Challenges

To deliver over 60 million products annually, Electrolux manages a complex global manufacturing network. The appliance leader needed a foundation of standardized connectivity to better monitor and optimize factory operations. But this required replacing manual data collection processes with a secure, unified platform capable of supporting their operations at enterprise scale.

 

Why Digital Transformation Starts with Industrial Connectivity

Electrolux understands that protecting its market position and brand reputation is built on a commitment to quality and innovation. The ability for Electrolux to quickly adapt and outpace rapidly changing market pressures is not a nice-to-have, but a must-have.

Electrolux saw that digital transformation could help the company adapt and grow with more speed and agility. And it recognized that data produced by its factory machines are the fuel that powers digital transformation.

But the complexity of operations and the sheer number of factory machines involved posed a challenge. That’s because each manufacturing site is home to myriad production lines and equipment. These machines have unique purposes, protocols, data formats, and programmable logic controllers (PLCs). Traditionally, connecting to these machines was point-to-point, manual, time-intensive, and subject to human error.

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Electrolux needed to “connect and collect” data in a standard, uniform, and automated way. With so many unique data end points, connecting on a mass scale would take an entirely new approach using the right technology. But Electrolux didn’t get to its market-leading position by backing away from challenging opportunities.

After scoping of the challenge—and identifying the long-term opportunity cost of not pursuing digital transformation—Electrolux embraced the goal of standardizing connectivity. If successful, it would unlock ways of collecting data and managing assets that are more expansive, automated, secure, and value driven.

 

Partnering with PTC to Establish Connectivity

Solving connectivity presented a two-fold challenge. First, Electrolux would need to secure a connectivity solution it could trust as the solid bedrock of its ongoing digital transformation efforts. Second, it would also need a technology partner that could support the convergence of IT and OT. The applications and infrastructure of IT and OT are traditionally siloed, but digital transformation requires data to be shared across all links in a company’s value chain, including IT and OT. This means that the team implementing the connectivity solution would need to be conversant in both technologies.

After a careful review of different approaches and solutions, Electrolux partnered with PTC, selecting its ThingWorx Kepware Server platform to enable standardized connectivity at a single site pilot.

Kwabena “Kwab” Hobbs, Electrolux’s North American IT Automation Lead, was entrusted with ensuring the pilot was successful, and pending the results, scaling the solution across other locations. A seasoned IT expert, Kwab was candid in the challenges of the IT/OT convergence. “The team was momentarily overwhelmed,” he admitted. “Connecting to OT systems literally meant speaking a different language.” Kwab credits PTC’s support in accelerating the specific skills needed to establish and manage secure connectivity in an OT environment. And he cites ThingWorx Kepware Server in providing the standardized, unifying layer needed to “enable our teams to view and control systems… in a way that reduces data complexity, rather than creating information overload.”

"Connected manufacturing isn’t a typical challenge for IT professionals. For our team, connecting to OT systems literally meant speaking a different language.”

–Kwabena Hobbs, IT Automation Connectivity Lead NA, Electrolux

 

Read the Full Electrolux Connectivity Case Study

Electrolux took a bold, but measured stance to solve the connectivity piece of its digital transformation puzzle. And the approach paid off with real, tangible benefits, as detailed in the full case study. Having mastered this key step allowed it to automate and standardize how it monitors and manages factory machinery. The success at the pilot site paved the way for a full enterprise-scale implementation at factories across the globe. It also laid the groundwork for future IIoT capabilities, including analytics and predictive maintenance.

To learn more about Electrolux’ digital journey, including capabilities unlocked by PTC technology, benefits of granular security, scope of its production implementation, and the impact of connectivity on its efficiency, quality, and safety, download the complete case study.