The intersection between traditional and digital industries goes through an economic resource that seems to be still undervalued. Machine data is a critical resource for a machine builder, but also a valuable resource for deploying software solutions for manufacturing that most industrialists don’t even think of. We remain optimists because there are industrial producers in Bulgaria with a mindset of high-tech entrepreneurs. And that gives confidence to software engineers to develop industrial applications.
It is quite normal, though may be surprising, that the meeting of the industry of machine-building with the digital sectors is more frequent in Bulgarian manufacturers. Although much smaller than the large international manufacturers with a presence in Bulgaria, these small and medium-sized companies are creators, engineers, developers of products whose improvement is literally a business-as-usual routine.
Indicative of this new image of the Bulgarian industry is the example of a family-owned machine-building company for lifts and escalators. Prolift is self-defined as a Tier 1 supplier for smart building developers. That typology of the value-added chain comes from the auto industry, but it seems appropriate for a point of contact between engineering, architecture, and construction. To the already complex puzzle of inter-industrial relations, one must also add the software industry. The logical driver of innovation is the Tier 1 supplier – in this case, the lift manufacturer.
The lift industry is a compelling case in a relatively highly regulated market, where mandatory standards can also be a reasonable basis for making better use of machine data from lifts. Manufacturers of different components follow uniform standards, which makes integrating solutions from different manufacturers easier than in other industries.
But a real push for industry innovation would give a concept known as “open data,” or in other words, a possibility for software developers to leverage the accumulated data from lifts and escalators to provide solutions, especially for lift makers who also take over their support. An important point is that machine data is different from personal data, i.e., machine data should generally not allow identifying the actions of a particular person. Data can be used to train machine learning for better efficiency and fewer machine crashes. Prolift CEO Damyan Petrov is one of the drivers for this change globally as Vice President of EFESME – European Federation for Elevator Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. However, such changes require efforts that are sometimes beyond the horizon of the day-to-day running of a business. They need an example, a prototype of an embedded technology that speaks more than any presentation.
Data is not the core business of a machine builder. Controllers, which are essentially the first layer of a single machine data accumulation system, are generally made by suppliers for the machine builders. We don’t underestimate the possibility of more progressive controller manufacturers to take on the challenge of time and adopt open standards and interfaces for integration, which is important even for the ease of their incorporation into smart buildings. But the incentive to use that data most effectively comes first from the machine manufacturer. Aligning incentives and technological capabilities will be difficult, but entirely possible, in a dynamic intertwined ecosystem of software companies and machine manufacturers.