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CO-WRITTEN / PARTNER | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Hefty R&D investments fuel Pepperl+Fuchs' game-changing automation solutions

Pepperl+Fuchs has emerged as a true leader in groundbreaking automation and sensor technology.

When two enterprising German innovators founded a small radio workshop over 70 years ago, little did they know that their company would one day become a global leader in automation technology. Pepperl+Fuchs, a pioneer in electronic sensor and electrical explosion protection, has been at the forefront of providing automation solutions ever since.

“We are a company that invests a lot in technology and with a history of innovation,” says Jürgen Willi Seitz, Managing Director Pepperl+Fuchs Asia Pte. Ltd. “The Pepperl+Fuchs Group invests around 10% of the revenue each year in R&D. Together with our customers, we want to grow the automation market and to create a better world in the next centuries,” he says.

The next revolution

Pepperl+Fuchs has poured millions of dollars into boosting research and innovation. In October 2016, the group launched its S$65m Global Distribution Center – Smart Factory in Singapore. This affirms the company’s interest in playing an active role in the digitalisation of the industry and being a leader of change. The Smart Factory also showcases the group’s latest technology, which are geared at ushering in Industry 4.0, also known as the fourth industrial revolution.

Industry 4.0 refers to an environment in which all of a company’s components, machinery and plants are networked together to minimize information gaps, optimize processes and save resources. “We are currently developing these smart sensors – towards the direction of Industry 4.0 with a team of about 50 design engineers in Singapore and other R&D facilities around the world,” says Seitz. ““The Pepperl+Fuchs Group is developing a new generation of smart industrial sensors for the Industry 4.0. We call it Sensoric 4.0. The company sees the sensor paving the way to Industry 4.0,” the managing director notes.

Pepperl+Fuchs was built on the principles of inventiveness, entrepreneurial foresight, and self-reliance. The group has continuously innovated for more than 70 years, and it walks the talk in its investment towards the higher efficiency of manufacturing in the future.

Automation in its DNA

The group’s Smart Factory project caught the eye of judges at the 2017 International Business Awards. The Smart Factory project involves a fully automated conveyor belt equipped with the company’s latest sensor technology. The Smart Factory’s high-bay warehouse racking system is linked to the receiving, commissioning and packaging stations with the help of thousands of sensors and barcode scanners. The high-bay warehouse has a capacity of up to 110,000 trays, and the ASRS uses high-precision sensors to place the trays into the high bay racking system.

Unlike existing Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems (ASRS), which are typically built next to the manual pallet warehouse, the company’s ASRS is built on top of the manual pallet warehouse. This unique method of construction was selected to enable the company to maximize on the use of limited space. This mode of construction is the first-of-its-kind done globally.

“It is technically challenging as a significant level of engineering expertise is required not only to safely elevate the entire structure above ground, but also to support the force of the stacker cranes when they travel at high speed between the storage aisles,” notes Seitz. “At first we had some problems during the construction phase of the building. The Silo technology for the ASRS was something pretty new for our partners. We overcame the difficulties by working together as a team.” 

Staying ahead of its game

Pepperl+Fuchs is currently faced with the welcome challenge of having too many orders. “The biggest challenge right now is a sudden order intake growth that we have to meet the demand in November 2017,” says Seitz. “The whole group is right now working closely together with our customers to achieve the best possible delivery dates,” the managing director adds.

With its proven expertise and its continuous investments in research and development, Pepperl+Fuchs is guaranteed to stay ahead of its game in coming years. “We are very proud and honored to receive the award. It was a great honor and the whole team is very proud of it. To us, this award reaffirms that we are heading towards the right direction,” Seitz says.

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