Schenck Process Pivots From Machine Manufacturing Expert to Digital Service Provider with Storm Reply and AWS
Recognizing that its customers needed more than a machine manufacturing expert, Schenck Process embarked on a digital journey focused on internet of things (IoT) technology. Working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) AWS Premier Tier Services Partner Storm Reply and across the AWS technology stack, Schenck launched CONiQ Cloud, a serverless, modular IoT platform. Using CONiQ Cloud, Schenck now sells its customers digital process solutions that enable them to save valuable production time and gain critical insight.
Launching a Digital Journey
Schenck Process is a global market leader in industrial measuring and process technologies solutions. Traditionally a machine manufacturing expert, Schenck Process’s offerings support processes ranging from weighing, feeding, and conveying a few grams of chemical powder per hour to hundreds of tons of iron ore per hour. Schenck Process’s customers’ needs are just as varied, from screening coal, mixing polymers, and pulverizing limestone to industrial bread baking and sweets production.
Several years ago, Schenck Process realized it was no longer enough to offer the best machines for its customers’ processes or for those customers to only connect those machines to the cloud. The company began a digital journey focused on enabling IoT support to help customers optimize their processes based on data collected. After trying an initial approach that turned out to be both too big and the wrong fit, Schenck Process began again, starting small and building iteratively on a modular basis.
“We are driven by a digital strategy to connect our existing fleet, digitize along the demands of our customers’ businesses, and create initiatives to share data,” said Benedikt Hering, Head of iQ Systems and Services at Schenck Process. To create a modular IoT platform that would meet the needs of both Schenck and its customers, the company turned to Storm Reply, an AWS Partner AWS Premier Tier Services and Managed Service Provider designations.
“We’re looking to reach more customers or integrate more processes with our existing customers. This is where having a modular structure and flexible integration pays off.”
- Benedikt Hering, Head of iQ Systems and Services, Schenck Process
Building an IoT Ecosystem
Part of the Reply group, Storm Reply specializes in the design and implementation of cloud-based solutions, services, and modern application development for a global client base. Storm Reply has worked with AWS since 2008, completing more than 500 successful cloud projects across the entire AWS technology stack. The company takes a platform-centric approach to cloud development that combines migrations and integrations with modern software development and automation capabilities to create a complete ecosystem built around a customer’s business needs. In the case of Schenck Process they teamed up with Storm Reply to build a flexible, scalable, serverless, and modular IoT platform enabled by AWS technology, CONiQ Cloud was born.
At a high level, CONiQ Cloud provides Schenck’s customers with a number of core IoT functionalities, including organization and machine management, analytics integration, machine and process data visualization, e-mail alerting and secure data connection and streaming to CONiQ Monitor, Schenck Process’s condition-based monitoring sensor system. “Most importantly, the architecture is as flexible and scalable as possible so it can be used in many different applications,” said Hering.
Because CONiQ Cloud is 99 percent serverless, it can scale up or down as Schenck Process needs, which provides a clear economic benefit: the solution only generates costs when it’s in use. Additionally, since CONiQ Cloud is automated, Schenck Process saves the time and money that would otherwise be invested in managing and running the stack. This also makes CONiQ Cloud extendable, and its future-ready modular structure means Schenck Process can easily change routings and add new features that bring value to customers.
“Even applications that are not cloud native or built for the cloud environment can be connected to a serverless platform solution to create a complete, purpose-built system.”
- Dr. Sven Seiler, Senior Manager, Storm Reply
Leveraging the AWS Stack
At its core, CONiQ Cloud combines the flexibility and functionality of the AWS technology stack. It starts with AWS IoT Greengrass, which runs on the devices at the edge and captures data from sensors managed by the AWS IoT Greengrass core. AWS IoT Greengrass then works with AWS IoT Core directly to take over the heavy lifting of managing and connecting all the different devices and sensors to the cloud core itself. From there, the data is sent to the IoT Rule Engine, which in turn sends it to AWS Lambda. AWS Lambda functions, which are snippets of code that only run and generate costs when used, control and automate the data flow. Using AWS Lambda functions allowed Storm Reply to create a purpose-built specialized datastore customized to Schenck Process’s particular needs—in this case, a combination of Amazon Timestream, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) that can handle the constant flow of IoT data and enables access to historical data.
CONiQ Cloud uses Amazon DynamoDB database to track device information and core information, and all other storage is handled by Amazon S3. In addition, the entire system is encrypted and fully managed by Amazon.
“The true magic happens within the AWS Lambda functions in combination with AWS AppSync and Amazon EventBridge,” said Dr. Sven Seiler, Senior Manager at Storm Reply. “All the logic we’re writing is actually written into the lambda functions, which means those functions can evolve and be used for different kinds of control mechanisms within the platform.”
The serverless approach continues through the front end of the CONiQ Cloud platform. Because the dashboards and graphics are serverlessly built, they function simply as code stored in Amazon S3 and are controlled by lambda functions, making it easy to create custom visualizations. Further, access management is handled by Amazon Cognito, which ensures there’s no data access hidden within the code to achieve security by design. Since the entire solution is connected to Amazon CloudFront, it is automatically globally distributable and available to Schenck Process’s customers no matter where they are.
While CONiQ Cloud is 99 percent serverless, it relies on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance. Schenck has long used MATLAB Production Server internally to get intelligence out of its systems. “We realized that to more quickly build the CONiQ solution, it would be better to move MATLAB directly to the cloud and connect it to the system,” said Dr. Seiler. “This shows that even applications that are not cloud native or built for the cloud environment can be connected to a serverless platform solution to create a complete, purpose-built system.”
“With this solution, what we are really selling our customers is production time, which is more valuable than anything else to them.”
- Benedikt Hering, Head of iQ Systems and Services, Schenck Process
Selling the Benefits of Time and Insight
No longer content to be only a seller of machines or even platforms, Schenck Process uses CONiQ Cloud as the basis for a variety of value-added digital services it now sells to customers. “We’re looking to reach more customers or integrate more processes with our existing customers,” said Hering. “This is where having a modular structure and flexible integration pays off.”
For example, Schenck Process is now selling “deviation from normal” as a digital service. Traditionally, most condition monitoring systems are designed to alarm when certain thresholds associated with machine failure are reached. These systems work well as long as the thresholds are set properly, but even when they are, the alarming is often very late, sometimes only a few hours before the machine fails. CONiQ Cloud uses sensitive algorithms to learn the normal behavior of a specific machine and then develops a model based on the state of all the variables at the same time. The system detects any deviations from normal behavior, which trigger an alarm much earlier than traditional condition monitoring—in this case, up to 108 hours earlier, buying Schenck Process’s customer precious reaction time.
“With this solution, what we are really selling our customers is production time, which is more valuable than anything else to them,” said Hering. “With other new functionalities we’re implementing, we’re able to sell process insights as a service as well, using the data we collect to develop algorithms that lead to insights our customers wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Hering concluded, “Schenck Process is on a digital journey, using our expertise and technology to move into more and more new business fields. In the future, selling machines may fade into the background as we focus more on selling digital solutions that address our customers’ real-life problems.”
About Schenck Process
Schenck Process is a global market leader in industrial measuring and process technologies solutions, including solutions for industrial weighing, feeding, conveying, and screening along with associated digital applications.
About Storm Reply
Part of the Reply Group, Storm Reply specializes in the design and implementation of innovative cloud-based solutions, services, and modern application development for a global client base.
Published December 2021