Celebrating 40 years at the forefront of industrial automation technology
At Beijer Electronics, we are celebrating our 40-year anniversary with a series of stories highlighting our journey so far. In this piece, we look at how industrial automation technology has developed from 1981 to 2021, and the role Beijer Electronics has played in that evolution.
Our part in history
After starting small, Beijer Electronics has today grown into a global player offering our customers products and services within a wide range of industries. We provide operator communication, automation solutions, digitalization, display solutions and support - always focused on the success of our customers.
We are a company that has grown alongside the experience and knowledge of our people. Our story follows trends in technology, innovations, and the demands of our customers. But, let’s rewind the tape, and go back to the very beginning.
1980s - Reselling PLCs
Beijer Electronics started out as a distributor of other people’s automation products and control systems in the Nordic market. Back in 1981, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) were being developed to create intelligence in machines, and our role was to help customers within the manufacturing industry understand this new technology.
Up to that point, manufacturers used a network of relays connected together to create limited logic in a machine, but it was basic and inflexible. Logic controllers came next, allowing machines to carry out relatively simple tasks, but it was the arrival of the PLC that was the real game-changer as it used computer software, making it customizable to any application.
As time went on, industrial automation technology evolved swiftly, creating intelligence within the controllers themselves. By the end of the 1980s, global demand for PLC solutions reached an all-time high.
1990s - switch to HMIs and globalization
With the increased power of PLCs, manufacturers needed better displays, providing real-time data on machine performance. This demand for greater visualisation drove an improvement in the graphical representation of a machine’s output. Displays - which up to that point had been text-only - needed to present the operator with richer, more dynamic information.
It was this demand for sophisticated HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces) that really saw Beijer Electronics take off as a global player. At the start of the decade, we saw an opportunity to create our own HMIs to meet the needs of customers not just in the Nordic region, but all over the world.
Beijer Electronics HMIs provided operators with displays that were upgraded from text to graphics; black and white to full colour; and keypad to touchscreen.
Most importantly, Beijer Electronics HMIs could communicate with any PLC on the market, making them an attractive proposition for customers across a range of industries.
21st century - a quest for greater connectivity
The earliest HMIs simply connected to one PLC, showing the operator limited information on one set of data. But advancements in technology soon made it possible to connect multiple PLCs within a machine to a single HMI panel.
By 2010, we had launched our iX Developer software which added intelligent features to the HMIs, and also allowed them to connect with SCADA and other third-party systems, while constantly improving the user-experience with consumer-grade graphics, more functionality and better design flexibility.
This, in turn, drove evolution in the Beijer Electronics hardware products, with our most comprehensive range of HMIs - the X2 - launched in 2016. X2 is a consolidation of all the Beijer Electronics HMI products that have gone before, and it has brought continuity and simplicity to our solutions and our philosophy.
Consumers are now used to being connected most of the time, and it is a natural part of our everyday life. In the world of business, new technologies are emerging all the time that help increase productivity, eliminate errors and facilitate almost limitless connectivity. Beijer Electronics launched acirro+, our IIoT platform allowing customers to set up secure cloud connection and begin moving machine data to the cloud. Viewing machine data in visual dashboards gives a great overview and provides insights to streamline your machine’s operation, creating new business opportunities.
The future – 2021 and beyond
We celebrate our journey in our tagline of ‘People and Technology. Connected’ - and that goal of achieving harmony between man and machine has been central to our evolution over the last 40 years.
Industrial data communication is now ubiquitous in manufacturing technology, with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) allowing for devices to be connected in an almost limitless way. The way this data is managed presents many opportunities - but also several important challenges. In particular, there is:
- The need for greater data security
- The need for increased data storage capacity
- The need to ensure humans can continue to gain meaningful insight from the data being collected
These challenges will be at the forefront of our minds as we push for sustainable production solutions, long-lasting, green energy supplies and the harnessing of AI to optimize the relationship between man and machine still further.
Here’s to the next 40 years!