Support your future-proof IIoT projects with Red Lion

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Michael Lefeuvre Red Lion’s Regional Product Manager Europe

Michael Lefeuvre joined Red Lion in France as a Technical Support Engineer in 2006. With his advanced skillset and technical expertise, Michael became heavily involved in supporting sales activities and project business, and as a result was appointed a Field Application Engineer for Europe. Since 2020, Michael has been working as a European Product Manager.

Interview with Michael Lefeuvre, European Product Manager at Red Lion Controls

1. How is Red Lion involved in the IIoT industry? 

Since 1972, Red Lion has been a manufacturer of innovative solutions to global markets through communication, monitoring and control for industrial automation and networking – enabling companies worldwide to gain real-time data visibility that drives productivity.

IIoT-ready solutions from Red Lion help customers meet the immediate promise of the industrial internet of things with an eye toward complete industrial IoT security and reliable process automation. Additionally, Red Lion can accomplish these ambitious goals by gathering data from both new and legacy devices throughout the facility.

2. What do you think are the critical factors in driving this industry forward? 

An important key factor is the availability of data at the operational (OT) and the enterprise-level (IT). The fast view of industrial data means more productivity, less downtime, and the possibility to immediately counteract deviations with the target value.

The convergence of the OT with the IT level is another decisive factor. Data is no longer separated in the individual departments but is accessible from all company levels. Other factors are important here, such as delivering industrial data in real-time and for the ability for it to be viewed by all, i.e. the protocol conversion for processing data must take place in parallel.

Another critical element is fast access to this processed data via cloud servers with secured access.

In summary, the main factors are the fast and secure availability of industrial data, easy-to-process, accessibility and viewability from anywhere.

3. What are the most challenging aspects of working in this industry?

The most challenging are: the availability of production solutions, especially IIOT-enabled devices, to implement and operate the IIOT. Many solutions do not offer all the features needed, such as real-time data, secure remote access, protocol conversion, and easy connection to cloud systems to bundle in one device.

Different vendors offer different solutions with some limiting solutions in software and scalability.

4. What do you think is holding some companies back from investing in IIoT? 

Industrial IIoT is an organizational and technical challenge. Surprises are inevitable in the beginning of the project, but these are minimized as the project progresses. The following must be understood:  

  • What are the technical conditions?  
  • What are the environmental factors? How to make my production secure against cyberattacks? 
  • What are the technical standards and how must they be observed?   
  • What are the personnel requirements?  
  • What is the budget? It is important to break down the costs in this phase because changing it later can be much more expensive. 
  • Where to start?
  • What the main aspects to consider? What do we need?  

Companies must ask themselves these questions in advance in order to be successful.

5. What do your customers say about your solutions?

Red Lion customers believe our IIOT-enabled products are attractive and beneficial because they are vendor-independent and easy to use. They feel that Red Lion’s Crimson programming and automation software offers all important features to start, implement, and future-proof an IIOT project easily. The Red Lion standard offers simple IIOT tools, such as integrated protocol conversion of more than 300 protocols, MQTT connectors with preconfigured cloud workers for a point and click configuration, web server, data logging.

6. How do you think security concerns have been addressed? 

Security is a very important issue in the exchange of industrial data in the enterprise and in using external resources from cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, Cumolocity etc. Encryption of data, access to data, and transfer require the highest security level. Unfortunately, examples of hacker attacks regularly show us how production can be disrupted or even completely shut down.

7. IIoT is very much a data-driven industry. Do you offer data services? How does this solution fair over other competitor services? 

The focus of Red Lion’s IIOT-enabled devices is to provide secure, instant and easy-to-process industrial data; without data service is not provided.  

8. Companies investing in IIoT solutions can be costly if not done right. What level of support do you offer your customers in adopting your solutions? 

Red Lion offers worldwide multi-lingual, 24/7 accessible technical support to guide you through consultations and provide solutions quickly. Here, you communicate personally with experts of our products and are not served by automated response robots.

Our multi-lingual project management team provides you with individual support in project management, proposal solution design and implementation, each individually supervised by a regionally responsible technician or engineer.

9. What do you think will be the main focus in IIoT over the next couple of years? 

The focus is on the OT/IT convergence, i.e. data transfer and access to KPI, OEE or other industrially recorded values from all levels in the company. Operational departments must exchange data with their IT department in real-time. Cyber security has become increasingly important, as more companies want to know how to make their IIOT data secure against hacker attacks. These hacker attacks are no longer juvenile games but highly complicated robberies of highly sensitive data carried out by specialists.

Following the focus of worldwide governments on reducing the footprint, Industry 4.0 is evolving into Industry 5.0, which provides a vision of industry that aims beyond efficiency and productivity as the sole goals, and reinforces the role and the contribution of industry to society. It uses new technologies to provide prosperity beyond jobs and growth while respecting the production limits of the planet. It places the worker’s well-being at the centre of the production process.

It complements the existing Industry 4.0 approach by specifically putting research and innovation at the service of the transition to a sustainable, human-centric and resilient European industry.

Sustainability will be an important factor, in how we treat the environment, resources, and employees in a fully automated environment. Examples include the increased costs in the energy sector that greatly affect productivity or the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the OT workforce planning.

10. What are you the most passionate about working in this industry? 

Technological progress is enormous and new resources, such as 5G, mean that there are still no limits. Working out these new possibilities, realizing new projects, simply seeing what works is very inspiring. 

11. Is your Red Lion already looking towards Industry 5.0?  

Yes, we are working on initiatives toward sustainability and how to implement the ‘human touch’ in the Industry 4.0 environment.  

Our Values are: Be True, Aim High and Own it. They describe the high standards that we hold ourselves and others to. Our values aren’t rules to follow. In everything we do, they are our way of living every day, at work and outside work.

12. What are your company’s current and future digital ambitions? 

Again, the accessible provision of industrial data on the OT and IT level to react quickly to changes and production influences. How do I prevent downtime? How can I quickly and easily adapt to changing environments? Furthermore, the security aspect will be further developed and crucial. Making industrial data freely accessible from anywhere, converted into one language, i.e. barrier-free and secure, will be a top priority alongside the conservation of resources.

13. The IoT industry has many manufacturers working toward various standards or proprietary specifications. It prevents challenges when communicating with one another. How open would you say your solutions are in the industry? 

Red Lion recognized this problem years ago and created a vendor-independent platform with its Crimson® programming and automation software. Crimson quickly converts over 300 protocols, pre-configured MQTT connectors provide rapid deployment to the most popular clouds such as Azure, Amazon, Cumolocity, Aveva. The most important factor is the manufacturer’s independence, and our software works with brands such as Siemens PLC, Schneider, Rockwell or other devices. The user is not limited or locked into one manufacturer and does not need to spend large amounts of capital upgrading.

14. What is unique about your Red Lion technology in connecting all systems into one data-driven solution?  

As already mentioned, our Crimson programming and automation software is unique and is available in all our automation solutions. The user can create complete IIOT-enabled production environments without limitations on manufacturers or missing components. Data acquisition, data processing, data transfer and visual data management are all from one source. Case studies such as the automation of production levels in the manufacturing of skis, the company Blizzard, or child seats, the company Römer, are available on our homepage www.redlion.net.

15. How do you support real-time data-driven productivity? 

As summarized in the first question, Red Lion is a manufacturer of innovative solutions through communication, monitoring and control for industrial automation and networking – enabling companies worldwide to gain real-time data visibility that drives productivity.

Red Lion is an expert in offering solutions for real-time data-driven productivity.

16. What is your latest innovation in driving Al automation? (real-time data collection, tracking, planning, control and solution proposals) 

For over 50 years, Red Lion has been a leading manufacturer of digital displays. For 21 consecutive years, the readers of Control Design Magazine have voted Red Lion the number one panel meter manufacturer in the industry. 

Often seen as just a simple measuring device for installation in individual machines, we released a new generation of digital panel meters in 2021. State-of-the-art features such as recessive touchscreens with swipe technology for multiple displays visual alarm indication when values fall below target values are just a few innovations.  

When releasing the PM-50 series of graphical panel meters, our focus was connectivity with the digital world. The digital graphic displays now communicate directly with each other and within the enterprise. Wi-Fi with Modbus data transfer makes the digital display part of a realized Industry 4.0 environment, easily programmable and accessible via an app. Measured values are immediately controllable from anywhere. The new models replace 1/8 and 1/16 Din models and immediately digitize your production environment with replacement. 

Data digitization IIOT capability often do not require large installations but start directly at the production level on the machine itself.

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