AspectPT interviews Steve Rush from Beckhoff Automation NZ

Aspect PT talked with Steve Rush from Beckhoff about Beckhoff Automation in New Zealand and why Beckhoff PLCs are the best choice for AspectPT clients

MES for Industry 4.0 transformation

Aspect Productivity Technology (AspectPT) started using Beckhoff PLCs in 2020 in their MES (Manufacturing Execution System) software.

AspectPT needed the latest technology to facilitate data exchange as well as being industry 4.0 ready. The Beckhoff PLCs are superior to AspectPT’s previous supplier. They have more memory, are more powerful and cost effective – all in a sleeker package.

Beckhoff Automation implements open automation systems using proven PC based control technology. Their main products include:

  • Industrial PCs (PLCs like AspectPT uses)
  • IO – input and output modules (for connection of sensors and actuators)
  • Field bus components
  • Drive technology
  • Automation software (TwinCat)
  • Functional safety devices for industrial environments
  • Hardware (machine vision)

There are many synergies between Beckhoff and AspectPT – and their customers

Both Beckhoff Automation and AspectPT products easily grow with customer requirements. Both companies are focused on consistent innovation and supporting local business with local stock, staff, training and technology.

In New Zealand, many factories operate brand new machines alongside machines that are 30 years old. Between Beckhoff PLCs and AspectPL MES they can gather machine information from a legacy machine as well as one with the latest technology.

Allan Orr, Founding Director of AspectPT explains how Beckhoff PLCs help AspectPT monitor different production speeds and outputs.

“Beckhoff PC based controllers allow AspectPL to monitor high speed machines that run multiple parts per second, blow and injection moulders in seconds and minutes, film and extrusion lines that run at a few meters per minute through to a rotational moulder that can take up to 1 hour for a single cycle.

Whether we require a simple digital signal or more sophisticated OPC UA connectivity the platform enables great standardised plant floor scalability with architecture that can be either centralised or distributed using EtherCAT across large or small industrial plants or multiple sites.”

The biggest similarity between Beckhoff PLCs and AspectPL MES is that both contribute to connect, visualize and analyse manufacturing processes. This data allows customers to find and fix productivity issues and become more productive and profitable.

"Beckhoff is not the biggest player in automation in NZ but we growing extremely quickly."

Founded in Germany in 1980, Beckhoff Automation invests strongly in research and development. They are consistently developing new products and technologies. Recently they announced a new modular industrial robot system called ATRO and MX-System, a cabinet free automation solution which has all the tasks and features of a control cabinet, without the need for the cabinet.

In New Zealand Beckhoff holds local stock and supports their customers with a national sales team including training and technical support.

Originally trained as a fitter and turner, Steve Rush has been in the industrial automation industry for over 26 years. His role as Senior Technical Sales Engineer focusses on supporting the sales team and Beckhoff New Zealand business development.

Trading in New Zealand since 2012, Beckhoff focused on increasing the New Zealand business as its own entity in 2018. Beckhoff New Zealand has grown from 3 staff in 2018 to 12 staff in 2022. Internationally Beckhoff have seen an average 15% growth year on year since 2000 and expect over 20% growth in 2022.

Steve Rush adds “Hans Beckhoff is still very much at the helm of Beckhoff Automation in Germany and we achieve over $1 billion annual sales internationally. Being a family owned company allows agility and innovation – unlike some of the other large automation suppliers. Working for a technology leader is a great challenge. There is always something new to learn – it keeps you on your toes.”

Beckhoff New Zealand’s largest customers are original equipment manufacturers or machine builders. They integrate Beckhoff PLCs as the brains of machines to synchronise movements (like cardboard box assembly).

The second biggest customer group are System Integrators. Like AspectPT, they take Beckhoff hardware and software, add their coding and IP and sell it on to end users who need plant or plant modification.

“We also supply directly to end users who we support with spare parts and training – especially those with onsite automation engineers.” Says Steve.

Why are Beckhoff PLCs the best option for AspectPT customers?

At the heart of Beckhoff products is PC based control technology. This allows the control of manufacturing processes in real time with the ability to connect to IT with one device. Beckhoff PLCs facilitate the integration of IT (computer systems) and OT (operational technology i.e., machines). Connectivity is on an open and flexible platform with the ability to expand functionality as required – all on one device.

Unlike other products on the market Beckhoff PLCs offer one platform, one set of hardware and software that is buildable.

Other suppliers often require multiple engineering software and hardware. The Beckhoff PLC solution is often simpler and better value without diminishing the functionality or speed.

Steve explains. “Think of our technology as a modern smart phone. You have an iPhone for example and you can keep adding apps to it for the functionality you require. With Beckhoff PLCs we add software to the platform like you add an app to a smart phone.”

Having an Beckhoff PLC configured by AspectPT offers customers the confidence they are investing in MES software that is technologically advanced and able to grow with their business.

Both companies are consistently impressed with NZ manufacturers doing and making really interesting things – often in small regional centers. Innovation is rife in NZ and Beckhoff Automation and AspectPT are both delighted to support NZ businesses and their success.