Intrion: atypical system integrator
Being able to respond to high-demand markets Some companies stand out from others by their atypical character. Take intrion for instance – a thoroughbred system integrator. Set up at the beginning of the 1980s by supermarket chain Colruyt to assist internal automation, the automation specialist from Huizingen has grown to become an independent integrator focussing on the food and pharmaceutical industries. It has its own individual approach, where the software division is the driving force behind each project. The story of intrion’s birth is a nice one. Supermarket chain Colruyt set up two engineering firms at the start of the 1980s. Dolmen Automation and Dolmen Industrial Projects were to take care of automation in the distribution centres and p roduction divisions. Both firms very soon built up a great deal of know-how in various forms of automation: for production, end-of-line packaging projects, p alletizing, stocking, internal transport, sorting, sequencing, order picking and collecting ... even for a utomated express services for parcels. Internal know-how soon found its way to external clients in various sectors of industry. Both engineering firms continued to grow, ultimately merging in 2008 to become intrion. Because its activities c ontinued to extend further and further into fields other than retail, the scenario of leaving the Colruyt Group b egan to appear on the horizon. Finally, there was a management buy-out on 1 April 2012 and intrion was on its own, together with its 120 employees, its suppliers and its c ustomers, which included famous n ames in the retail, food & b everage and p harmaceutical industries.
Responding to high-demand markets
Market-driven automation intrion focuses on three types of automation: end-of-line (inline checks, picking, packing and p alletizing), logistics (transport, storage, sorting & sequencing, order picking …) and express parcels. Here, the guiding principle is always the customer’s marketing needs – certainly not the easiest path to follow. Today it might be 4+1 free, tomorrow 20% extra, the day after tomorrow a different p ackaging: marketing campaigns have a major influence on handling, packaging, transport etc. What’s more, the changes can happen very fast. In short: quite a challenge to develop automation that responds without problems to such last-minute changes without lengthening the time to market.
Brain, Control, Action … In order to develop flexible solutions, intrion must first and foremost know what the customer wants. So listening is the message. After that, the most important internal process starts: the brainwork. With, among other things, an inventory of all the worldwide technologies and systems that could contribute to the optimum solution. The installations are integrated together with original designs into a total solution. This is a process that is not as usual based on mechanical engineering: at intrion, each project starts from the software department. First Brains (software department), then Control (PLC department) and only at the last stage, Action (electro-hardware department).
Maximum flexibility This way of working has a big advantage: by integrating and ordering the hardware only at the end, intrion can adapt the construction to the customer’s wishes and marketing needs right up to the last minute. In a world where companies have to respond quickly to developments, changes, new c onsumer demands and so on, that is not a needless luxury. Since intrion often integrates the latest technologies, they regularly work with a proof of concept with the customer.
Functional analyses as a guideline
EPLAN as catalyst
In a company where the software department controls the entire process, it is perfectly logical that everything stands or falls with a good functional analysis of the automation solution. This document is constructed functionally and, especially, written c omprehensibly. In this way, the c ustomer – even if he is perhaps not so technically-minded – can still have a transparent view of all the specifications of the automation. The functional document goes through stages internally at intrion. From the software department it goes to the PLC d epartment, which establishes the link to controlling and thus establishes the activators-sensors. The electro-hardware department completes the document, so that the plans can really be generated at the last minute.
Naturally, a system integrator that responds so flexibly to the wishes of its customers, needs flexible tools. In the past, intrion used to waste a great deal of time on the hardware engineering through unnecessary manual and repetitive operations. For this reason the system integrator searched for a software program that could g enerate plans from a d atabase. EPLAN Electric P8 and the EPLAN plan-generation technology p rovided the a nswer. Thanks to EPLAN, intrion is now able to reduce the time spent on hardware engineering by 20 to 30%. 70% of all plans are now generated automatically. The objective is to do even better – with further standardisation, among other things.
Permanent assistance assured
Connection with the market Another reason for choosing EPLAN was to be found in the market itself. intrion realised that increasing numbers of suppliers, partner firms and c ustomers were working with EPLAN and were standardising their d ocumentation and plans using EPLAN. So it was a logical step to integrate EPLAN into internal processes – certainly when it appeared that both the software and the organisation of EPLAN were capable of growing flexibly along with the m arket. A h igh-demand market that requires you to continuously get extra performance out of your tools. This is why intrion invests a great deal in EPLAN training courses for its engineers, so that they can continue to m aximise their knowledge.
Towards well-thought-out i-care EPLAN also plays a role in intrion’s fifth department: support. intrion p rovides automation from end-of-line up to and including logistics. A unique combination that brings with it high-tech solutions. This is why there was a d emand from the market to provide maintenance for the installations in addition to their construction. This saw the birth of i-care, whereby intrion o ffers support worldwide 24/7 … remote or in-house. In order to provide this service and keep downtimes with their customers to a minimum, there was a need for transparent, high-quality documentation. Here too, EPLAN o ffers a solution. An extra trump card to keep the high-demand markets happy.
Find out more about Intrion at www.intrion.com
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