ARTICLE The latest news in Automation technology for professionals in the Automation industry
Beckhoff Growth Continues with New NA Headquarters
By Bill Lydon, Editor
On May 30, 2013, I attended the grand opening of Beckhoff Automation’s new $8 million North American headquarters. The facility features a training center, an ESD-protected PC repair center, and a building automation system based on Beckhoff‘s own hardware and software. This new headquarters is another step in Beckhoff’s continuing growth journey of creating innovative automation products and expanding the company worldwide. The new 44,500 square-foot building is located in Savage, Minnesota, just south of Minneapolis. The company has additional land on the site for future expansion. The building is fully clad in Minnesota-sourced limestone of the same variety used in the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field. Beckhoff also has 22 other North American locations including three other training centers located Charlotte, San Diego and Mississauga Ontario (Toronto).
During the grand opening, a number of Beckhoff employees expressed how exciting it is to be working for a company a focus on the creative application of technology for automation. The majority of these people are experienced automation professionals that formerly worked for other traditional PLC manufacturers.
New building with room for expansion
Beckhoff is currently represented in 62 countries worldwide by 30 subsidiary companies and sales partners. Two new locations are planned for 2013 in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Beckhoff is also expanding its research and development capabilities and currently has 750 engineers. In addition, the company is continually developing skilled talent and presently there are 98 apprentices and 66 students at the company.
The company founded in 1980 and entered the North American market in 1999. Gerd Hoppe, now part of Beckhoff’s corporate management team, started the North American operations in 1999 as a one-man start-up. Their presence grew to 24 people with 8 branches in North America providing customers with complete automation solutions including support, training and engineering. Since starting the North American business, Hoppe has held various high-level corporate positions at Beckhoff.
In 2002, Graham Harris took over as President of Beckhoff Automation North America further building the organization. Harris is another experienced industry professional who started in machine tool automation and, previous to joining Beckhoff, was the Distributed I/O Business Manager for Rockwell Automation. During the opening ceremonies Harris commented, “Beckhoff Automation entered the North American market in 1999 and has averaged sales growth rates of over 20% every year.” “Having joined the company in 2002, I have witnessed growth from a small, ambitious and young automation subsidiary into a $50 million regional business.”
Graham Harris (left) and Gerd Hoppe (right) standing in front of the new NA Headquarters
In a candid conversation with Gerd Hoppe, we discussed how important it is for manufacturers and machine builders to improve manufacturing performance and productivity using modern technology so they can compete effectively and grow their own businesses. Beckhoff has been a leader in the application of technology to increase the functionality, performance, and capabilities of automation controllers beyond traditional PLCs. Founder Hans Beckhoff believes that products must support the convergence of IT and automation technology to achieve greater manufacturing productivity. This concept is the essential underlying principle of Industry 4.0. For more information, read "Industry 4.0 Gaining Momentum." In addition we discussed Beckhoff’s refreshing long term business view to grow organically and keep the company on a steady course. The company has been growing steadily and has achieved global sales of over $530 million in 2012.
Beckhoff has enjoyed steady growth
Beckhoff has a strong commitment to open standards and actively commits resources to standards organizations including OMAC, OPC, PLCopen, and industrial network standards. For example, many companies support various industrial network standards with gateway devices, but Beckhoff natively supports multiple industrial network standards including Profibus, DeviceNet, EtherNet/IP, EtherCAT, Modbus, Modbus TCP, CANopen, CANcal, SERCOS, LON, and BACnet/IP.
Beckhoff’s new XTS drive system (eXtended Transport System) is a creative integration of mechatronics and control. XTS provides users and machine builders with a more efficient way to build production lines and machines that are more flexible and easier to maintain. Multiple carriers ride on a rail and are independently controlled for speed and direction by software, allowing a flexible way to move parts and products in production. The new drive system effectively turns the previous linear motor principle around by eliminating complex wiring and drag chains. The motor is completely integrated together with power electronics and displacement measurement. One or more wireless movers can be individually controlled with high dynamics at up to 4 m/s on an almost arbitrary and flexible path. Read more at "Thinking Outside the Box."
XTS eXtended Transport System
The CX2000 is another example of innovation. It’s a DIN-rail-mount automation controller that features single core, dual core or quad core processors and up to 4 PCI express modules. The CX2040 has a 2.1 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 CPU and outperforms traditional PLCs and PACs to support advanced manufacturing.
The new CX2000 series from Beckhoff: Embedded PCs with one to four processor cores, suitable for PLC, NC and CNC
Thoughts & Observations
Beckhoff is clearly an innovator in the industry and consistently applies technology to improve manufacturing automation. The company’s growth is driven by understanding industry challenges and creating innovative products for users rather than buying companies.
In February, I wrote an article called, “Automation Imperative - Core Business Function." Beckhoff has developed products to help companies compete in the future.
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