The digi­tal blacksmith

The Vin­ci Group is not only a glo­bal play­er when it comes to the con­struc­tion and main­ten­an­ce of buil­dings and infra­st­ruc­tu­re. It also ope­ra­tes an in-house for­ge. Red-hot iron, howe­ver, is not pro­ces­sed the­re. Ins­tead, new ide­as and new ways of thin­king about Indus­trie 4.0 and IoT are for­ged and shaped. 

Anja Mol­dehn and Ste­phan Sage­biel with the “digi­tal blacks­mith” Jörg Basel (m.)

What does a show­room for digi­tal trans­for­ma­ti­on need to look like? Is it even pos­si­ble to repre­sent such a com­pre­hen­si­ve sub­ject spa­ti­al­ly? We visi­ted the digi­tal for­ge in Frank­furt with the­se ques­ti­ons in mind. That’s exact­ly what is hap­pe­ning the­re in rea­li­ty.
Jörg Bas­tel opens the doors of his for­ge with a broad smi­le. The lea­ther apron and ham­mer are mis­sing, but sparks still fly around here, even without hea­vy metal. And the­se sparks are meta­pho­ri­cal, the head of the digi­tal for­ge exp­lains to us empha­ti­cal­ly.
A total of 300 squa­re meters are avail­ab­le for digi­tal flow of thoughts. It’s enough space not only for con­fe­rence are­as and mee­ting points, but also to show exhi­bits that make it clear that this is not just a place for thin­king, but also for brin­ging ide­as to life quick­ly. And this in four core are­as: Smart Indus­try, Smart City, Smart Ener­gy, and Smart Building.

Per­fect partners

This com­bi­na­ti­on fits almost per­fect­ly into the Phoe­nix Con­ta­ct solu­ti­on port­fo­lio, which is ulti­mate­ly the rea­son for the visit. But who is behind the digi­tal for­ge?
Based in Fran­ce, the Vin­ci Group is acti­ve in more than 110 coun­tries. It descri­bes its­elf as a con­ces­si­ons and con­struc­tion com­pa­ny. In other words, it not only plans, finan­ces, and builds infra­st­ruc­tu­re and buil­dings, but also main­tains them. The publicly tra­ded com­pa­ny with six divi­si­ons employs around 211,000 peop­le and gene­ra­tes reve­nue of € 43.5 bil­li­on (in 2018). 

The Cher­no­byl sar­co­pha­gus is cer­tain­ly one of their most inte­res­ting con­struc­tion pro­jects in recent years. But the Vin­ci group also main­tains 4,300 kilo­me­ters of the French free­way sys­tem and 36 inter­na­tio­nal air­ports, inclu­ding Lon­don Gat­wick. And anyo­ne dri­ving past a major con­struc­tion site in Ger­ma­ny that has a Euro­via sign is also cros­sing paths with Vinci’s entre­pre­neu­ri­al acti­vi­ties.
The digi­tal for­ge is run by Vin­ci Ener­gies. This divi­si­on ope­ra­tes in 51 coun­tries, and is pri­ma­ri­ly dedi­ca­ted to instal­ling, equip­ping, ope­ra­ting, and opti­mi­zing of ener­gy and com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons infra­st­ruc­tures, indus­tri­al sys­tems, and buil­dings. The Actemi­um, Cite­os, Omexom, Vin­ci Faci­li­ties, and Axi­ans brands all belong to Vin­ci Energies.

Tho­se alo­ne would be enough for us when it comes to achie­ving our goals,” Jörg Bas­tel says with a smi­le. The 39-year-old IT spe­cia­list descri­bes the tasks his digi­tal for­ge has been given.
“On the one hand, of cour­se, we want to descri­be the pos­si­bi­li­ties of the digi­tal trans­for­ma­ti­on. We
at the digi­tal for­ge see our­sel­ves as experts who can illus­tra­te and demons­tra­te a gre­at deal, from
theo­re­ti­cal visi­on to very prac­ti­cal applications.” 

Bas­tel points to a dro­ne which allows sys­tems to be inspec­ted easi­ly. “Digi­ta­liz­a­ti­on is also tan­gi­ble
here. But our main con­cern is actual­ly net­wor­king with part­ners, which is exact­ly why you are here. We con­nect star­tups, know­ledge, and cus­to­mers, both intern­al­ly and externally.”

Tan­gi­ble projects

The experts from Phoe­nix Con­ta­ct are now in the ring. Ste­phan Sage­biel, Head of Indus­try Manage­ment, and Anja Mol­dehn, an expert on Indus­trie 4.0 and digi­ta­liz­a­ti­on topics, share a pas­si­on for new tech­no­lo­gies and new app­li­ca­ti­ons. And they are immedia­te­ly up to speed when it comes to buil­ding auto­ma­ti­on in the for­ge its­elf. Thanks to the open-sys­tem PLCnext tech­no­lo­gy from Phoe­nix Con­ta­ct, the­re are ent­i­re­ly new pos­si­bi­li­ties for com­bi­ning the various auto­ma­ti­on sys­tems with their com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on pro­to­cols in one han­dy con­trol­ler and making them remo­te­ly acces­si­ble through a cloud solution. 

And when it comes to pro­cess auto­ma­ti­on, which is also important for Vinci’s sub­si­dia­ry Actemi­um, among others, joint oppor­tu­nities quick­ly beco­me tan­gi­ble. “In mid-Octo­ber, we will be hos­ting a
hacka­thon tog­e­ther with Vin­ci whe­re we will bring our deve­lo­pers tog­e­ther and pro­gram an inno­va­ti­ve pump moni­to­ring sys­tem in a very tight time­frame.
This will also be on the PLCnext plat­form, which can easi­ly hand­le high-level lan­guages,” says Anja
Mol­dehn enthusiastically.

We are alrea­dy there

Ste­phan Sage­biel exp­lains the spe­cial situa­ti­on in the coope­ra­ti­on with the digi­tal for­ge. “We are mee­ting experts who do not just view the tasks from a theo­re­ti­cal point of view alo­ne. Here, the­re is always a cur­rent prac­ti­cal app­li­ca­ti­on, along with a real cli­ent, behind the respec­ti­ve task. That’s what makes the coope­ra­ti­on with the digi­tal for­ge so inte­res­ting for us,” he says, and heads for the con­trol cabi­net below the pump exhi­bit. A broad grin appears when he opens it, becau­se Phoe­nix Con­ta­ct alrea­dy con­trols what hap­pens there.

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