GEA Digital

Digital unit in focus: Lighthouse project GEA OptiPartner

GEA Optipartner

Dr. Matthias Finking talks about GEA Digital’s Lighthouse Project through the example of GEA OptiPartner: the core digital solution for Liquid and Powder Technologies.

As Digital Unit Head of Liquid and Powder Technologies, I am responsible for the development of a portfolio of digital products and digital services from initial concept through to market launch, and their continuous development. It is evident that digital solutions need to evolve and adapt continuously. It’s not enough to have a good product if you don’t build a whole eco-system around it and show a very clear benefit to the customer. By eco-system I mean the technical infrastructure with our GEA Cloud & IIoT devices; a service approach to our customers to ensure the full use of the digital products, including the availability of process experts; and, of course, a highly skilled and motived team to build and continuously develop the digital product.

The Lighthouse Project GEA OptiPartner is the perfect example that describes my department’s approach. It is an existing autopilot software that has created a USP for GEA with very clear customer benefits such as productivity increases, higher yield and improved energy efficiency. The GEA OptiPartner development has proven that we can develop sophisticated products based on artificial intelligence as long as we base them on our core process technology know-how and industry expertise. A big opportunity was in optimizing and stabilizing the production processes of our evaporation and spray drying technologies. Ultimately the development of GEA OptiPartner ensured we achieved this.

The success of the digital product has been achieved via a close collaboration with customers, process engineers and developers. Throughout we have kept agile, following the principle of ‘fail fast’ and ‘prove courage’. So far, our customers have been very positive with reports of productivity increases and very stable, reliable production processes. Some of our customers have achieved up to 8% increase in productivity.

We are already working on new products and AI features. These will include production forecasting and operator recommendations. New developments, such as these, will help us to continuously improve our digital solutions and expand its range of technologies to include, for example, heat treatment, CIP or freeze drying in the liquid dairy and coffee sectors. It is our aim to continually grow the overall Partner family of digital solutions for Liquid and Powder Technology.

The environment in which we operate is changing very fast. No one can accurately predict how digital and automation products will develop in the next 5-10 years. Therefore, my recommendation to people entering the industry is to be very flexible and open-minded. Accepting big challenges provides the best learning opportunities for the future. For me, every day at GEA brings a new opportunity to grow as a professional because of the diverse technology portfolio.

At GEA I have a dual role.  I am the Digital Unit Head of Liquid and Powder Technologies (LPT) and Vice President Project & Automation Excellence and Engineering Pools LPT. Every day  something new awaits me and just keeping up with the rapid technological progress is always a challenge in itself.  As well as continuing to learn, I think it’s essential to remain a generalist and be able to carry out several different activities at the same time.

It’s also important to still maintain a sensible work-life balance.  My family and social life are of importance to me too; I also like to play a little tennis and football.

GEA Digital

GEA Digital

We are the newly formed network organization at GEA dedicated to digital innovation for the digital customer journey. Our goal is to further enhance GEA machines and systems with state-of-the-art digital solutions for the benefit of our customers.

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