Inovance Technology Europe is a leading provider of industrial automation solutions, headquartered near Stuttgart. The company maintains operations in Milan, Bordeaux, and Istanbul; as well as a network of distributors that covers most of Europe, including Eastern Europe. The company is a subsidiary of Inovance, founded in 2003: a leading global provider of industrial automation solutions to OEMs and end users, with revenues of $1.7bn+. The company offers world-class manufacturing at its ISO 9001 certified facility and has a strong focus on R&D, with highly qualified technical teams spread across Europe and Asia. In total, Inovance has 2,500 R&D staff (19% of overall headcount). Inovance is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, and has built a global operation with, aside from its European presence, a strong network of offices and facilities across India and South Korea, as well as distributors in most world regions. As of 2020, Inovance was the #9 supplier for AC drives worldwide, according to market research agency Interact Analysis, and the company was at #3 in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan). By 2028 – our 25th anniversary – we aim to be in the top 5 AC drives suppliers globally. Achieving this will be an important part of our wider goal to become one of the most significant industrial automation companies. That is why, although Inovance started out as a product-led drives manufacturer, the company has strategically grown into a complete industrial automation solutions provider with a comprehensive product portfolio that spans all the way from drives to PLCs. Interview with Frans van der Stel, General Manager at Inovance Technology Europe. Easy Engineering: What are the main areas of activity of the company? Frans van der Stel: Inovance does business in two main areas: industrial automation, and elevators. Industrial automation Within the industrial automation segment, we supply OEM machine builders, as well as end users, across most sectors, from packaging to textiles to rubber and plastics to printing. We offer a complete industrial automation solution for manufacturing machinery. We also work extensively with more unusual special purpose machinery. For example, during COVID-19, we’ve been delivering full automation solutions for face mask manufacturing machinery, and we have worked with over 140 OEM face mask customers. We also have a really strong CNC offering based on our established Power Automation technology. Power Automation was originally a German CNC company founded over 25 years ago in 1993 and acquired in 2018 by Inovance. But the Power Automation brand, and the R&D knowhow that lies behind it, lives on in our product range today. Power Automation – a proven German technology with a Europe-wide customer base – is an open PC-based CNC system. Elevators Elevators is an important sub-segment of business for us and Monarch, our dedicated elevator business unit, specialises in elevator controllers and gearless drive technology. Monarch pioneered the concept of integrated solutions that combine an elevator controller with the drive in a single package, and as of 2020 we have over 2.5 millions of our NICE integrated solutions installed worldwide. E.E: What’s the news for 2021 about new products? F.V.D.S: We’ve just made the IT7000 high performance HMI available. This product offers high-end functionality and connectivity, and easy integration with any machine control system. It is available in 7”, 10” and 15” display sizes, and offers front side IP65 rating as well as built-in Ethernet and serial ports. Additionally, in 2021, we have a really exciting new product coming. It’s a market-leader for industrial automation customers, but we cannot reveal more until our official media launch at the SPS IPC Nuremberg tradeshow in November this year! E.E: What are the ranges of products? F.V.D.S: Inovance is a complete industrial automation solutions provider with expert engineering capabilities, and a product range spanning AC drives, servos, motion control, industrial robots, PLCs, CNCs, and HMIs. Monarch’s elevator product portfolio includes a range of open and closed loop integrated elevator controllers. Additional products include a range of open and closed loop elevator and escalator drives. E.E: At what stage is the market where you are currently active? F.V.D.S: Well, Inovance Technology Europe is active across the continent, so this is a big question. Germany, where we are based, is probably the biggest market for the most high-tech industrial automation solutions. That said, the major manufacturers to Germany’s east, such as Poland and Hungary, are increasingly fulfilling the role of being locations for German companies to outsource their manufacturing to, and much of this is highly automated, the most well-known example being Hungary’s booming automotive manufacturing sector. In fact, at Inovance, we do a lot of business in East Europe and we consider the whole region, including Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine to be of strong potential interest for our products and solutions. E.E: What can you tell us about market trends? F.V.D.S: One really important market trend in Europe, and which I have alluded to in my answer to the previous question, is the growth of the whole of the Eastern European region, as well as Turkey, into a highly efficient manufacturing and export hub servicing the rest of Europe, and particularly Germany. For example, one recent market report we saw estimated that the Czech Republic and Hungary export 31.8% and 27.7% respectively of their total exports to Germany. Of that Hungarian number, vehicles and machinery including components and machine tools account for 40%. As companies look to ‘re-shore’ their supply chains – an ongoing trend that has accelerated in the wake of COVID-19 – it is likely that East Europe will emerge as the region of choice for global manufacturers wanting a local European manufacturing capability. E.E: What are the most innovative products marketed? F.V.D.S: Well of course all of our products are innovative, but I can single a few out for you! On the AC drives side, we offer the MD810 MultiDrive system which is designed for multi-sectional drives applications. MD810 is a modular, scalable, and easy-to-use product which is designed for the most complex industrial machinery in sectors such as plastics, textiles, and printing. When it comes to servo, one example of a really capable product we can offer is the IS810 which is also designed for high performance multi-axes applications, such as printing (see image). Finally, I’ve already mentioned about our CNC brand Power Automation, and the combination of our servo package and CNC solution has resulted in a market-leading real-time machine control solution. E.E: What estimations do you have for 2021? F.V.D.S: Our simple goal for Europe in 2021 is to keep on growing our business and capabilities. In particular, we have extensive R&D in both Stuttgart and Milan, and we see growth and investment in this area to be a particular priority. Industrial automation has taken on a new relevance in the wake of COVID-19. We think many companies have bought forward their automation plans by at least five years, and we also see that companies are building automation into their future development plans in a new way, so as to be ready for any future requirements for social distancing should a similar crisis happen again.