In the last decade, industry has increasingly embraced automation to achieve efficiency and consistency in their products and to better manage their costs. Today, producers, whether it’s on the farm or in the factory, look to GEA to develop plants, equipment and processes that can also be flexibly adapted to changing market conditions, with solutions that also provide all the benefits of IoT technologies.
The digital landscape is moving quickly, however for GEA there is a red thread which focuses all our efforts: taking the customer view. The right amount of automation, at the right time; integrated business processes, networked production data and intelligent data analysis tools designed to increase safety, performance and service life, while minimizing downtime and capacity bottlenecks – these are the must-haves for our customers today.
Regardless of application, or sector, GEA customers rely on our ability to successfully work with and integrate new technologies and manage these services; this is daily business for GEA and we’re happy to support our customers in these areas. We’re continually working on new services and solutions, or optimizing existing ones, to ensure we’re adding value by putting customers more in the driver’s seat of their business, with a special focus on:
Plant installations and upgrades represent a major investment in both time and money for producers. By using virtual reality (VR) and digital twin technologies, GEA brings planned components and plants to life long before any building or installation begins. Detailed process simulation allows customers to consider various options and scenarios in a more agile and cost-effective manner and ensures optimum product quality after commissioning.
For operators, plant managers and technicians, GEA provides targeted digital user-training, using transient process simulation and VR technologies. By modelling production processes digitally, we give future users the opportunity to familiarize themselves virtually with their systems which is critical given the increasing degree of plant automation for which operating personnel often lack practical experience. Much more efficient than conducting extensive user-training on the physical plant, virtual training reduces downtime and production losses, while helping operators build confidence in a less-stressful environment by allowing them to control production process on a digital model.
Digital Product Development & Simulations, GEA
As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and not very helpful. That’s why our customers are eager to leverage big data to achieve greater transparency and predictability in their operations. Interpreting mass amounts of data, however, is not practical or even feasible in most cases, which is why AI and machine learning capabilities have become so important in helping drive higher machine and system availability and lowering running costs. GEA customers are reaping the rewards of these evolving technologies as are our own technicians who are benefitting from app-based diagnostic tools that use machine learning to expediate service requests by connecting symptoms and root cause of equipment failure. The benefit to the customer, minimized machine and plant downtime, is also a clear win for GEA because we use the data to continually improve our equipment.
We first introduced predictive maintenance (PM) as a service for our separators, specifically those used in the dairy and beverage industries and in the processing of renewable resources and by-products. Known as GEA PerformancePlus, our PM tool includes: condition monitoring technologies for analyzing data coming directly from the customer’s plant and detects irregularities, while simultaneously revealing optimization potential. The result is the improved safety, reliability and efficiency of equipment and plants, extending machine lifetime and improving overall output. This service offering, available for GEA homogenizers later this year, puts GEA customers in a better position to assess opportunities and risks and take more informed decisions in their production planning.
Introduced in 2018 and available across much of our diverse portfolio, GEA OptiPartner is a digital process optimization solution designed to ensure stability of production lines, for instance in the event of varying raw material quality or changing ambient conditions. Whereas low-level process control measures often reach their limits in the event of process disturbances, resulting in production losses, our high-level autopilot control system monitors hundreds of process variables, identifying the best possible operation point for a given situation. By leveraging advanced algorithms, GEA OptiPartner aims for maximum productivity, meeting targets for quality per recipe; and unlike conventional advanced control solutions in the market, system performance doesn’t degrade shortly after commissioning. Due to our service-based business model, no capital expenditure is required, and our optimizers are continuously monitored remotely from a GEA service center to ensure consistent and even improved performance. Annual performance reports, which include input from a GEA process specialist, provide customers with valuable data-driven insights.
Confronted with reoccurring powder build-up in their dryer outlet and around their cyclone filters, a leading German producer of milk powder was forced to shut their plant down for many hours, up to three times a week to manually deal with this issue. Determined to achieve and maintain production stability, the customer asked GEA to implement GEA OptiPartner, which provides ongoing plant-wide process optimization.
Today, the factory runs at maximum capacity due to an 85 percent improvement in process stability, resulting in higher plant availability The production rate has increased and powder quality (moisture and protein content) are also optimized, with energy consumption in the drying production line now lower – all delivering bottom-line results and fewer late night and emergency weekend calls.
Digital Service Product Manager, GEA
In the area dairy farming, GEA provides operators with maximum transparency regarding herd health and performance via diverse sensor-based technologies. For example, our cow tag sensors alert managers to changes in eating habits, mobility, and can even indicate peak insemination times – which is very important, particularly in large herds. Continuous monitoring and data updates allow managers to address issues and locate individual cows quickly, so that a vet, for example, can be alerted to come treat a cow, even if the farm manager or operator is not onsite. Our automated feeding solutions ensure cows get fresh food when they need it to remain healthy and productive. Via our automated milking equipment, we also offer sensor technology for the quick detection of mastitis, as well as farm management software that bundles and interprets data to support managers by providing them with up to the minute information regarding herd health and performance.
Chief Technology Officer, GEA
GEA know-how combined with mobile and remote eye wear technologies means customers have access to high-quality real-time assistance, anywhere in the world. Remote machine assessments, inspections and implementations to SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) assistance are all possible, allowing virtual experts to provide critical support to machine operators and service technicians in the field. The benefits to the customer include less downtime, reduced operational costs and a more confident workforce.
In cooperation with Industry 4.0 software start-up MachIQ, GEA offers a new platform strategy for servicing diverse customer needs which is based on an open, cloud-based platform for maintenance management and digital services. This includes maintenance scheduling, machine documentation, data analysis and e-commerce. GEA Advance brings customers and all their partners together onto a single platform to ensure seamless plant management by facilitating and driving transparency and efficiency. By scanning a QR code on their GEA machine, the customer, or GEA technician, is taken directly to the relevant product page within the platform where all relevant information and documentation related to that machine are located.
The key benefits of GEA Advance are that it:
Our customers are already benefitting from the technological leap provided by this easy to use platform. And because they use it to integrate more of their data, processes and users, they’re able to minimize the number of maintenance systems they maintain.