Sprinting to digital solutions
Water-treatment technology provider EnWat was experiencing high expenses in maintaining its customers’ facilities. The remote monitoring digital solution developed at the Siemens MindSphere Application Center in Alpharetta, Georgia, has brought down costs for good. The solution is now commercially available for all customers.
Specialized equipment requires expert maintenance – such as the chemical-free water treatment technology manufactured and serviced by German company EnWat. Yet, with no central control system and no uniform monitoring, maintaining customers facilities had proven to be expensive and time consuming.
In 2018, EnWat’s CEO Klaus Strätz submitted a use case in the MindSphere Open Space Challenge to find a corresponding digital solution. Within the challenge, different teams compete to create solutions for these use cases. For the EnWat entry, a jury of experts found a clear winner in the concept from the Siemens MindSphere Application Center (MAC) in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Digitally monitoring via an app
Now, one year later, EnWat has established a monitoring system for all its sites. Ninety percent of the sites visits that were previously performed are no longer necessary – thanks to fast-track digitalization.
Water Treatment Monitoring (WatMon) is the name of the MindSphere-based application developed for EnWat. It collects data from distributed systems via secure channels and analyzes it using advanced algorithms. Custom alarms created by the user issue notifications on critical events. The information and operational parameters are presented in a globally accessible dashboard for high process transparency. The application offers real-time remote monitoring for decentralized assets in a web browser, which can be accessed via a desktop, smartphone or tablet. This functionality enables easy operation, planning and tracking of maintenance activities – anywhere, anytime.
Focusing on customer value
Lean startup methodology was used to establish this solution. “The lean startup approach enables solutions to be delivered fast to our customers,” comments Firas Khalil, Head of Digital Enterprise Lab Americas at Siemens.
The first step is an ideation workshop in which the MAC staff members have the chance to dig deeper into the use case, refine it and ask questions. They learn more about pain points and customer goals. In the case of EnWat, it was revealed that staff at the company’s central operations needed to dial in to each site individually to read certain process parameters and check that the site was operating properly. This was necessary because there was no Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system in place.
“Due to the lack of information, service technicians had to make site visits. It wasn’t unusual for them to travel up to 300 kilometers to an installation to determine that everything was actually in order,” says Strätz. With the information from the ideation workshop, a mission statement focusing on delivering value to the customer is formulated.
The customer as a partner
With the mission statement in hand, the next phase following a minimum viable product (MVP) approach can begin. In this user-centric design approach, larger tasks are broken down into individual steps, which are worked on in sprints using real data from the customer’s installations. Every two weeks, the team presents the results and gets customer feedback, which is taken into consideration for the next sprint.
“The advantage of this co-creation approach is that the customer knows at all times where we are heading. There is no chance of coming up with something that the customer doesn’t want. This allows us to build scalable applications with a fast time to market,” says Michael Sonst, Head of Product & Solution Development at the MAC. Furthermore, experience has shown that strong customer involvement leads to overall higher satisfaction with the developed products and solutions.
In record time to a new app
After the pilot phase the app is ready to be officially rolled out – in the EnWat project, that was in the space of just one year. “In the past, software projects like this took much longer to implement. One year is very short,” underlines Loveleen Sharma, Product Owner of the WatMon app at Siemens.
However, the experience of the Alpharetta team in process industries also came to play, particularly special knowledge in digitalizing operations. An example is Smart Mining, which provides real-time analytics and optimization for mining operations with the ultimate goal of reducing unplanned downtime. In the case of anomalies, it provides access to know-how in the cloud to help determine root causes and initiate appropriate countermeasures.
For a range of sectors
Water Treatment Monitoring was designed for EnWat to more efficiently maintain innovative drinking water treatment technology at diverse sites. However, the solution can also be used in other industries, in which a central analysis of decentralized assets makes sense. The WatMon app is now available in the MindSphere App Store.
Several reasons speak for Alpharetta as an ideal location for a MindSphere Application Center. For one, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport to the south is a major hub airport serving all parts of the world. In fact, 80 percent of the US population is within a two-hour flight of Atlanta. Alpharetta also enjoys proximity to Georgia Tech, a major technical university and partner for research activities. Furthermore, the region is home to industry leaders like Georgia-Pacific and Coca-Cola, and the US headquarters of Mercedes-Benz.
The MindSphere Application Center (MAC) in Alpharetta for the process industries and drives is part of a larger Siemens-wide global network of 20 centers, each focusing on a particular sector. In total, some 940 software developers, data specialists and engineers work on digital solutions at the centers – and collaborate with one another regularly. For many customers, they are an initial point of contact to explore digital solutions and further drive the digital transformation in their organizations.
Founded in 2007 and headquartered in Northern Bavaria, Germany, EnWat GmbH manufactures and services technology for chemical-free preparation of drinking water. Customers include municipalities, breweries and beverage companies, and locales that have their own water supplies such as farms, hotels and golf courses. Additionally, the company offers solutions for drying sewage sludge.
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