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A Perfect Fit

A Perfect Fit

Rochus Hofmann, Managing Director of Zeppelin Systems GmbH, Ashutosh Chincholikar, Founder & CEO, Smart Controls India Limited, and Oliver Thiel, Head of Automation, Zeppelin Systems GmbH, comment on how the Joint Venture between the two entities can give a boost to the industry in general and their respective business dynamics in particular – ‘a perfect fit’ as they describe the coming together

TA News Bureau

How significant is Zeppelin’s contribution to tyre industry?

Rochus Hofmann: Zeppelin offers products and system solutions for the rubber mixing process, particularly in the area of raw material handling and logistics. In this field Zeppelin is a worldwide known expert and a leading supplier for the tyre industry. From material intake, storage, conveying down to dosing and feeding into the rubber mixer, Zeppelin offers equipment for proper handling of all needed materials for the rubber compound. This means solutions for the solid materials (natural or synthetic rubber), powders and pellets (carbon black, silica and other chemicals), liquids (oils, silane, other chemicals) and the handling of minor ingredients. Special solutions required by each different material but designed to fit in the integrated over all concept of the mixing room. Leading parameters for the system design are: Safe, gentle and environmentally friendly handling and storage for all raw materials, efficient and fast transport and conveying of the materials through the different process stages and accurate in time feeding of the material into the mixer process.

As a global leader in plant engineering, how beneficial is Zeppelin’s Joint Venture with Smart Controls?

RH: Very beneficial and a perfect fit. Zeppelins focus is on mechanical and process engineering and design while Smart Controls experience is in automation and digitalisation. With the growing importance of digital solutions for plant engineering the Joint Venture with Smart Controls is for Zeppelin the ideal complement for complete solutions.

Please elaborate on your plant engineering operations

RH: The plant engineering operation of Zeppelin is divided in two main industry directions – Food and Non-Food plants. Common is that material handling and mixing is playing a major role in both business segments. For the non food business unit the focus is on the chemical, plastics and the tire and rubber industry. For rubber and plastics compounding plants Zeppelin provides complete system solutions and integrates own equipment as well as machinery from other vendors like mixers, extruders and packaging machines.

How does Smart Controls’ solutions support you?

RH: Following the customer request for turnkey solutions and the fast growing trend for digitalisation, Zeppelin had a need to gain competence in automation and digital solutions. This was achieved by the JV with Smart Controls. Already in the first year of the JV we started several joined R&D projects and executed numerous customer orders for the tyre industry.

Please elaborate on the other business units of the Group

RH: The Zeppelin business is organized in 6 so called strategic business units. Beside plant engineering we have 2 unites active as Caterpillar dealers in Europe and Russia, one unit for rental of construction equipment in Europe and Zeppelin Power System a dealer and solution provider for industrial motors. A new business unit was established in 2017 to develop digital business concepts and models for the group. The total turnover of the group is more than 2,5 billion EUR with more than 8000 employees. Plant engineering had in 2017 a turnover of 340 million EUR and 1500 employees.

How challenging is the construction of the world’s biggest tire recycling plant in the US?

RH: Since 2009 Zeppelin is active in several R&D projects for tire recycling. The new plant in Terre Haute Indiana, US is the first full size industrial plant with a capacity to recycle 4 million tyres per year. The plan will produce beside gas and oil about 13.000 tonnes of recycled carbon black which will go back to the tires production. The reuse of the recycled carbon black for tyre production alone will save 30.000 t per year of CO2 compared to the use of vergine carbon black.

For plant engineering of Zeppelin it is a challenge with the scale up from much smaller pilot plants to the size of this plant. However we are confided to have the plant ready for production end of 2018. From a successful start up we expect of future business in the area of tyre recycling.

What are the features of Zeppelin’s partnership with Caterpillar?

RH: Zeppelin is one of the largest dealers of Caterpillar for sales and service in Europe and CIS. In its territory, Zeppelin represents the complete Caterpillar portfolios of construction machines, mining equipment and industrial motors.

What are your future expansion plans?

RH: The biggest task and challenge for the group in the coming years we see in the digitalisation. We are convinced that it will affect all of our businesses in the near future. Therefore we invest heavy to evaluate digital business models for all of our business units. In this program Smart Controls is already integrated and works closely together with the Zeppelin team in Germany.

Another focus for growth in plant engineering is the turnkey business and engineering. Zeppelin was in the past more known for excellent equipment in materials handling. We have now developed our capabilities in turnkey supply with special strings in engineering and project management.

Advantage Digitalisation

How does the Joint Venture with Zeppelin benefit Smart Controls and also Zeppelin?

Ashutosh Chincholikar: Zeppelin is a Plant Engineering company, specialist in bulk chemical conveying, serving Rubber, Plastics, Food and Polyolefin industries across the globe, whereas Smart Controls is an Automation company, selling solutions for Industrial Automation & Digitalisation to many industry verticals that include Rubber & Tyre, Polyester, Metal, Infrastructure & Energy. Digital solutions from Smart Controls had been in the market much before the term “Digitalisation” was coined.

Some of the Automation Solutions built by Smart Controls for the tyre industry include Mixing Room Solution, Curing SCADA, Tyre Genealogy and MES Solutions.

Though Smart Controls solutions have a global presence in Asia, Europe, Africa and US, the presence is far limited as compared to the scope of the market.

With the Joint Venture in place, Smart Controls has now an access to the Zeppelin’s Sales Network and customer base across the globe. Solutions like SmartMix for Rubber Mixing can be brought to the world markets. SmartMix can also be extended to Plastics and Food industries.

On the other side, Zeppelin can now offer turnkey solutions for plant engineering that includes Automation along with a strong flavor of Digitalisation.

How does the synergy contribute to the industry at large?

AC: It’s the time for turnkey solutions especially for the Mixing Room. Very few suppliers in the world have the ability to serve to this request. It’s not just the question of supplying different machinery for the Mixing like Mixer, Material Handling System, Downstream and Batch-off. It involves integration of all this machinery to work like one product.

Zeppelin, together with Smart Controls, can supply the machinery related to Mixing, and integrate the same through SmartMix software, which converts the entire process of Mixing to a true Digital Model. This is by far the biggest contribution to the tyre industry.

In what area does Smart Controls support Zeppelin’s operations?

AC: In today’s world, no solution is complete without Digitalisation. Every customer wants their Mixing Room performance to be visualised on a Mobile Application while on move. Machine abnormalities are expected to be informed to the concerned user via Mobile notifications. Mechanical devices are expected to inform about their performance via predictive maintenance tools. Not only that, Machine learning is becoming a reality. After all, it’s the time for applying Artificial Intelligence to improve the Mixing Room performance.

Smart Controls is working closely with the team at Zeppelin Germany to add a strong flavor of Digitalisation to all its Plant Engineering solutions.

What unique challenge does this alliance provide you?

AC: For historical reasons, Zeppelin and Smart Controls each have their own automation solutions, Zeppelin more in the food sector and Smart Controls in the Plastics & Rubber (Tyre) area. From the point of view of effectiveness and efficiency, it is a declared goal to continue only one system in the future. The planning of this merger is in progress, and presents both partners with challenges that were foreseeable. That is why we can speak of challenges here, but they will take us forward in the foreseeable future.

Has there been any joint study of the market needs that Zeppelin is looking for in order to define Smart Control’s solution support to them?

AC: Yes. We jointly studied the markets in Asia, Europe and the US. Most of the global players are looking for turnkey solutions for the Mixing Room. Also, the market demands a strong flavor of Digitalisation in the Mixing Room.

Customers are also looking for traceability solutions across the tyre plants. This covers the Mixing area as well. Smart Controls had been working in traceability space from over 5 years. The solutions developed by Smart Controls for the tyre plants are now being ported on Siemens Simatic IT platform.

The study clearly indicates that Zeppelin together with Smart Controls is completely geared up to address the market needs, be it turnkey solutions, Digitalization, traceability solutions or plant wide MES.

Has this coming together helped you to come up with any new innovative solution?

AC: Digitalisation had always been on the agenda of both companies prior to the Joint Venture. After coming together, the ideas have just fuelled up.

Smart Components is one such product that is likely to be rolled out in 2018. Take example of say Rotary Valve. In future it will be possible to pair the rotary valve with an iPhone or an iPad over Bluetooth and get all data sheets about the product from the cloud. Not just this, it will be possible to start an online chat with Zeppelin service department to get support on this product.

SmartSense AQI (Air Quality Index) measurement is another product that is based on IoT technologies. Sensors measure air parameters like Temperature, Humidity, Pressure, So2, Co2, CO, Ozone, PM2.5 and PM10 to calculate the AQI. The measurement data is directly transferred to the cloud and is then available on Mobile Applications. This product can be installed on the Carbon floor and can be used for real time measurement of leakages and also the quality of air to which the operators are exposed to. Under extreme conditions the Carbon transportation process can be stopped automatically through the cloud service.

There are other Digital Solutions being developed on Machine learning using Artificial intelligence that will completely change the way Mixing Recipes will be defined in future.

What are the other major tie-ups that Smart Controls has?

AC: Smart Controls had been a Solution Partner of Siemens in the Automation space from the last 15 years. And recently, Smart Controls has also become a Certified Solution Partner of Siemens PLM Software division for Simatic IT (MES) and Preactor (Production Planning & Scheduling Module) software modules.

All solutions rolled out by Smart Controls in Automation area had been on Siemens platform. This includes SmartMix as well. And now all solutions for MES will be rolled out on Simatic IT.

Global Automation Strategy

What is the vision or big picture of the new setup?

Oliver Thiel: We have a clear vision: Zeppelin will be a system solution provider! For the new setup, this means that our focus is not only on individual products, but also on system solutions for our customers. Based on current trends such as industry 4.0 and digitisation, solutions will be developed in the coming years that meet the big picture of the Smart Factory. The Internet will also play an increasingly important role in the field of industrial automation. This in turn poses new challenges for our customers and us as a manufacturer of solutions, such as Internet security. Partnerships and the opening up of systems will play an important role in the development of such new solutions. The new partnership between Zeppelin and Smart Controls is a consistent strategic step to meet these challenges, especially on the software side.

In addition to all new trends, we will continue to focus on our existing strengths: Plant automation for our customers with a clear focus on customer benefit.

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