ctrlX AUTOMATION, our new automation platform, was recently awarded the prestigious “Der Deutsche Innovationspreis”. We spoke to Jasmin Heim, Director of Marketing at Bosch Rexroth, to find out why this new automation platform won the award, how an exciting innovation like this is developed and what the benefits are for our customers.
When did you first realize there was a requirement for a new automation platform and what drove that need?
Well, the market is changing ever faster, so we all have to constantly adapt to new circumstances, new technologies and new customer requirements.
Our previous platform was good, but it was developed many years ago. Back then, everyone was thinking in terms of closed systems. The focus was on high performance automation applications and so they were complex to handle and only for experts.
We realized that what’s needed is a completely new solution that drastically simplifies the automation world – and that solves our customers’ challenges, such as the complexity and effort required in the engineering and implementation process. With ctrlX AUTOMATION, we’ve created an automation platform that removes the boundaries of previous solutions.
How does ctrlX AUTOMATION fit into the Factory of the Future?
In short, ctrlX AUTOMATION is the brain of the Factory of the Future.
The software solution offered by this new automation platform means that systems and machines can be as accommodating as a smartphone. It enables us to break through the classic boundaries between machine controls, IT and the Internet of Things. With a Linux real-time operating system, consistently open standards, app technology for programming, web-based engineering and a comprehensive IoT connection, it reduces engineering and implementation effort by up to 50 percent.
It's been developed in the context of the Internet of Things, Industry 4.0 and the Factory of the Future, which end users are increasingly coming to expect. They also want machine manufacturers to provide their preferred interfaces and enable the same level of convenience in their professional environment as in their private life, which is what we’ve achieved with ctrlX AUTOMATION.
How do you go about developing an exciting new innovation like this – and can you tell us roughly how many people were involved and a little about their different job roles?
Broadly speaking, our initial brief was: “Question everything, develop something totally new – something that’ll change the future of automation and offer entirely new perspectives for end users.” That’s a really exciting opportunity for the team, but where to begin? The best place to start, of course, was with our customers. We didn’t ask them explicitly what they’d like. We asked them to give us a list of the things they’d like to see in the future – free from the restrictions of today’s systems.
Having obtained the input from customers, we developed all the concepts and validated them. Then our development team created the features. Customer feedback was critical, so we developed MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), gave them to numerous customers in various industries and got their feedback immediately, in order to integrate it directly into our platform. This was a win-win situation – it meant we could improve our platform, and the customer was able to solve and future-proof their applications.
Automation is growing increasingly complex and developing solutions like ctrlX AUTOMATION requires a wide range of different skills. So, some 500 associates from Bosch Rexroth in Germany and China joined forces in agile teams to work on this huge project. These teams pooled the diverse skills of departments such as sales, hardware and software development, product management, marketing and manufacturing. Hierarchies were made even flatter, allowing more room for initiative and enabling us to work in an entrepreneurial way.
Roughly how long did it take to develop ctrlX AUTOMATION?
The core project started in October 2017. After two years in development, it was market-ready, and ctrlX AUTOMATION was launched at the SPS trade fair in November 2019.
What did you enjoy most about working on this project?
I’ve had many highlights, so it’s difficult to choose just one. Being a part of the development phase and working with a team of highly motivated ‘Game Changers’ was really exciting, as was the launch at the trade fair in 2019. Then, of course, there are the first customer projects, where we get to experience the real difference ctrlX AUTOMATION is making. The opening of our platform to an open ecosystem called ctrlX World is a huge milestone. Then there are the awards, such as "Der Deutsche Innovationspreis", which we’ve just received and has a special place next to our other trophies!
Why did the jury of “Der Deutsche Innovationspreis” choose ctrlX AUTOMATION as the winner?
I think the jury recognized that our automation solution is something completely new and truly innovative that has never existed on the market before. In the laudation, it was acknowledged that ctrlX AUTOMATION allows the physical and digital worlds to grow together and that we rethink the physical world in a digital way. We’ve shown that by connecting them, new productivity and new solutions can be created.
Philipp Guth, Head of Automation & Electrification Solutions at Bosch Rexroth, accepts “Der Deutsche Innovationspreis” 2021. Image source: Uta Wagner, Heinz-Mohnen Platz 43, 50937 Köln.
What do you think is the most important customer benefit of ctrlX AUTOMATION?
There are so many, but if I had to pick just one, it’s that ctrlX AUTOMATION is the most open system on the market.
Can you give us any specific examples of customers that are using ctrlX AUTOMATION and what their feedback has been?
ctrlX AUTOMATION has already been implemented in nearly 300 customer projects. In addition, our ctrlX World ecosystem is growing – we now have 20 partners and that number is rising.
There’s also an interesting article about to optimize gripping and clamping processes. Dr. Martin May is the Director of SCHUNK’s Technology Factory and he gave us some great feedback that’s reminiscent of what lots of our customers are telling us: “We think ctrlX AUTOMATION is the ideal platform. It enables us to develop our ideas in such a way that they can be widely used in the market. The system has all of the components necessary for complete automation solutions. It is extremely scalable and meets the requirements of nearly every application.”