With Tubex Pro, Bühler is launching the next generation of scales. Building on more than 100 years of intellectual property, Tubex Pro brings weighing to the next level using advanced connectivity and digital applications. Stefan Birrer, Bühler’s Head of Milling Solutions, and Matt Kelly, Managing Director of Digital Technologies, explain how this smart device contributes to yield management, food safety, and traceability, and why they take copying as a compliment for Bühler.
In 2017, you introduced the Tubex. You are now bringing Tubex Pro to the market. What is this update about?
Stefan: With Tubex, we brought an entirely new generation of scales to the market. One key innovation was the use of an electromechanical drive system instead of pneumatic cylinders. This has saved our customers up to 95 percent of energy in the last two years. Keep in mind that a traditional scale can easily consume up to USD 10,000 of energy a year. The electromechanical drive of the Tubex hopper scale not only reduces energy costs, it also enables considerably more precise motion and position control. An integrated diagnostic system contributes to early problem detection and troubleshooting. Drive components are wear-free, which substantially lowers maintenance costs. In the two years that Tubex has been on the market, we have carefully gathered customer feedback and made many upgrades – all of this learning is incorporated in the new Tubex Pro.
Matt: Tubex was also groundbreaking thanks to its new measuring and control algorithms, and its first connectivity features. Tubex already performs three times more measurements than its predecessors, and it has a modern on-site control with an adaptable, user-friendly interface. With Tubex Pro, we have made the next step in advanced connectivity. It will be even easier to integrate the scale into plant control systems, and transfer data into cloud applications, allowing our customers to analyze and visualize their data streams for better yield management and predictive maintenance, and enabling us to support our customers remotely through the Bühler global service network.
What are the benefits that Tubex Pro offers Bühler customers?
Stefan: Customers increase food and feed safety with the stainless-steel structure and superior hygienic design. Easy access for cleaning enables fast product change over. With intelligent drives and long-life components, we bring maintenance costs to an absolute minimum while saving up to 95 percent of energy costs. And with the next generation of measurement technology and self-monitoring, we reach accuracy and precision levels that were unthinkable until recently.
Matt: With advanced connectivity functionalities that allow integration to our sophisticated online sensors, Tubex Pro is not only a high precision scale, but a key component in Bühler’s universe of digital applications and services. We have massively invested into this, built a close partnership with Microsoft, and developed our own IoT platform for digital applications, Bühler Insights. We bring all digital applications to this platform, which ensures highest security, performance, and reliability standards. Tubex Pro is a key element in this concept, because it enables transparency and traceability of processes.
Can you give a specific example of a digital application, and what it means for milling operators?
Matt: Take our Yield Management System. This cloud-based solution, integrated into Bühler Insights, enables yield monitoring from anywhere at any time. Deviations are identified and made visible so that yields from various production sites can be monitored and benchmarked. Moreover, thresholds and real-time notifications can be set to keep the process running in optimal conditions, to achieve the highest possible yield and, consequently, maximize our customers’ profitability.
How large an impact will digital technologies have on the food and feed industry?
Matt: I would put it this way: Digitalization is revolutionizing our industry. So far, we have optimized components or subsystems. Now, with devices such as Tubex Pro, which can be connected via plug and play, complete systems such as milling plants become transparent, comparable and can be optimized. We can reach a new level of efficiency and food safety. I guess it is fair to say that, with our partnership with Microsoft, Bühler is leading this trend.
Stefan: The challenges from markets and from a sustainability standpoint are becoming more demanding. Consumers want to enjoy a broader variety of products, and competition has become fiercer. To be successful, you must be very efficient and very flexible. Furthermore, contamination events and product recalls have made customers insecure. The demands increased dramatically. With digital applications, services and technologies, such as blockchain, we can achieve breakthroughs and meet these challenges.
Is this how you differentiate against competition?
Stefan: Yes. In the combination of all its functionalities and technologies, Tubex Pro is unique. It contains over 100 years of our weighing experience and intellectual property, and we added our latest innovations with digital technologies. However, you should not be surprised to see copies pop up, in this case not from Asia but from Europe. But we take copying as a kind of a compliment. It seems that we have done a good job, and set the benchmark for the industry. However, rest assured that we protect our intellectual property, not only for the benefit of Bühler, but for the sake of our customers.
When will you release Tubex Pro to the market?
Stefan: The improved Tubex is fully released to the market. Tubex Pro, with its advanced connectivity and control features, will be available in the second half of the year. We also have developed a retrofit package to upgrade the Tubex to the Tubex Pro. This is how digital our devices have become.