21 May 2024

Secure data handling in the cloud


Lenze has joined forces with IoT specialist ei3 Corporation to offer a combination of remote analysis of machine performance and remote predictive maintenance – enabling them to easily create online data services. Smart Machines & Factories reports.

In mid-October, Lenze celebrated its 70th Anniversary at the company’s German headquarters near Hamelin. The company celebrated its Anniversary milestone with the “Future Day of Machine Manufacturing”. The event provided an opportunity to take part in creative discussions on trends, challenges and intelligent solutions for modern machine manufacturing.

Part of the discussions highlighted that the automation solutions for today and tomorrow cannot be restricted solely to the networking of the shop floor. The further development of business models in the context of digital transformation is inextricably linked to cloud computing. Data from machines and systems are collected in the cloud, analysed there and then linked to other information when necessary. Connectivity to the cloud will become a standard feature of the field level in the next few years, like fieldbus communication.

Lenze told Smart Machines & Factories that it consistently relies on standardised protocols such as OPC UA or the MQTT standard in its automation portfolio, in order to guarantee that its components are future-proof even in the age of cloud computing. Working in collaboration with the providers of cloud infrastructures, Lenze says it is thus creating the fundamental basis for generating information from data and thereby increasing the productivity and reliability of customers’ machines and systems.

Joining forces

As part of this ongoing transformation Lenze explained that it has joined forces with the IoT specialist ei3 Corporation to offer a combination of remote analysis of machine performance and also remote predictive maintenance.

Machine builders can collect all the data that is available inside the Lenze automation controllers and drives, as part of their service contract with Lenze. They can then evaluate this data and make it available to their own customers, either as an up-to-the-minute dashboard or in the form of reports providing performance figures. The data can be used as the basis for advice on how to optimise systems and processes. In addition, the solution is suitable for services such as remote diagnosis and maintenance, and it can also be used to provide predictive maintenance.

David Krampe, senior marketing manager at Lenze commented that the use of ei3 enables its OEM customers to set up their own digital business quickly and easily, because it strengthens their relationship with their own customers, and will add value and improve margins.


The data from a machine is first transferred via OPC-UA (Unified Architecture) to secure devices in the production network. From then on, all the communication takes place in encrypted form at a high level of security. In addition Jan Vestbjerg Koch,
global head industry sales at Lenze said that concerns regarding access to data was not usually an issue as he highlighted that the typical data you are using, management control etc, are just standard data from the HMI or intellectual property: “Clearly you can say that knowing the OEE of a competitor is important information but if you don’t know what they are producing, if you don’t know how many operators they have on the line, and what is a typical OEE for that type of production, then the number is a number, which doesn’t really mean anything. It will only mean anything if you know a certain production with a certain material.”

He further explained that people will look at a system then they will say what they want and don’t want to bring to the cloud, which data is in the wrong hands, and which data does not give any real value to a hacker or competitor without knowing the background for the data. Although, he explains that there is always a small risk of being hacked, Jan highlights it is unlikely using this system.

Regional data centres

Data and accessibility of the cloud solution are core, therefore Jan explained to Smart Machines & Factories that “if you at a certain point lose access to your data to the cloud, that’s a cause of big concern. You want to be sure that not only is the data handled in a way which is really double secured, but you also want to be sure that nothing else can prevent you from having access to your data.” It is for this reason that data is stored in ei3’s own regional data centres, of which there are three: one in the USA, one in Europe and one in Asia. An additional one will soon be available in Germany. These data centres meet all European data-protection requirements and adherence to the data handling regulations will be certified by DEKRA, Germany’s biggest technical inspection agency.

The ei3 data centres collect the data to a private cloud where it is processed and analysed. Output reporting to authorised users is in easy-to-handle web pages, dashboards and reports. “ei3 has solutions that have been put to successful use for many years. The company is making these solutions available for OEMs and they are preconfigured,” says Lenze applications engineer Jurgen Rijkers. This means the machine builder does not need any prior knowledge of IT or big data at all. He only needs to specify the desired data points in the required application and the collection of data can begin.

Rijkers highlighted: “Of course, we need a sizeable set of data, known as big data, before we can learn much from the analysis.” But what is important, he says, is that you are able to begin collecting data quickly and that the usual performance figures and evaluations, such as OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), utilisation and availability are accessible immediately. Once the product is up and running it is easy for the OEM to carry out remote diagnosis and predictive maintenance. Rijkers says that in his experience this means that time on-site can be reduced by up to 80%.

David Krampe added: “Of course, Lenze has to ensure that we can make use of the most common industrial protocols and data buses, also that our controls can work with Microsoft Azure, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other cloud platforms. Here we have a solution that makes it especially easy for our OEM customers to get started in the future-oriented business of offering their own online services and data-based added value”.

Subjects debated at Lenze’s 70th Anniversary “Future Day of Machine Manufacturing” event included most recent automation trends, latest product developments and future ways to make machine building easier. Pre-eminent experts from varied business disciplines talked about digitisation, the IoT and the future challenges as well as the opportunities for machine manufacturing.

What started as a trading company in Hamelin, Germany, has today developed into an international Drive and Automation company. Lenze said that it takes pride in being a real partner to its customers, developing intelligent solutions for the Smart Factory together.

To make digital transformations possible cooperation is the key factor, Lenze CEO Christian Wendler said: “Our ability to develop the right solutions for the challenges faced by our customers has always depended on our people, and this will be the case in the future. The cooperation and partnership with the customer is most important for us. In order to create intelligent machines, the role of our people will increasingly be to work creatively in teams – cooperation skills will become the new core competence.”

Industry 4.0 and the digital world also mean a change of role for Lenze itself. From a manufacturer of components, drive solutions and automation systems, Lenze is turning into a service provider that presents itself to its machine- manufacturing customers as a complete engineering partner.


The Industrial IoT specialist is based in New York and has been working with manufacturing companies since 1999. Its solution is currently running in over 20,000 machine systems in more than 90 countries.