When time pressure rules your schedule
Reliable technical backup makes the difference for Etec Systems
Design and delivery of industrial turnkey projects, automation of operating systems; Mario Claes, owner of Etec Systems in Balen (Belgium), has been drawing on a continuously growing source of experience since fourteen years now. Each situation reveals unique challenges. Each solution contributes to an ever expanding range of knowledge. But in a market in which developments take place at a dazzling speed, you cannot have all the knowledge at the ready, especially not if you lack the time for extensive testing. And that is precisely where collaboration with itsme Breemes comes into play.
From his home office, Mario calls in for our Skype call. At first, the connection isn’t ideal. “Let’s call someone from IT first”, he says with a wink, on which his son solves the problem with a few, apparently easy actions. It illustrates his collaboration with itsme Breemes: as a software engineer he has a clear vision of his approach to each project. itsme Breemes supports him in case of special loopholes. Mario: “I can dive into it myself, but testing and fine-tuning take time.” As a bonus, he enriches his knowledge by watching how things are done.
For the components – Etec Systems serves about 95% of its customer base with Siemens – he also knocks on itsme Breemes’ door. They supply the components that best fit a single specific situation. For instance, they proactively examine what kind of impact a replacement for a product will have. Peter Devue, technical representative Industrial Automation at itsme Breemes: “For example, should you first run an update in order to avoid issues? Knowing Mario, he will probably test this beforehand himself, but if we do it for him it will save him time. And it prevents nasty surprises when he is at his end customer and the components are already installed.”
Adapting quickly under pressure
That Mario has full confidence in itsme Breemes became apparent in the beginning of this year. He travelled to Austria to work on a completely automated production line and on the communication to an AGV (automated guided vehicle) with three software engineers.
His role was to set up a wireless communication system between the machines and the MES (manufacturing execution system). These machines included a traverse car for the automatic relocation of pallets. The information of these pallets is retrieved from the MES with a generated order number. Tracking of a pallet during transport between the machines is crucial to get the right product data from the label applicators at the end of this fully automated process. In order to define the exact moment at which the traverse car receives the information from the MES, its position has to be determined first. And for that, it is necessary for the car to first drive some distance.
“We take with us the knowledge and experience we gain through Technical Support”
On Tuesday morning, Mario presented the problem. In the afternoon, two product specialists took over his system through TeamViewer and within the hour everything was arranged. Mario and his partners were perfectly able to monitor the progression on-screen and therefore immediately saw where it went wrong.
Full-fledged technical partnership
Time pressure is typical of the market in which Etec Systems operates. Mario: “If I had put the same case before another organisation, the procedure would have been much slower. At itsme Breemes I get a solution fairly quickly.” And that is all the more efficient if, like Etec Systems, you regularly work on projects together with various other partners. If the rest can’t continue because Mario has come to a standstill, speed is of the essence. On top of that, he often works with strict deadlines, so that a shorter response time makes the difference. Or, as he himself expresses it: “These milestones just have to be reached.”
The Technical Support team is especially driven by enthusiasm. And probing questions are part of that. That something works is one thing, but that it functions optimally is the real challenge for them. Peter: “You automatically feel that drive to come to a solution.” Mario remembers his very first case with itsme Breemes. “Technical Support had helped me to set up a wireless system on a carriage, using Wi-Fi, a project in East Germany. After commissioning, however, some signals came in twice. This triggered the safety signals to switch to time-out. And that caused problems.”
The itsme Breemes product specialist again investigated the problem. He requested photographs of the system’s surroundings. These showed that the transmission signal was too strong, which caused reflections. Lowering the transmitting power turned out to be the solution. It is precisely that extra step that helps Mario to find a full-fledged technical partner in itsme Breemes instead of just a distributor. “In case we don’t get anywhere, we contact Technical Support. And we take with us the knowledge and experience we gain in this way. That is the real advantage of our partnership.”
“You automatically feel the drive to come to a solution”
With that, Mario, as a one-man business, has an important backup. He informs Technical Support in advance that a commissioning is planned. They make sure that someone is on standby. If necessary they can grab hold of the issues Etec Systems is facing. “For that project in Austria we had left without having set up the machines in the Netherlands. There was simply no time for that. We assembled everything there without testing in advance. We just go there, start it up and if necessary we can always fall back on itsme Breemes Technical Support. That is important. That way I can leave with a peace of mind.”
From concept to practice
Mario has been working in technology all of his life. Since 2008 he has been self-employed in his one-man business Etec Systems, where he concentrates on machine automation. But Etec Systems is no installation company in the traditional sense of the word. Mario has been involved in automation processes from the very beginning. At the drawing board, he works out the wishes of his customers into a full concept and only after commissioning, his task is done. His expertise lies in operating engineering and all the software configuration and programming involved. The work is done on site or in Etec Systems’ own building, where many robot installations have already been built and tested.