The 1980-founded Beckhoff Automation, a provider of automation solutions with headquarters in Verl, Germany, has been active in the industrial automation market for more than 40 years. Due to the expertise it has acquired and the innovations it has created over the years, major industrial players including German robot producer Kuka Robotics, Canadian machinery supplier Husky, and Georg Fischer in Switzerland have partnered with and trusted the company.
With the help of its engineering staff and expertise, Beckhoff Automation was also able to develop technologies like EtherCAT and other inventions based on the communication fieldbus that are now widely utilized by machine makers and IPC businesses.
Beckhoff Automation is an automation company that provides the intelligence, power, and anything needed to operate a machine, a building, a windmill, or others, according to Hans Beckhoff, owner and managing director of Beckhoff Automation.
In the early years of the company’s operation, when he founded Beckhoff Automation in 1980, the company used microprocessor-based controlled systems. However, in 1986, the company turned specifically to PC-based control technologies, implementing real-time software onto the hardware of an industrial PC to enable common automation functionalities like PLC and motion.
Early on, Beckhoff Automation was able to control machines using PCs thanks to PC-based control technology, which gave the company the opportunity to offer its clients a variety of distinctive machine control features.
Beckhoff Automation’s technologies have gone further in comparison to PC-based control today because of all the connectivity, data management, and analytics features and modern control requirements. Customers of Beckhoff Automation can now easily download applications from the business website, install them on their PCs, and use them to convert their PCs into high-end machine controls while retaining all of the functionality of a typical PC.
The core of Beckhoff Automation’s business strategy is the software TwinCAT, however in order for the software to perform its control functions on clients’ high-quality industrial hardware, a lot of supporting hardware is still required. Due to this, Beckhoff Automation has begun to increase the research and manufacture of its own brand of industrial PCs, I/O and fieldbus components, drive technology, and control cabinet-free automation.
The company Beckhoff Automation has advanced technologies. This means that Beckhoff Automation has all the necessary capabilities to independently develop motherboards for its industrial PCs. It has its own BIOS software, a staff of operating system experts and engineers, and manufacturing facilities in Germany that enable it to produce motherboards with reaction times of under 100 microseconds. Additionally, Beckhoff has experts in automation software and applications like packing, milling, and assembly.
Beckhoff Automation wants to sell its clients more than just technology and software; it also wants to sell them confidence. High-end technology like automation makes it difficult and necessitates tight cooperation between its supplier and consumer.
To make the most advanced initiatives function, the supplier and user must collaborate and establish a close relationship. Beckhoff Automation also offers top-notch support engineers in Taiwan that are prepared to help any of its clients.
Beckhoff Automation’s business model and organizational structure aid it in navigating the challenging COVID period.
Despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on various businesses over the past few months, Beckhoff Automation was still able to increase revenue in 2020 and further in 2021.
The company’s founder Beckhoff commented on Beckhoff Automation’s outstanding performance in 2021 and said that more than 2,000 of the company’s current 5,000 employees are engineers. In order to be as close to its consumers as possible, the company also has many subsidiaries in 40 other markets outside of Germany, including Taiwan, and 24 sales offices dispersed around Germany.
To handle its product distribution and marketing, Beckhoff Automation additionally has channel partners and distributors in more than 75 nations. Thanks to the dedication of the company’s staff and partners, revenues in 2021 reached EUR1.182 billion (US$1.18 billion), a record high with an on-year growth rate of 28%.
Although Beckhoff Automation has had annual revenue increase for the majority of its more than 40 years in business, there have been certain years “we suffered a decline from or keep on par with the prior year’s results due to a big financial crisis around the world,” according to Beckhoff. Since 2000, the company has continued to experience revenue growth of 15% year on average.
Additionally, Beckhoff Automation has been working hard to retain all of its current clients and to continue attracting new ones. Due to their strong confidence in the quality and affordability of Beckhoff Automation’s solutions, an increasing number of clients have decided to stick with the company over the past 20 to 30 years.
Beckhoff Automation has dependable teams of engineers and workers in Germany, which enables the business to create cutting-edge technology and products. The company’s structure as a family-owned corporation has a lot of advantages for how it runs. Since Beckhoff Automation is entirely self-funded, it is not subject to pressure from banks or investors.
The company can implement its inventory strategy of keeping four to six months’ worth of raw materials at its warehouses during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic because it has complete control over the company’s business direction, whereas the majority of other businesses are attempting to lose as much inventory as possible. The choice ultimately paid off and assisted Beckhoff Automation in navigating the situation.
The management team does not view outcomes as the final goal and instead looks for long-term advances to retain the company’s technological leadership, which is another benefit of being privately owned.
The company aims to provide new goods every year with evolutionary characteristics and to produce a revolutionary product every 5-7 years. For many years, Beckhoff Automation has been using this method, which has assisted the business in developing the bus terminal, the linear motor, and the magnetic levitation movement technologies.
The new MX-System, which debuted in November 2021, is another change. The system totally replaces the typical control cabinet and provides a flexible, space-optimized, intelligent system solution, raising the bar for industrial automation.
Bringing innovative ideas to consumers and meeting their needs and expectations is another responsibility of Beckhoff Automation. The change also assisted the business in gaining more new customers.
The warehouse policy aided Beckhoff Automation throughout the crisis, but as a result of insufficient production capacity, the company is now gradually experiencing increasing wait times for its shipments. In order to do that, Beckhoff Automation has already begun an expansion project. The increased capacity is expected to be operational by the first quarter of 2022, and volumes will have doubled compared to the beginning of 2020.
The lead time for orders is anticipated to return to normal in the second half of 2022 thanks to the increase in capacity. While Beckhoff Automation’s capacity only expanded by 25% in 2021, client orders increased by more than 60% year over year; nonetheless, the difference will close in 2022.
Automation companies should have a good future due to high demand from all around the world because automation is a technology that can be implemented in many industries, including healthcare, water treatment, and entertainment.
Unique solutions are provided by Beckhoff Automation to meet growing demand.
In Glasgow at the COP26 conference, for instance, there was discussion about how “engineers have to save the planet,” according to Beckhoff. All businesses must consistently develop new technologies that can increase the productivity of equipment and industrial processes while consuming less energy and raw materials.
In order to do this, more electric vehicles (EV) are anticipated to be produced, which will increase the need for semiconductors and favorably impact both the semiconductor and automation industries. Due to the new manufacturing architecture that is entering the market, Beckhoff Automation is providing a significant number of control systems to the semiconductor industry as well as the assembly business.
Customers are able to create complex machinery, correlate over 100 axes together, and run the axes in a very quick cycle time of just 100 microseconds thanks to the potent IPCs from Beckhoff Automation.
As a result, the machine can respond more quickly and is more productive. The system also has Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities that enable data collection and storage on backend platforms for analysis.
Additionally, Beckhoff Automation contains a significant amount of built-in measurement technology that, in the company’s opinion, belongs in the control rather than as a separate device. The business offers customers packages with a range of options from which they may select the ones that work best for them.
Beckhoff Taiwan views the market as having a lot of business potential.
The managing director of Beckhoff Automation Taiwan, Phylex Ong, spoke about the business in Taiwan, the branch office’s status, successful cases, as well as the main barriers preventing Taiwanese businesses from adopting smart manufacturing applications and the solutions provided by the company to overcome those barriers.
Beckhoff Taiwan was established in 2018, according to Ong. Since he thinks it will be easiest to serve all of the market’s clients there, the office is situated in central Taiwan.
Currently, Beckhoff Taiwan employs about 19 individuals, six of whom are engineers and five of whom are salespeople. The company primarily collaborates with one distributor, who had a partnership with Beckhoff Automation even before the branch office in Taiwan was founded, aside from their own sales force. The distributor has five sales offices spread out among Taiwan’s major cities.
In the course of its operations since 2018, Beckhoff Taiwan has also produced numerous winning cases. It has teamed up with Shieh Yih Machinery Industry (Seyi), one of Taiwan’s top manufacturers of servo press machines. The business installed a Beckhoff CX5140 embedded PC with a 15-inch Control Panel CP6902 in one of its units, enabling TwinSAFE terminals for EtherCAT on the same fieldbus. Additionally, TwinCAT licenses for the HMI and TwinSAFE licenses for the machine were purchased from Beckhoff Automation.
The company has searched for a third-party servo machine that is operating on EtherCAT to meet the client’s demand because Seyi’s machine needs a large servo model and drive that run up to 165KW, which is outside of Beckhoff’s present portfolio.
The acronym for Ethernet for Control Automation Technology, or EtherCAT, was one of the key innovations Beckhoff released to the market in 2003. Its intelligence and foundation in common Ethernet technology make it ideal for handling machine I/O. The IPC and equipment communities throughout the world also highly respect it.
Beckhoff Taiwan also helped Seyi overcome a number of technical obstacles, including the need to add more sensors to its production lines in order to collect data for analysis, enhance the safety of its machines, and make its platform compatible with international standards in order to please customers in the US, Europe, and Japan.
However, Beckhoff Taiwan still has a lot of market obstacles to overcome. In Taiwan’s automation machine market, which has been dominated by Japanese and local manufacturers, Beckhoff Automation’s brand awareness was not very strong when the company first entered the market in 2018.
The business made the decision to prioritize marketing spending in order to stand out from its rivals and get traction. The fact that most automation customers in Taiwan are more accustomed to the PLC platform and will need some time to get more comfortable with Beckhoff Automation’s PC-based control systems is another important aspect that hinders the company’s progress in Taiwan.
Due to the advantages and benefits of TwinCAT, Beckhoff Taiwan has been organizing biweekly TwinCAT seminars for local engineers and clients, and more of them are starting to adopt the technology.
Another significant issue that Beckhoff Taiwan is now dealing with is pricing. When compared to European competitors in the market, many Taiwanese and Japanese IPC players in Taiwan typically provide fairly competitive pricing for their products.
The machine building clients that buy inexpensive IPC solutions frequently want to compete against Chinese rivals who sell incredibly cheap goods, but their cost-cutting usually ends up hurting their own profitability over time because their prices are still undercut by the Chinese rivals.
One of the main goals for Beckhoff Taiwan is to assist these clients in moving from the low-end sector of competition to the midrange and high-end ones. This means that the company still has a lot of space for expansion since the percentage of Taiwanese machine builders who primarily focus on the high-end industry is still fairly low.
The strategy also allowed Beckhoff Automation to steadily increase its market share in Germany’s automation IPC sector. The business is confident that as a result of Beckhoff Automation’s technological advancement, its clients would decide to stick around and help the company expand.
Technologies and inventions from Beckhoff Automation
The numerous technologies offered by Beckhoff Automation can help Taiwanese machine builders meet their automation needs. In order to use EtherCAT, which has been upgraded from the usual 100Mbit/s to 1Gbit/s and 10Gbit/s, several businesses have already joined EtherCAT Technology Group (ETG).
In the meantime, Beckhoff Automation also provides a wide variety of motors, including rotary and linear ones. The XTS transport system (2012) and the XPlanar (2018) planar motion system with stationary coils and moving magnets are two advancements Beckhoff Automation has created. The XPlanar is a unique method of performing intelligent conveyor functionality within a machine since it has the ability to individually control each mover by manipulating the magnetic fields produced by the stationary coils.
With the technology that can be used for food and medicinal packaging, users can make amusing moving patterns. In order to highlight its position as a leader in automation advancements, Beckhoff Automation will also exhibit the system at a forthcoming show.
Because of the need for dust-free manufacturing, the XPlanar will also be the ideal option for Taiwan’s semiconductor industry, where EtherCAT has already established itself as the industry standard communication terminal.
Beckhoff MX-System for automation without a control cabinet
Director of Beckhoff Automation Taiwan, Phylex Ong