Kemppi used AWS to bring its IoT solution for its flagship welding machine to market and cut the cost of software development by approximately 50 percent. The Finnish company, with a history of innovation, designs and manufactures welding equipment and application software. It launched its IoT-enabled machine using AWS technologies including AWS IoT Core, AWS Lambda, and Amazon Elasticsearch Service.
Kemppi bills itself as “the pioneering welding company.” Founded in Lahti, Finland, in 1949, it has a history of industry firsts, including the first inverter power source (1977), the first digital power source (1993), and the first universal welding management software (2014).
Kemppi is the backbone of the welding industry and it’s not afraid to change in order to meet new challenges.
Right now, there is a shortage of skilled welders due to growing demand and the retirement of many veteran welders. To modernize the industry and combat this skills gap, Kemppi has developed its WeldEye welding management software, and more recently its flagship X8 welding machine, which comes with the software built in and the ability to connect to the internet in a way that no other welding device can do.
The software lets the operator automatically apply welding parameters stored in the cloud, making the device easier to use for welders. It also authenticates users, comparing the details held on smart cards with credentials kept centrally, so that welders only work on tasks they are qualified for. Finally, it saves information about every weld, meaning that when welds are inspected, there’s an immutable record of what settings were used, so companies can prove they meet the set of standards governing their work.
The launch of the X8 presented Kemppi with an opportunity. This was the company’s first Internet of Things (IoT) device, and the company believes that the X8 will set the standard for similar products in the future. The WeldEye software is central to this shift in direction, and Kemppi wanted to make its development more agile, as well as to reduce the cost of managing and hosting the infrastructure that runs it.
Juhana Enqvist, chief digital officer at Kemppi, says, “We were running on a VMware-based environment hosted at a local telco. We wanted to bring new features to production more often than the quarterly releases we were limited to, and to give our developers greater ownership of the environment where their code runs.” Kemppi also needed the environment to be scalable to support future growth of its IoT devices as they were released. It looked to the cloud for a solution.
Enqvist joined Kemppi with experience in developing cloud architectures, and he had one in mind for the X8. But his first task was to choose a cloud provider. Amazon Web Services (AWS) came out on top, not least because of AWS Lambda, which companies can use to run code without provisioning or managing a server. “Because we wanted to look after as little infrastructure as possible, microservices and serverless architectures were critical to our plan,” says Enqvist. “AWS Lambda was much more mature than anything offered by other cloud providers.” Cost, too, was important. “I spoke with other providers, and while it was technically possible to do what I wanted, it was easier and cheaper to do it with AWS.”
Over the next six months, a team of four developers worked to build the WeldEye architecture in AWS and rewrite the software itself. “Because the rest of my team had no experience with cloud architecture, I expected a three-month learning period, followed by five or six months of coding,” says Enqvist. “But Amazon Web Services is very quick to learn and simple to use. We got to market in about two-thirds of the time—just over six months.” Customers’ X8 devices interface with the AWS environment via AWS IoT Core using the MQTT protocol, which reduces the code footprint on the devices as well as network bandwidth requirements. “This is particularly important for Kemppi’s customers who work in remote places with poor internet connections such as oil rigs,” says Enqvist.
Data is stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets, before being passed into Kemppi’s NoSQL data stores—either Amazon DynamoDB or Amazon Elasticsearch Service. “Using Amazon Elasticsearch Service as a database was a tip from an AWS solutions architect, and one we would never have thought of,” says Enqvist. “It’s the fastest way we’ve found to handle free-form queries related to welding qualifications and procedures, and it means our customers get answers in an instant.”
AWS Lambda functions handle both the import and export of data to and from Amazon Elasticsearch Service, with exported data then being sent back to the welder’s on-device application via the Amazon API Gateway.
Switching to AWS has met Kemppi’s primary goal of speeding up software development. “With AWS, we got our product to market in six months instead of once a year, compared to technologies previously in use, and we can now confidently release new code up to ten times a week instead of once each quarter,” says Enqvist. And rather than having to wait for the next scheduled deployment, the development team at Kemppi can fix production bugs within a day. “This means our customers get a better experience when they use our devices, and we have time to focus on new projects.”
A further boost for Kemppi’s customers is the reduction in downtime. “We used to have days of downtime each year to update software and during unplanned outages.
We’ve been able to move to continuous deployment thanks to the serverless architecture that AWS Lambda provides, and downtime is now close to zero,” says Enqvist.
Kemppi has also drastically reduced the cost of delivering software. “By moving to AWS, we can spend less on managing our IoT infrastructure, and less on the hosting itself,” says Enqvist. “We’ve roughly halved the cost of developing and delivering software.”
The security and compliance features built into AWS—including AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) and the certifications that make running workloads in AWS easy to audit—mean that Kemppi customers are assured that their data is highly secure in the AWS Cloud.
“Some of our customers work on military infrastructure, so they place great importance on security and data protection,” says Enqvist. “When we told our customers that we were moving to the AWS Cloud, they didn’t even ask further questions.”
Finally, Kemppi has already begun plans for new devices that use the same IoT cloud architecture as the X8. Enqvist says, “Our IoT platform in AWS will be the basis for our next generation of connected welding devices. We’re confident that it will help us strengthen our leading role in the welding industry.”