Krantz Clean Air Solutions presents its own IIoT platform to mark the company's 140th anniversary.

How one of the world’s leading exhaust air purification system manufacturers is gradually expanding its existing product portfolio to include digitalization solutions.

Digitalization is not an end in itself. Digitalization must create added value. This is the guiding principle of eurogard GmbH, a long-standing IT partner of Krantz GmbH. eurogard is a software and hardware specialist for remote access and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technologies as well as cleanroom monitoring systems.

At Krantz Clean Air Solutions (CAS), added value through digitalization creates benefits for CAS, its customers, and the general public. At its Aachen site, CAS is involved in environmental technology processes for thermal exhaust air purification, in particular the purification of production exhaust air contaminated with hydrocarbons. The basis of the plant technology is thermal post-combustion, which means that hydrocarbons are oxidized to harmless carbon dioxide and water. The energy released during post-combustion can be used directly for the operation of the production facilities.

The following outline shows the step-by-step implementation of digitalization solutions and the resulting added value.

Even before the turn of the millennium, decision-makers at Krantz CAS recognized the growing importance of digitalization and the associated options for remote access. “We started out with simple analogue telephone modems,” Stefan Gores, business unit manager at Krantz CAS recalls. “Today, we talk about terms such as ‘Industry 4.0’ and ‘IIoT’. Technologically, our products already meet very high environmental standards and convince our customers with innovative solutions and the best possible energy efficiency. But it is no longer a secret that digitalization is increasingly complementing traditional mechanical and plant engineering and thus moving it further forward. For us as an internationally active plant manufacturer, it is therefore a matter of course to continue implementing digitalization step by step and in a consistent way.” The cooperation with the remote access and IIoT specialist eurogard helps and enables Krantz CAS to implement exactly this digitalization approach in a structured and consistent manner.

eurogard has been offering self-developed hardware and software solutions for remote access since 1995. In the beginning still via modem and rudimentary protocols, the experiences and knowledge gained have been integrated into the product development, so that today eurogard can offer its customers mature and proven top products. In recent years, various IIoT features have been added to the eurogard product portfolio. In addition to technical expertise, criteria such as high flexibility, cooperation in partnership and an attractive price-performance ratio have led Krantz CAS to work with eurogard on its digitalization strategy.

Digitalization categories at eurogard GmbH

The eurogard product portfolio offers customers two digitalization categories, allowing them to implement a step-by-step implementation strategy.

One approach by eurogard is to offer its customers established and constantly optimized basic remote access. This approach benefits from simple and fast implementation as well as an attractive price-performance ratio, and is thus ideally suited for entry into the field of remote services.

The second approach is the eurogard IIoT landscape, which comprises the “machine to value” (m2v) platform together with the ServiceRouters V3. In addition to basic remote access functionality, all configurations of the eurogard ServiceRouter V3 make it possible to create an active global network of machines and plants and thus to benefit from the potentials of Industry 4.0. By integrating common industrial protocols, plant connectivity can be realized easily and quickly. In addition to new plants, the V3 is also suited for retrofitting IIoT to existing machines and plants. With m2v, eurogard customers have the tools to implement their own digital value creation strategy. As a highly integrable software, m2v combines state-of-the-art, secure technologies and enables eurogard customers to collect, process, visualize and securely access and export data from globally distributed machines and plants from any device 24/7. This enables our customers to build valuable data sets over time, which form the basis for new customer services, product features and business models.

IT security is a top priority for all eurogard products. Thanks to hardened Linux software modules, secure VPN and SSL-encrypted communication, personalized certificate keys and customizable firewalls, the eurogard ServiceRouters are equipped with a sophisticated security concept. Regular software updates take into account current developments and provide constant protection.

Implementation process at Krantz Clean Air Solutions

During initial meetings between the two companies on the topic of digitalization, eurogard presented its software and hardware landscape for evaluation and outlined possible implementation steps. Karl Symior, Managing Director of eurogard, has experienced the keen interest but also skepticism of medium-sized family businesses towards digitalization solutions. “Our customers want to know what concrete added value they will receive from our solutions. How will the business model change: from pure product sales to digital services? How can digitalization features be implemented? How dependent will I be on my digitalization partner? In addition to technical expertise, a foundation of trust, collaborative partnership and transparency are therefore extremely important to our customers.”

After further strategic meetings and coordination, Krantz CAS worked out a roadmap which envisaged step-by-step digitalization of its product portfolio. For Stefan Gores it was clear that “We wanted to gain experience first and see how good the technology is, how working with eurogard works, and how our customers react.” Starting in 2011, the first exhaust air purification systems were equipped with the basic remote access solution.

At the beginning of 2020, positive overall development led to CAS’s decision to push the topic of digitalization further and to make use of the first eurogard m2vIIoT platform features. In preparation for the roll-out in 2022, CAS systems were primarily equipped with V3 service routers and various pilot applications were tested with selected customers.

Once activated, CAS customers will be able to benefit from the m2v platform and the Krantz “Clean Air Solutions” app, as the plants can be monitored more closely and managed more proactively. The dashboard, available once the app is launched, provides quick feedback on the plant status with a numerical and graphical representation of key plant parameters. In the case of alarms, customers are informed via push notifications within seconds. Data from controllers or sensors can be collected and displayed on web dashboards or made available to another IT system via interfaces. For interested industry customers, a demo version of the “Clean Air Solutions” app is available in the leading app stores. It can also be used for comparable systems by other providers.

CAS itself uses the m2v platform to monitor plant performance in the field and gain insights. The plant data helps to gain a better understanding of the company’s own plants in operation. This helps CAS to identify product strengths and weaknesses, and to use these to optimize and further develop its plants. Furthermore, historical data, processed in dashboards, enables faster troubleshooting during remote service. Overall, CAS gains efficiency in plant optimization and support activities.

The impressive functionality of the m2v platform can be demonstrated using the example of an exhaust air purification project with a total of six micro gas turbines. The example shows the efficiency curves of the individual plants depending on different operating parameters as well as complex correlations of disturbance variables on the power yield. With the help of these options, it was possible to increase the efficiency of the entire plant by around 20 percent.

The simple and fast technical implementation of the m2v platform is remarkable. After all parameters of the plant templates have been defined, the complete installation of a eurogard router and its registration on the global eurogard IIoT platform m2v is straightforward and performed within minutes. With the decision to use m2v as an IIoT platform, CAS has taken the natural next step in further digitalizing its product portfolio. CAS will continue to follow its digital guidelines in the future because for Stefan Gores it is clear that this is just the beginning: “Thanks to eurogard’s innovative solutions, making our plants IIoT-capable is really simple. In the future, exhaust air purification systems will monitor themselves to an even greater extent using AI solutions, detect deviations from regular operation independently, and report any anomalies even before damage occurs. This allows downtimes to be reduced even further.”

Another area of application for IIoT plants is automated energy optimization depending on usage. Plant-specific properties can be recognized by the operator or plant manufacturer thanks to simple observation of historical data. This knowledge helps to develop algorithms for optimized plant behavior, which can be implemented in the plant software, further reducing primary energy consumption and CO2 emissions.

Mario Cappello, Technical Manager at eurogard, reinforces this approach. “We offer our customers maximum flexibility in implementing their digitalization strategy. Be it extensive, very short-cycle projects or several smaller individual projects with longer validation phases in-between – the customer needs reassurance, time and capacity, and of course our solutions must be convincing. This is the only way to build ‘value-added’ customer relationships over decades.” eurogard’s product pipeline is extensive: advanced alert monitoring, web-based display of remote devices such as touch panels, energy metering, AI-supported evaluations, to list just a few approaches, will be elements of eurogard’s remote access in the future. The m2v platform will also be used to map after-sales service processes at various levels of automation and to implement automatic report generation and distribution features. “Just as the mechanical engineer continues to develop their products, we too continue developing new IIoT functionality for our customers – sometimes proactively, often in close exchange with the customer,” says Mario Cappello. The focus is always on generating added value.