to talk about the benefits of IIoT solutions for our customers. The obvious thing is to use the data that our motors provide from the field. For condition monitoring and predictive maintenance to forecast failures. These are added values that we already offer today. In the longer term, I also see that there will be completely new business models, not only for us, but also for our customers, the machine and plant manufacturers. We can also only realize this together - in other words, commercialize it. The provision and sale of features through to pay-per-use of entire machines and production systems, these are simply completely new possibilities. What we have in mind: If the machine builder implements such business models with his customers, that he can obtain his core components from us with corresponding business models. We have no doubt that this will happen.