PCN Europe: In September you have announced the start of a joint venture at a press conference in Frankfurt. At first glance this seems unusual for companies that could be seen as competitors in some fields. What were the reasons to start a collaboration?
Boer & Bhangu: The process industry, as any other today, is facing a new challenge in the digital age. This is not only around increasing productivity, reliability, and safety of plants, but also concerns creating transparency on equipment and process performance. SAMSON and KROHNE have been actively pursuing their strategy on creating smart field devices that can help all stakeholders in a plant to gain better understanding of their equipment, thereby contributing to more reliable processes. Both companies have been working intensively in many areas since years and have a complimentary portfolio and business model. Being family owned gives them both a similar DNA - freedom to operate and financial independence - and an acceptance of their core strengths and the fact that the essence of Industry 4.0 lies in Collaboration. We both do not compete in the market and a clear dedication to realizing our Strategy 2025+ made such a joint venture possible. FOCUS-ON will bring more value to our customers by combining the best of technologies, competencies, and people.
PCN Europe: Was there already a concrete idea at the start of the collaboration in which direction the product or service should be developed?
Bhangu & Boer: Disruption was the only idea that we had on the table to start with. We understood early on the benefits of bringing flow measurement and control valve together, even though the shape or form of a product was not clear.
But as it is with any innovation, we had to start from scratch. It involved bringing R&D teams from both companies together through intensive workshops to first understand each other’s technologies before we could even initiate any integration plan. Input from marketing teams, voice of the customer, was critical in keeping the focus on applications and product functionalities. The real key to disruption is not to get lost in creating detailed product specification sheets or scope documents, but to fail first, early, and keep continue moving forward. This scrum approach allowed us to quickly define the route of development, milestones, and overall goal of the collaboration.
PCN Europe: Can you please describe the new product and the most innovative features for our readers?
Boer & Bhangu: The revolutionary FOCUS-1 device integrates the control functionalities of a globe valve with measurement sensors for flow based on ultrasonic principle, pressure, and temperature. Such integration allows the product to operate based on valve setpoint, specific flow value, downstream pressure (p2), or even in some special applications, temperature control. Powerful computing unit sits above the bonnet combining positioner and sensor electronics with application modules that are loaded with smart algorithms for various control and diagnostic functions. Seamless connectivity via a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi antenna capable of operation in ATEX Zone 1 and Zone 2, easy coupling of actuator air supply for both air-to-open and air-to-close modes, innovative LEDs for visual communication of health status complying with NAMUR NE107 standard, and a clean but robust industrial design are the special features of our FOCUS-1 product. However, there are many more features under the hood that were made possible due to the design innovation and range from innovative manufacturing methodologies to cabling concepts. All these features allow FOCUS-1 device to provide superior performance and a compact size, considering there is so much innovation on board.
PCN Europe: The complete product development was done in less than 2 years. This is really fast, especially if you consider the complexity of the components. Did you have external specialists to support your team in the development process?
Bhangu & Boer: We are very proud of the speed of innovation setting a benchmark, at least in our companies. This was made all possible due to motivated individuals working diligently together for 18 months.
Communication was the key in defining goals, planning work package milestones, and keeping everyone abreast of the project progress. This was especially critical, considering technical contribution came from team members sitting in Frankfurt and Munich (both SAMSON) and Duisburg, Minden and Dordrecht/NL (KROHNE) who are working closely on all mechanical, electronics, software, testing, and calibration topics. However, as the name of the company suggests, it was important that we focus on our core competencies while identifying external partners who bring with them aspects that have been ignored by traditional equipment manufacturing companies. One of these areas was industrial design and integration, where we are fortunate to work with our strategic partners located in Rotterdam/NL, Spark Design and Innovation. Their team of product designers and brand experts worked alongside our project team to create the concept of FOCUS-1 product and FOCUS-ON brand.
PCN Europe: As a new company Focus-On probably cannot tackle all industry sectors where your new product would fit. What sectors do you start with and what are the main benefits for users there?
Boer & Bhangu: As the name of our joint venture suggests, we intend to focus on those markets and applications that form a good fit with the product functionalities and features. With our first offering, the FOCUS-1 product, we are targeting applications with liquid as the medium across utilities in food & beverages and pharma & biotechnology, and many areas in the chemical and petrochemicals industry. The compact footprint of this product due to integration of four components into one powerful device allowing for superior process control quality and additional benefits of reduced investments in engineering simulation, piping length, number of flanges, and installation man-hours are the key benefits on the CAPEX side. Better control quality leading to higher plant utilization and reduced variances of components will allow our customers to have lower OPEX costs and thereby overall faster return on their investments. The main industry sector where we fastest adoption is in the skid building, whereby all the above-mentioned benefits can be exploited quite quickly.
PCN Europe: The full product launch of the intelligent process node is expected for the first quarter of 2020? What will be the next steps, when this big goal will be achieved?
Bhangu & Boer: Our main target in the next months is to showcase the full potential of FOCUS-1 device through extended field tests. This will be followed with a full product launch in Q1/2020. However, we will continue to work on the device and process diagnostics capabilities that this product has to offer, in close conjunction with our customers. We consider our first product just a starting point on our exciting journey, whereby we look to integrate many other measuring principles available within SAMSON’s and KROHNE’s portfolio today and further being developed as part of their innovation roadmap.
PCN Europe: Thanks for sharing these insights with us.