IEN Europe was there when Advantech launched its Co-Creation strategy at the first IoT Co-Creation Summit that was held in Shanghai, China, in November 2018. The strategy was announced to the cry of ''Go Together, We Go Far... Co-Creating the Future of the IoT World!’’, a motto that says a lot about the company’s vision and targets.
For Advantech, it was not only the perfect time-frame and setting to present how they intended to concretely deal with the digital transformation – by unveiling a set of 32 out-of-the-box IoT packages that integrate IoT hardware and software platforms to set a standard for new technologies, harnessing the potential of Advantech’s WISE-PaaS 3.0 platform. It was, above all, an occasion to put pen to paper 35 years of fruitful collaborative business that took Advantech’s products outside Taiwan and inaugurated a new business model with co-creation and co-development at the center.
To get a taste of what this really means, we attended the latest edition of Advantech’s Industrial IoT World Partner Conference last year (December 2019) in Taipei, where we met three European companies that are working closely with Advantech. They shared their experience with us and we report here their stories.
The collaboration between the French company Factory Systemes and Advantech dates back 25 years. ‘’We were among Advantech’s first distributors,’’ said Thierry Bonte, President of Factory Systemes Groupe. Initially, the company focused on selling industrial software, but Mr. Bonte understood early the importance of completing the offer with industrial PCs. “I started looking for a supplier. At the time, the development of industrial PCs was Advantech’s core business, and they were already well-known in this market niche. That’s how our relationship has started,’’ recalls Thierry Bonte.
In the meantime, while Advantech made a shift on its business towards IoT, expanding its portfolio dramatically, Factory Systemes was restructured to create two teams: one for the software and the for the hardware business. The goal was to have two separate teams dedicated to different customer profiles. But the company’s strategy has further evolved: ‘’Since Advantech was moving more and more towards the solution approach with their Solution Ready Packages, I decided to devote a team exclusively to Advantech’s converged OT and IT business to have an overall overview of the market and get ready for the digital transformation,’’ explained Mr. Bonte. Delivering solutions was considered the best way to be part of a bigger industrial ecosystem and chase new business opportunities. This turned out to be a winning strategy.
Passengera is a Czech company that has been active in the transportation business since 2012. Its core business is to provide connected solutions to train, bus, plane, car and boat operators. The company offers not only internet connectivity and passengers Wi-Fi but also infotainment solutions and AI-driven onboard travel assistants, which is a step further to enhance passengers on board experience, giving them the possibility, for instance, to watch movies from their devices and get real-time information about the trip. ‘’Transport operators can use our infotainment systems as a new communication and business platform to create a relationship with passengers and give them valuable services,’’ said Jan Kolář, CEO of Passengera.
At the beginning of its journey, Passengera was purely a software company. They relied on third parties for the hardware part, before they met Advantech in 2015. ''We decided that we wanted to have our own technology, so in 2015 we started testing several possible suppliers for the hardware and connectivity part. That’s how we met Advantech. We chose them for their flexibility, the high customization possible, and also for their proven records in transportation, their industrial IoT approach, and the global support provided,'' Mr. Kolář illustrated.
Passengera was looking for a partner able to help the company grow globally – offering global technical support and service – while remaining focused on its core business and technology. Having solid expertise in managing complex network solutions to design Wi-Fi networks on ground transportations, Passengera found in Advantech and its IoT Co-Creation strategy the ideal partner. The combination of their domain expertise created a modular all-in-one hardware/software platform that provides multiple services, including mobile connectivity over multiple advanced networks, passengers Wi-Fi and real-time information system in just one device.
Operating mainly in the DACH region, Lucom is a 100% German company that offers technical and consulting services, hardware accessories and in-house developed software solutions for the automation industry. Besides that, the company focuses on mobile communication and, together with Advantech, on the hardware business. When it was founded, in 1991, Lucom was one of the first movers in the cellular business. ''At one point, our customers were looking for something different to connect the wires and the network to the internet for remote configuration and maintenance. As we started looking for cellular router and gateway suppliers, we came across Advantech around 10 years ago,’’ said Jens Hilgner, Managing Director at Lucom.
The units provided by Advantech had shown to be quite stable and the features available were unique at that time, as they were highly configurable and customizable to the customer’s needs. ''The third level support given was excellent, as well as the quality and the opportunity to reconfigure the products and add our own customization. It was logical for us to start a cooperation with Advantech,’’ Mr. Hilgner further explained.
The cooperation with Advantech opened up new market opportunities for Lucom. The company extended its global reach and was able to adapt smoother to the changes in the industrial communication infrastructure after the advent of the Internet. The mutual benefits of this partnership were evident. ''If Advantech helped us find new customers and integrate a stable product which always gets updated, we know the market and the customer’s needs very well and we have the right expertise to configure and program the software according to market requests.’’
Exchanging and sharing experiences proved to be essential to find new business opportunities and continue to evolve. ‘’We should keep moving ahead together, trusting each other and combining our expertise to develop new solutions and continue to be successful,’’ added Mr. Hilgner.
Co-creation has become a winning business model to quickly respond to constant market changes and intercept new needs. The idea behind this concept is that alone we can do something, but together we can do anything. This is so terribly true. Isn’t it?