Meet our customer hero
Doing right by customers
PRAB builds machines that last—and lasting customer relationships. Some of its metal scrap conveyors have been operating for customers for 60 years. PRAB stands by what it makes, and that makes customers confident in PRAB products.
As one PRAB customer said, “I respect a supplier that takes responsibility for its product’s performance and system design and making certain that it is functioning as intended. We have confidence PRAB will be there to ensure its continued performance."
This core value of customer satisfaction is why PRAB “sleeps well at night,” explained Mike Proos, Director of Engineering. “We strive to provide our customers with excellent equipment and a relationship that meets or exceeds their expectations. Whenever we’re faced with a challenge, we only sleep well at night when we know we’ve tried to do the right thing to the best of our abilities.”
One thing that kept Proos up at night: how to do more with machine data. “We’d been attaching sensors to our equipment for decades,” he said. “We've always had that data. It just stopped at the PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) in the HMI (Human Machine Interface).”
In 2015, PRAB got curious about MTConnect, an open-source protocol that lets machines talk to each other. That led to a deeper investigation into the world of the Internet of Things and connected products.
“We began to understand we wanted access to the data produced at the customer’s locations,” Proos said. “Without access to it, we can’t learn from it to improve our designs.”
After two failed opportunities at IoT, “we went back to the drawing board,” Proos explained. “That’s when I discovered Cumulocity IoT through research in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I saw how well they ranked and read other reports saying how easy they are to work with.”
The self-proclaimed “gadget guy” was excited when, during the second call with Software AG, he was able to connect a Raspberry Pi and a humidity/temperature sensor to Cumulocity IoT. “I was like ‘Holy smokes! These guys aren’t just talking the talk, right?’ They know what they are doing,” Proos said.
Software AG put Proos in touch with other customer innovators who were already collecting IoT data, getting it up on dashboards and reacting to it. “That made a difference for us,” Proos said. Soon Proos was dreaming up new ideas on how to use IoT to benefit customers.
Fast forward to 2020, and PRAB is collecting live data on conditions like temperature and vibration and using it proactively to show customers:
“As we got more data up on our dashboards, we shifted our thinking to how we can improve things for the customer,” Proos said. PRAB conveyors are mission critical; plants can’t build parts without them.
Remote monitoring via IoT enables PRAB to see when a motor spikes, for example, to act before customers are aware of a problem. “We don’t have to wait for the motor to fail,” Proos said. “We see the science and replace it, so our customers avoid expensive downtime.”
Connected products give PRAB more reasons to connect with customers—and with good news. “Now, when we’re calling the customer, we're saying, ‘Hey, I see that you were up 98% of the time this past week. How's that going?’” Proos said.
For one customer, PRAB was able to show how to save $10,000 by changing a process. In another instance, PRAB could see regular maintenance wasn’t happening and so asked if PRAB could help with more training to avoid unnecessary service trips.
IoT is not to be ignored. “It’s the future,” Proos said. For PRAB, it’s a five-year journey that’s only just begun. PRAB is enthusiastic about the prospects of IoT and sees Software AG as the right partner to help PRAB thrive.
“The Software AG Cumulocity IoT team been a great partner throughout this IoT process for us,” he said. “Everyone I've worked with at Software AG has been really knowledgeable and very helpful. More than that, I really feel like they feel invested in our success and that really comes through when working with them.”