Pilz – Ambassador for safety
In 1948, 65 years ago, Hermann Pilz founded the company as a glass-blowing business for technical medical equipment, based in Esslingen. In the 60s, his son Peter Pilz developed it into a supplier of electronic control and monitoring devices and programmable logic controllers. Today Pilz can maintain that the family business is a technology leader in automation technology.
Starting from its core competency, safety, Pilz offers a seamless portfolio of sensors, control systems and drive technology for the entire automation technology. Services complete the offering: with consulting, engineering and training, the company provides support through the whole machine lifecycle.
In the field of industrial automation, Pilz solutions ensure that operators can work safely on presses, that man and robot do not cross paths in car production and that machines will stop or switch to a safe condition in an emergency.
Pilz’s technology and expertise is also applied in installations that are familiar to many people in their daily lives. Solutions from the automation experts guarantee that baggage handling systems run safely at airports, that theatre scenery moves smoothly, that funiculars or roller coasters travel safely, that wind turbines generate clean energy safely and reliably or that transport users negotiate level crossings safely. Prominent references include the Ferris wheel in Vienna's Prater Park, the London Eye, the cable car on Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the baggage handling systems at Incheon airport in Korea or Europe's largest vertical-lift bridge in the French city of Brest.
Energy efficiency and the use of environmentally-responsible practices are part of the corporate strategy; it's a way of life for over 1,700 staff worldwide. It is a declared objective of Pilz to develop environmentally-friendly products using ecological materials and energy-saving technologies. For example, the Peter Pilz Technology Centre in Ostfildern is characterised by an innovative, environmentally-friendly building technology. “Energy saving by Pilz” is the seal that the automation company applies to those products that are particularly energy-saving. The configurable control system PNOZmulti 2, for example, consumes up to 80% less energy than comparable products.
2012: Higher than average growth
After large increases in turnover of 42 per cent (2010) and 27 per cent (2011), the Pilz GmbH & Co. KG Group, based in Ostfildern near Stuttgart, recorded a moderate rise in turnover for the financial year just passed: In 2012 the automation solution supplier achieved a turnover of 227 million Euro, representing growth of six per cent over the previous year. The family business has been able to continue growing, despite the uncertain global economy and Euro crisis.
Pilz remained well above the industry average in 2012: According to information from the electronics industry association ZVEI, turnover in the field of electrical automation technology rose by 1.4 per cent in Germany in 2012.
Investments at record level
Profits at Pilz are re-invested, enabling further growth. The owner-run company invested over 14 million Euro in 2012. Some of the investments were used to further expand production at the Betschdorf and Ostfildern sites and in new business premises for subsidiaries in Great Britain and the Netherlands. The focus in the coming months will be on new production facilities in China and at the company's headquarters in Ostfildern. The plans are now complete, so work on the new production and logistics centre in Ostfildern is due to start in the next few months. Building the production facility in China is intended to start in 2014. This will enable the company to supply customers in Asia more quickly in future.
Staff numbers have risen considerably
The number of staff in the Pilz Group rose considerably in 2012. Worldwide the figure rose by more than 12 per cent to 1,684 (as of 31.12.2012). As of 31.12.2012, 840 staff were employed in Germany across all sites, 30 of whom were trainees. Pilz covers part of its staffing needs through its own training activities. All its trainees have been taken on in the last few years. To date Pilz has been able to fill its vacances with qualified applicants. Increased recruiting activities have helped in this regard. However, Pilz has seen that the quality of the applicants is declining among those starting out on their career and that trainees require a more intense personal care.
As in the previous year, 33 per cent of expenditure was spent on R&D. This is evidence of the important role that research & development has traditionally played within the company. In relation to turnover Pilz invested 15 per cent in research and development, which is well above the average for manufacturing companies.
The company also expects moderate growth in 2013. Global economic prospects are very muted. However, the company's management is optimistic that Pilz will still manage to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise on the international markets, despite everything.
Managing growth is one of the big challenges for Pilz in the next few years: Despite the uncertain economic environment, the family business always uses the company's success to develop itself still further. Pilz has grown strongly in the years since the economic crisis of 2008/2009. Turnover has risen by more than 45 per cent since 2009, while staff numbers are up 22 per cent. Pilz has succeeded in managing this growth in an orderly fashion. There are four factors to Pilz's strategy: Growth needs time, structures, independence and internationality.
Growth needs time: Pilz is geared for long-term success. Competencies and capacities in development and production are built up internally and are thus sustainable. The strategy is to act on innovative ideas and pursue them long-term, whatever the economic conditions may be.
Growth needs structures: Missing structures cost money and effort. With its business plan, product roadmap and the Pilz Process Management System, which was developed in-house, Pilz uses instruments that create transparency and serve the whole company as guidelines for day-to-day working. Pilz has been certified to DIN EN ISO 9001 since 1994.
Growth needs independence: As an independent, owner-run company, Pilz is able to focus long-term. This is successfully expressed in a balanced product portfolio: Established, in-demand products on the market are supplemented by new, seminal products that signify technological progress. Maintaining independence is a key company objective.
Growth needs internationality: Since the 60s, Pilz has not only built up a worldwide sales network but also a competence network. The Pilz International Service Group is based in Ireland and coordinates international projects, such as certifying the systems of large producers from the consumer goods industry. Pilz is able to apply local knowledge on a transnational basis and operate across borders. This ability marks Pilz out and establishes the company as a partner for major international corporations.
Pilz international: Seizing opportunities
In 2012 the family business achieved around two-thirds of its turnover (67.8 per cent) through export. North America, China and Japan remain key markets for Pilz, as do the company's European neighbours. The Euro crisis has not affected business with other European countries: the share of turnover for EU and non-EU countries remained the same last year. EU countries were among the subsidiaries achieving double-figure growth rates on turnover. With its portfolio, Pilz can still compete in countries that are experiencing a difficult economic environment.
Although the difficult economic situation is slowing down investments in new machinery, the demand for automation solutions that can increase the efficiency and safety of existing plant and machinery is rising.
In 2013 the company will underline the international nature of its business by establishing three new subsidiaries in Asia, Eastern Europe and North America. Pilz will then be operating on all continents, with 31 subsidiaries and 17 sales partners. And in the years to come Pilz will continue to expand its worldwide presence by establishing new subsidiaries. The long-term transfer of knowledge to new countries is a key objective.
Machinery safety as a worldwide challenge
Although the objective of achieving a "safe workplace" should be the same worldwide, the situation looks very different in some countries. Knowledge of machinery safety must be built up in these countries and the safety culture enlivened. This is particularly true for the up-and-coming BRIC countries – i.e. Brazil, Russia, India and China. In a globalised world it is incomprehensible that workers in Asia or South America should be provided with less protection than their colleagues in Europe or the USA.
For Pilz this means further intensive work as ambassadors for safety, helping to build up knowledge as part of a safety culture. Pilz achieves this, for example, by actively participating in various standards committees in countries such as India, China or Russia.
CMSE: "Driver's licence" for machinery safety
Legislation, standards and directives alone are not enough; engineers need the necessary competence and a deeper understanding in order to implement machinery safety in compliance with directives and standards. However, in engineering or electrotechnology training, the issue of health and safety is often absent, or covered only briefly. In many cases, engineers can only acquire the necessary knowledge through their own practical experiences. That's why Pilz worked with TÜV Nord Cert to launch the training programme CMSE ® - Certified Machinery Safety Expert. As a result, both companies are setting standards for international, certified training in the field of machinery safety. This is something that hasn't existed previously.
Industry 4.0: Pilz helping to shape the industry's future
For many years Pilz staff have participated in various international standards committees and working groups, actively helping to shape new standards. This participation extends right up to macroeconomic issues: The Federal Government personally appointed Susanne Kunschert to the Research Alliance. This is the central, innovative policy body advising the Federal Government on the implementation and development of the high tech strategy. Susanne Kunschert was asked to bring the perspectives of the innovative small and medium-sized enterprise. As a member of the safety promoters’ group, Pilz’s Managing Partner is concerned with effective protection for communication networks and the development of Germany as a leading market for safety technology. Where requirement areas are identified, the Research Alliance develops initiatives within working groups. One of the most important is Industry 4.0.
The Industry 4.0 Initiative aims to secure the competitiveness of German industry. It concerns the use of Internet technologies in production processes, thus enabling more flexible and more efficient production.
New challenges for safety
The increasing trend for machine networking sees two worlds collide where protection is concerned: the world of automation merges with the IT world. There are clear differences in perspective here: the internationally used terms are "Safety" for machinery safety and "Security" for IT and data security; this helps with the basic differentiation. However, the challenge lies in standardising the needs of both worlds to form appropriate, practical solutions, under the premise of availability. The field of safety is already characterised by considerable security of investment and legal certainty. That is partly due to the need to comply with norms and standards. Security still has something to learn in this field.
New safety objectives include, for example, the protection of production data, product and plagiarism protection, know-how protection, access protection, integrity protection, remote maintenance.
By collaborating in the German Research Alliance’s safety promoters' group, Pilz is playing its part in ensuring that safety in particular is recognised as a critical success factor in the Industry 4.0 Initiative. Pilz is advocating a holistic approach to protection in both its forms: safety and security. We want to utilise the experience we have gained from the fields of machinery safety and automation to drive this important work forward.
In the last few months Pilz has actively supported the work of the newly founded Industry 4.0 in various projects under the umbrella of the trade associations BITKOM, ZVEI and VDMA. It was also involved in developing recommendations for action. These were delivered to the Federal Government at the Hannover Messe.
Products for the future
With its portfolio, Pilz already has good responses to the questions of the future. This is symbolised by the automation system PSS 4000. With this system Pilz is rigorously pursuing a modular, distributable approach. This means that the benefits of a decentralised control structure can be enjoyed without the increased complexity that would normally result when programs are distributed on different control systems.
The central idea of PSS 4000 is to merge standard automation and safety. Process or control data, safety-related data and diagnostic information are exchanged and synchronised via Ethernet. Instead of a centralised control system, the user has access to a user program through which all network subscribers can be configured, programmed and diagnosed. Today, the automation system PSS 4000 is already used in many projects worldwide, from classic industrial applications in the packaging or automotive sectors through to industry applications in mining, wind energy or railway technology.
In future, intelligent sensors and actuators in distributed systems will increasingly assume the functions of control systems. The aim is to improve interaction between machine modules as well as between man and machine. Pilz is also blazing a trail in this direction with its intelligent camera systems for safe, three-dimensional zone monitoring and camera-based protection and measuring systems.