Interview with Peter Lankes, CEO of IVA Schmetz GmbH

Your new product "Digital Service" will be released at the HeatTreatment Congress in October. What is it all about?

Our goal was to make our service more efficient and intelligent. We succeeded in doing this with our new service product "Digital Service". Machine learning enables us not only to monitor and assess the condition of a system, but also to predict potential maintenance requirements.

We have set up a Digital Diagnostic Center at our office in Dortmund, from where we monitor our furnaces all over the world. As soon as our intelligent algorithms detect irregularities, the service team is notified and proactively contacts the customer.

Our experts at the Digital Diagnostic Center are also available to assist our service technicians in case they require additional assistance during a mission. Communication is improved with the help of mixed reality glasses via live video chat. One can imagine this as if the expert were looking directly over the technician's shoulder. We call this Remote Assistance.

Overall, the Digital Service is a decisive step towards industry 4.0 for us and our whole industry. 


What do you think industry 4.0 has on the heat treatment industry?

I am convinced that it will be a game changer for the entire industry. One can understand the importance of the topic from the fact that almost all companies, regardless of their industry, are working on similar solutions. Over the past few years, various industrial furnace manufacturers have also approached this issue, but with Digital Service we have now achieved a breakthrough. The difference here is clearly made by artificial intelligence, on which we rely instead of fixed limits.


And how does this benefit the customer?

Sudden breakdowns and unscheduled downtimes, which cost any production plant a lot of money, are a thing of the past with Predictive Maintenance. If I know about a potential impairment early enough, I can initiate appropriate measures: order the required spare parts, schedule the replacement at a convenient time, etc., so that the downtime is ultimately minimal. And all this without replacing parts too early, so that the use of resources is sustainable and cost-efficient. The key factor here is the transparency we create through our digital service.

By combining Predictive Maintenance with Remote Assistance, we can further increase efficiency. In the case of maintenance, the service technician saves valuable time with support from the Digital Diagnostic Center and the system is available to the customer again more quickly.


Is this service also available for old furnaces or only for new ones?

In the future, our new furnaces will be prepared ex works for the use of Digital Service, but of course we will also support older furnaces of our customers. In order to be able to use the Digital Service also in old furnaces, it is necessary to retrofit it with the appropriate sensor technology. For particularly old furnaces, we may have to look for an individual solution, but I am sure that we can make Digital Service available to any interested customer. This retrofitting is included in our new Digital Service contracts, by the way.