How do you trace back the journey of Kübler Automation in the last 10 years in India? What do you attribute your success to?
Gebhard: Kübler’s 10-year success journey in India can’t be attributed to a single factor. It is the combined effort of both the German and Indian teams working together in identifying opportunities and accordingly investing in the Indian market. Finding the right people to take on the challenges, understanding the local requirements and together developing the strategy for the Indian market is also a major factor.
Kübler India has now gained considerable momentum. In addition to the 10 year celebration, the program also included the inauguration of the new factory with over 1500 square metres of office and production space at Chakan, Pune.
Amidst the current volatile scenario prevailing in the industry, what is the USP of Kübler Automation that differentiates it from its competitors?
Lothar: Responsiveness to the customers is extremely important. Over the years, we have developed strategies focussing on our customers by establishing a strong spirit in helping and solving their problems. Secondly, in terms of local production, we have Kübler’s Kaizen Culture followed not only in Germany but all over our subsidiaries. These standard processes help us in bringing quality products at the right time. In the last two years, Kübler has greatly expanded its innovative power, introduced new innovative processes and increased the number of R&D employees by 35%. This results in a number of highly innovative products, such as our newly introduced elevator positioning system, slip rings and draw wire encoder range.
What are the latest developments from your company aligning with the emerging automation trends?
Gebhard: Obviously, the big trends are Industry 4.0 and IoT-related technologies. Smart factory has already become a familiar term, which means communication between devices and preventive maintenance. However, the challenge is to identify how the communication has to happen and what kind of information has to be transmitted via our interfaces.
For us, as a slip ring and sensor manufacturer, we are collecting the data, transmitting it and providing required information to our customers. We want to make motors with our smart encoders to become smart solutions. Our encoders will be able to transmit more than just data of current rpms or positions, but data related to speed over time, temperature over time etc., allowing our customers to use our interfaces to realise condition monitoring solutions. Other examples include our slip rings that transmit Ethernet signals, which are used on the sensor and actuator level, for example, in converting machines.
Can you highlight some of the challenges in terms of compatibility so as to move towards Industry 4.0? How is your company addressing such challenges?
Lothar: Many of our customers that are using servo motors, face challenges in terms of interoperability due to proprietary interfaces. Now-a-days, they want open interfaces. As such, we are providing open interfaces such as SCS open link in our devices so that the customers can have the freedom in choosing their suppliers.
In the area of packaging industry, the slip rings that do not transmit proper temperature signals result in miss-alignment or wrong sealing of packed goods. Here, customers are facing challenges in terms of preventive maintenance and quality related issues. For us, this is again an opportunity, wherein our technology basket of contact materials enables us to provide high-quality slip rings to our customers. The end users that used our slip rings are now demanding their OEM machine manufacturer to place our slip rings in their products.
Another challenge is in terms of meeting individual customer requirements and providing standardised product, while keeping in mind the cost factor of a particular market. To overcome this, we have three levels of product ranges – base, industrial and performance-related products. Our linear measurement device is one of the fine examples that is able to cater to different levels of requirements.
What are your recommendations to the end users, while implementing automation in their plant?
Gebhard: As a supplier of sensors and transmission systems, we always recommend the end-users to stay open and not to have proprietary-related interfaces. Staying open allows them to have a choice of different vendors. Secondly, we recommend the end-users to invest in future-related technologies and rely on high quality products. So far, the cost component has been a major factor, but now it is time to move towards performance-driven products to achieve higher RoI in the long term. As such, we are ready for the future with a wide range of quality products.
What are your views on the industrial Ethernet and fieldbus protocols? Which best suits for what kind of application?
Lothar: There are many different protocols available in the market. We focus on those open standards set by control manufacturers. In spite of there being a number of standards, we use EtherCAT, Profinet, Ethernet IP, CANopen, etc. We have to offer all these standards as a complete package that certainly requires a significant investment in each protocol set. What is best for the application depends on the function of the device. For encoders that are into high-speed application, EtherCAT type fieldbus is best suited. In automotive plants, Siemens Profibus or Profinet is used in large numbers. In the packaging industry, Rockwell Automation has a strong foothold.
How is your market position in India and what are your future plans for the Indian market?
Gebhard: We are a specialist worldwide for position and motion sensors, slip rings and further transmission products as well as for counters. India is one of the key markets for us in the motors & drives segment. Our customers, who are using generators, are now moving into servo motors and stepper motors. Motors have indirect application with controls, which is also an important market for us. Machine tool industry is another key market for us, where we are well known. We too have a huge market presence in industry segments like conventional packaging, steel industry, intralogistics and elevators.
Also an interesting market for us is the mobile automation that is in the early stages of adoption in India. It is not yet popular in India to automate production line in heavy vehicles and railways, but once the safety requirements fall in place, automation can be adopted in this sector too. Examples include, our inclination sensors and draw wire encoders.
Lothar: We have production plants in Germany, India and the USA. We are definitely focussing to enhance our new factory in India with increase in production capacity. Our encoders made locally in India by a German global player like Kübler is a strong plus point in the perception of our customers. We can now supply faster and do servicing for all our encoders in India. We also have a vision to establish local R&D and engineering teams in India and we have already started working on it.