Open customer minds to new possibilities and help them stay competitive while avoiding growing opportunity costsWith innovation as one of its core values, Viking Electric knows how its busy customers can overlook the latest industrial technology advancements or even avoid considering them, fearing the disruption risks they could bring to production. “Engineers often get comfortable with the status quo or what they know, even if much better solutions are available,” says Lead Automation Specialist Jamie Bratsch. At the same time, Bratsch notes, customers can be taking just as big a risk of missing out on the competitive advantages and other benefits new components, products, and solutions can provide their production lines or machinery. “Of course, we call those opportunity costs,” he says. “And the older the technology currently being used is versus the newer technology, generally the greater the opportunity costs are and the more they will grow with each passing year, as downtime, repairs, and spare-part scarcity mount.”
A big part of our job is to educate them to what newer, more advanced technologies, like those from the Siemens Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portfolio, can do for them.Jamie Bratsc
Customer: Viking Electric, based in St. Paul, Minnesota
The automation specialists at Viking Electric – a major supplier of electrical components and services in the U.S. Upper Midwest – go to great lengths to educate their
OEM and end-user customers on all the options that emerging technologies offer. For example, these technologies can provide greater standardization and third-party interoperability to avoid vendor lock-in, while also boosting production, simplifying operations, improving engineering flexibility. One such a technology is the new Siemens SIMATIC ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O module – one device with three communication protocols that can handle both digital and analog signaling.
Demonstrate the cost effectiveness, simplicity, and flexibility of the Siemens SIMATIC ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O moduleBratsch points to the Siemens SIMATIC ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O module an example of the kind of advanced industrial technology on which Viking Electric has built a solid reputation among its customers for innovative solutions to some of their toughest challenges. With two RJ45 ports, the I/O module can communicate simultaneously with Siemens PLCs and other devices via PROFINET or with similar third-party components via Ethernet/IP or Modbus TCP. “This communications flexibility can open doors to a lot of options including extending the value of depreciated but still operating legacy PLCs, I/O, drives, and other components, while building a bridge to an Industry 4.0 future for a plant’s infrastructure with greater digitalization and IoT connectivity,” Bratsch says. He further explains that Industry 4.0 capabilities requiring advanced digitalization, such as remote operations, diagnostics, and even predictive maintenance via condition monitoring using artificial intelligence (AI), can be better enabled by having I/O able to handle three of the world’s most commonly used industrial communication protocols.
Deliver new levels of standardization, plus greater engineering interoperability, flexibility, and simplicity – and make OEM solutions Industry 4.0-capable and world-ready.The product’s introduction was timely. “Coincidentally, we had several customers in mind with similar needs at the time,” he says. “They all had limited space in their control cabinets, so compact I/O density along with both digital and analog I/O capabilities were critical considerations for them.”
One of the customers was a large glass manufacturer. “The customer wanted an I/O platform that was cost effective, had a small form factor, and also had built-in diagnostics to generate alarms and notifications to plant staff,” Bratsch recalls. “Their existing system controller was a Rockwell CompactLogix PLC, but because the point I/O platform required a specialty power distribution module, the cost was almost double compared to what we provided using the ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O module.”
The SIMATIC ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O module met their requirements perfectly, according to Bratsch. To demonstrate its functions, he outfitted a hard-shell Pelican utility case with the module, plus a power supply, connected to a CompactLogix PLC as well as a Siemens SIMATICS PLC. He also added in a Siemens SINAMICS G120 drive to show how it, too, could communicate with either controller. Two other customers upgraded their plants using the SIMATIC ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O module, as well. One, a vegan cheese maker, incorporated it into an anaerobic digester for wastewater treatment.
Another was a dairy application needing it to run a series of valves, pumps, and flow meters – 30 I/O points in all and a combination of digital and analog throughputs.
“With our demo environment, we were able to show these customers how the ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O module worked and its native integration of their data structures,” he says. “For example, the EDS files that the MFCT automatically generates are native to the Rockwell environment. Once the customers saw how it could map both the digital and analog I/O, we won the deals. We also got the chance to show them how the SINAMICS G120 drive via Ethernet/IP could work and won that sale, too.”
For Viking Electric’s OEM and systems integration customers, Bratsch sees a tremendous advantage in using the ET 200SP MultiFieldbus I/O module to make their machinery both Industry 4.0-capable and world-ready. As one modest example, he points to the device’s QR code and smartphone app that enabled the maintenance teams at his customers to download wiring diagrams and user manuals. “They really liked that feature,” he says. “It’s a nice touch, to be sure, but the I/O module’s other features like its multifieldbus protocols and built-in remote diagnostics, all backed by Siemens global service and support, are a powerful combination that can help our OEM and systems integration expand their markets beyond our region to the rest of the world, too.”