How Vecoplan convinces its customers to connect their machines to the cloud
Vecoplan, based in Bad Marienberg in Germany, is a supplier of machinery and equipment for the preparation and handling of primary and secondary raw materials. With over 500 employees and 18 active patents, the company is a pioneer in its segment. Its customers include recycling companies, combined heat and power plants, companies in the primary and secondary wood industry and many more.
In 2014, Vecoplan opened its own Technology Centre, one of the world's largest and most modern development centres in the field of circular economy. At the VTC (Vecoplan Technology Center), 220 tests are run per year. With 10 shredding machines installed, it's considered the centre for shredding technology and tests for customer applications. Digital applications are also tested at this location before they are used by customers.
Back in 2008, Vecoplan offered its customers remote access to their machines - driven by the new Technology Centre. However, plans quickly expanded and Vecoplan worked on its vision for machine connectivity. "We knew we could get a lot more out of connectivity," says Daniel Kessler, Head Of Electrical Department at Vecoplan. So in 2018, the vision was born not only to connect machines in the future, but also to collect, evaluate and visualise machine data in real time.
Vecoplan Smart Center as central portal
The vision quickly turned into concrete development projects and test runs, until finally, in January 2021, all machines were equipped with the IXON solution. At Vecoplan, the digital service offering goes by the name of VSC.connect and includes a wide range of features, from remote access and data analysis to live camera monitoring via smartphone.
"There were many reasons for our partnership with IXON, such as the guaranteed IT security and the non-existent licence costs for remote access. But in the end, the rapid implementation was decisive. In less than two months we had our own app and branding up and running," Kessler sums up.
Vecoplan's first IXrouter was then also used on the other side of the world. "We have a system in Peru, and we commissioned it from here. Due to the pandemic, we could not travel there to commission the machine. This will probably have been the first use of an IXON Router," Daniel Kessler remembers.
The first connected machine has grown into many more. Nowadays, Vecoplan equips its machines with the IXrouter as standard. As a result, Vecoplan can now offer more efficient service. "Currently, we mainly use the VPN and notification functions. However, we would like to enrich our portfolio with further added values and smart services," reports Kessler. "In addition, we are establishing a connection to a camera via an HTTP tunnel so that we can look into the machines live via the IXON Cloud.
The company from Rheinland-Pfalz offers the latter to its customers as an option. "The camera is in use when the customer books the option," Kessler explains. The special thing? This service is free of charge for customers. "We offer this service so that the customer has a greater interest in bringing the machine online. In the past, we often had the problem that the customer only wanted to connect the machines in case of an acute problem. With the camera function, there is an actual added value for daily use."
Always an eye on machine performance
Vecoplan's customers are very happy to accept this service, because user errors are not uncommon and the shredding and recycling plants are too large and not visible. "Our machines are relatively high and closed. Even on site, you can't easily look in. The camera feature helps to check the machine level and optimise the machine for the material thrown in," says Daniel Kessler.
But what motivates Vecoplan to offer this service free of charge? "Because the machines are always online, we get feedback on the performance of our machines in the field through the live machine data. As a machine builder, you only know how the machine behaves when it is new. The data helps us to understand how the machine behaves after X hours of operation".
Machine data for the optimised machine 2.0
This machine data is then used for the design of new machines, but should also be useful for the application engineers. "Our application engineers are close to the sales department and help our customers to offer machines that are tailored to their requirements. The more feedback we have from actual installed machines, the better the learning curve is that our technicians then also select the right machines."
In the future, Vecoplan would like to expand its service offer even further. "We would like to focus more on data logging with IXON Cloud, because we have just developed a business concept for this," announces Daniel Kessler. "This data helps us to take the step towards predictive maintenance. We want to trigger customers about ineffective use of the machines, but at the same time we also want to prepare our after-sales service that it might make sense to send out offers for spare parts."