• Francesco MUGGERI, Regional VP of Marketing & Applications, Power Discrete and Analog Products, Asia Pacific, STMicroelectronics
• Allan LAGASCA, Marketing Director for Industrial Products, Head of Automation Competence Center, Power Discrete and Analog Products, Asia Pacific, STMicroelectronics
“ST’s strategy for industrial segment has differentiated products intended for several segments with depth of technology in terms of advanced innovation. ST Asia has prepared and deployed a very clear strategy. The target is to become the leader in the industrial market, focus on main segments like motor control, power and energy, and today we show you the automation,” according to Francesco MUGGERI.
In this interview, Francesco and Allan tells electronics maker about ST’s strategies and automation solutions for the Industrial market – with focus on three Industrial market segments – Automation, Power & Energy and Motor Control.
Tell us about ST Industrial product strategy and focus?
FM: ST’s strategy is very clear. It is built around 4 pillars, in which industrial pillar is one of the most important. These pillars together with the infrastructure communication are representing the strong revolution that we have today. Let me rephrase our industrial strategy built around our products for embedded processing, industrial sensors, analog devices, and power and energy. The focus is about acceleration of growth with key players, key customers that are capable to lead the technology.
ST Asia has prepared and deployed a very clear strategy. The target is to become the leader in the industrial market. We focus on 3 main segments like motor control, power and energy and automation. We have a clear campaign of road shows and Industrial Summit. And we have created 3 competence centers around the 3 focuses by investing resources and acquiring know-how. In addition, we have dedicated deployment for the knowhow across all the resources in our channel. We have also created synergy with our key customers.
Automation is a segment that requires high level of technology. There are huge investments from customers and technology developers. And these lead to 8% CAGR in demand acceleration from 2019 to 2023. The situation of COVID has not slowed down the demand at all, perhaps it has differentiated the demand, but the demand remains strong, and in some cases the demand is accelerating.
In Automation we are focusing on 1. Factory Automation, and 2. Home, Building & City Automation. In Factory automation we cover Automation Systems and Industrial Robots Smart Home and Building is playing a big role and it is more related to the security of individuals and families. And smart city is more about mobility. We have a lot of product offers for these segments. For manufacturing and process, we have a big TAM ($3.1 billion) in Asia. For building and home control, we have around $1.2 billion TAM in Asia.
What are your product offers for Condition Monitoring and Predictive Maintenance?
FM: ST has the solutions to help build the factories of tomorrow. We have the solutions for condition Monitoring, Predictive Maintenance, and BLE-KNX Smart Lighting Control. Our main target for automation is to enable our customers to become more competitive with our innovative products.
Predictive maintenance is very important in industrial 4.0. By introducing predictive maintenance which is able to anticipate possible failures or anticipate line down, we have the possibility to decrease breakdowns (suddenly production line down) by 70%, reduce machine downtime by 50% (it means that once you invest in capacity, you are not going to have that much unused capacity), save 30% cost through earlier failure detection (you know how much it cost to fix your washing machine if the rubber band is spoiled, but you can still replace it with 50 cents. But it breaks and the whole machine starts to make the strange noise, you need to replace the main axis of the motor, which may require a hundred of dollars. So this generates a big saving), and the scheduled repair cost will be much lower.
For predictive maintenance we have 3 solutions including the STEVAL IDP 004 and BFA 001, one is for the master IO-link, and the other one is the receiver. When we are taking about IO-link communication, it is a wireless protocol for communicating seamlessly without error data. So the data goes from the sensors, then is edged and processed with micros, then goes to the main board, and receive and share data with the computing area. Here we have secondary layer of edging.
Second solution is STWIN, which introduces wireless industrial communication. These are the key products. They can detect vibration, which is the main symptom of failures. Thermal heating can be other big symptoms of failure, and so is magnetic sensing. We have optimized industrial M12 connectors, and we have specialized algorithms we are going to share more details later. We are able to customize this solution with our expertise and tailor it to customers’ production line needs.
Third one is STEVAL-STWINKT1 best-in-class industrial grade sensor for its ultrasound detection and vibration analysis. So it is not only about sensing, but also analysis. This is very important. Once you collect your data, you want your data is communicated with security. For this, our STSAFE-100 creates a clear safer understanding of secure data. So your data will be with you and your production secrets will stay with you. If we move to power, it will require very low power. When these modules/nodes are battery powered, you understand that the stand-by power needs to be minimized, so the life of battery will be longer. We have the BLE connectivity, which means we are able with Bluetooth to connect a lot of other equipment, and our algorithms are implemented on the STM32L4+. So it is really a next step.
Our STM32 is now supported by the STM32 Cube.AI, a database or library that interfaces with all the software standards around the market, such as Caffe, TensorFlowLite, ONNX, PyTorch So it is clear that we are not only offering products, but also the ecosystem to create clear analysis. With our library, you can support computer vision, implement complex audio, and address all the condition monitoring needs.
Please elaborate your communication solutions.
FM: As I mentioned before, for factory automation, it is very important to have a clear communication inside the production line, and the communication from the production line to the control board. So we are able to create communication with the wired, the wireless, and the communication with interfaces to the main system, especially for home automation. So we interface with the Apple as well as Android.
As for KNX, it is a protocol for Smart Home solutions. Everyone is trying to cable with new lines in houses and buildings. Why don’t we just use the power line there to distribute energy to each building and home? This is a smart idea. The smart idea is using the existing power line in any building. What we need to enable? We need to enable each equipment we download with smart switch capability, and then connect them to the centralized intelligence system. On this, we have a wide range of products. As we all know that sometimes the line is interrupted between different offices in the building, then wireless communication could be the solution. We have integrated the system with the same protocol KNX in wireless communication, so these 3 different boards can be stacked together. So you can assemble them together and play them together as a Nucleoboard, and combine them into more complex and optimized solution.
The major advantage of KNX protocol is the capability to integrate in existing IT infrastructure and network both in home and office environment. Another KNX advantage is the energy consumption with the introduction of Smart controls and introducing Automation to the heating control, lighting, ventilation when it is necessary, window shades control and avoiding the light when it is necessary, and shutting down fans in the ventilation system when no one is there.
This is supported by a wide range of portfolios for wireless. We have the Bluetooth 5 certified product support, and BlueNRG brand supported together with the STM32. As I mentioned before, our STM32 ecosystem is very powerful and able to support this technology. We have the possibility to connect with any of the main mobile platforms and be compatible with systems like Zigbee, Thread, Bluetooth. This creates a very nice ecosystem which is easy and simple for everyone to use. We can also share with you some of our proprietary solutions and protocols. If you have any concern for the building or home, which is a short-term investment, we offer 10-year longevity. It means our products are dealing (31’30’’) in the market, we will offer another 10 years. This longevity commitment supports a long-term partnership and product support to potential customers using ST device
Which solutions do companies need in order to make their factory production more efficient and simplified?
FM: Predictive maintenance is a trend for sure, because everyone in the production line wants to save money. With our solution, for sure you will run the production line by spending much less. For sure, you will increase the effectiveness because you will use less raw materials, have less wastes and improve top lines, so you can sell more, increase the quality and save more cost.
In reality, do not think that technology makes things simpler, but think that technology makes things appear simpler. Therefore, if you search for technologies which make it simpler to communicate in different places like Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Taiwan, China mainland (Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai), such technologies that make very easy communication are very complex, requiring very advanced level of technology to do this well. To make things simpler, it requires more complexity behind. This is where key companies like ST are playing a big role, because we are able to make things appear simpler thanks for the complexity of our products.
What is the growth potential of the Smart Factory market in India?
FM: India is a big opportunity for us. It is only behind China today. But there are clear guidelines, for example, Make in India is a great initiative that boosts the development of market. Some important polices have been changed and the eco-system or the geo-political decision around India has created some acceleration on developing the industrial automation and factory automation. There is one advantage. If you start to build a new factory, you will be already automatized, which means that automation should already be there. And this is the advantage India has. But sometimes raising capital is not so simple, and perhaps this represents a limitation. ST sees that India has a very big potential and we are following it very closely.
AL: Following the Make in India Initiative, smart factory investment in India has been growing steadily. Indian manufacturing has participated in the industrial PMI, and its PMI has been growing steadily during the July-August timeframe. We also see large OEMs have been also investing in new factories. Since these are new factories, smart factories can be more easily implemented compared with old factories. ST has invested not only in R&D, but also in system teams in China to support this growth in the future.
What’s the core competence of ST?
FM: ST has big possibility for being strong thanks for its wide product technology offer. When we say wide product technology offer, we have all the technologies, some are proprietary including BCD, SiC and BLDC. We have a lot of our own IPs. So the investment we have made in research and development, and the fact that we have our own technology and manufacturing plants, and the fact that we do not have to rely on sub-contractors, all of these make us very reliable and competitive. This generates a strong background of technology patterns. We have been in the industrial market for more than 30 years. We have been very successful in electric metering for more than 30 years. We are in the motor control and we have already sold more than 3 billion devices. This means we are very experienced. And we are working with leading companies for a long time. If you are not reliable, the customer will leave you at certain point. ST is a very reliable and experienced supplier, and owns a lot of technologies. This makes us a very strong supplier in the market.