Partner blog: CTHINGS.CO and Wirepas bring eye-opening benefits to Valmont Polska
Polish-Austrian startup brings its 5G Suite to lay the groundwork for a digitization journey that started with CLASP and Wirepas Massive as the first successful deployment, saving over EUR 300,000 annually.
Many sectors of the economy are under pressure to do more with less, preferably as quickly as possible. When it comes to the mass production of goods, this challenge gets amplified to industrial proportions.
The Polish-Austrian startup CTHINGS.CO believes that data is the key to solving today’s challenges in industrial environments. By combining Industrial IoT with 5G telecommunications, they develop solutions to help enterprises see the answers for efficiency and competitiveness hidden inside their process and assets.
One organization that has embraced this data-driven approach is Valmont Polska, a branch of Valmont Industries (NYSE: VMI), an international leader in engineered steel structures for infrastructure, utilities, and agricultural irrigation equipment.
The plant in Poland is one of 85 manufacturing facilities spread across 22 countries. They are responsible for producing steel masts for street illumination and traffic management, telecommunication towers, support structures for public transportation, and other utility poles.
With big operations come big challenges.
For Valmont, it’s not only about keeping track of thousands of units in a heavy-steel environment. Their business model offers a high degree of customization, adding complexity to their processes. To remain competitive, they must effectively adapt to specific customer requirements and ensure that all orders are delivered on time.
CTHINGS.CO took upon the challenge of providing Valmont with better insights into their production and storage processes by using its 5G Suite to enable use cases like asset tracking, localization, and smart inventory, while providing remote monitoring and management of IoT devices.
Heavy steel, heavy challenges
You may think it’s easy to find something as big as a streetlight pole. But when you consider the size of Valmont’s premises and the amount of material in storage, you’d wish to be searching for a needle in a haystack instead.
Before the CTHINGS.CO deployment, Valmont had a very old-school way of keeping track of orders, production, and stock: plastic badges and a paper registry. Although effective, this time-proven system was not contributing to efficiency.
Bringing specific parts to the assembling area, compiling and shipping orders, and even finding products in the warehouse consumed considerable time. Someone needed to grab a clipboard, walk to a designated place, look for badges that were not always visible, and check against the paper record if that was the item they were looking for.
Valmont realized that, on average, a worker spent 7,5 minutes per hour looking for assets around the campus. It may not seem like much, but when adding all three shifts for a year, we are looking at nearly 40.000 wasted hours.
5G Suite: an industrial-grade solution
CTHINGS.CO saw in Valmont the perfect conditions where a rich Industrial IoT environment could flourish. They are dealing with increased demands, fierce competition, and a high degree of customization, with round-the-clock production to fulfill time-sensitive orders of mission-critical assets.
In other words, there’s too much on the line to rely only on pen and paper.
Since they are in the early stages of the digitization journey, Valmont needed a solution to lay a foundation solid enough to support scalability and easy deployment of new use cases.
That’s the primary purpose of the 5G Suite: a complete toolset to enable deployment and remote management of thousands of IoT devices. On top of providing the necessary structure for the most urgent use case, the 5G Suite lays the groundwork for the future expansion of IoT solutions.
The 5G Suite stands on three main pillars: the 5G IoT Gateway, the gateway’s Operating System, and Orchestra, a single-pane-of-glass platform for remote device management, application networking, and compute resource management.
All elements were built to be flexible and compatible with any IoT device protocol, bringing 5G backhaul to bridge the gap between cellular and non-cellular networks. At Valmont, the solution allows total and secure remote control of a Wirepas Massive device network over public cellular. This can enable 5G experience for virtually any connectivity technology.
CLASP and Wirepas Massive to the rescue
In Valmont’s case, the first step was to tackle the wasted time and resources due to the analog inventory system.
CTHINGS.CO solved the challenge with CLASP: a solution that blankets the entire warehouse and part of the outdoor storage area with a mesh network of IoT sensors to detect, localize, and monitor any asset tagged with a tracking device.
As part of the CLASP solution, the anchor nodes and trackers are battery-powered, lightweight, easily deployable, and run Wirepas Massive software. The data generated by the Wirepas network is gathered, processed, and sent to the cloud by the 5G IoT Gateway.
Much more than a router, the 5G IoT Gateway is a powerful computer that acts as a microserver. Its Operating System is optimized to allow containerized applications to be deployed at the network’s edge in a fully virtualized environment. At Valmont, the gateway is responsible for hosting the backend for the Wirepas network and contributing with edge compute resources before sending the data to the cloud.
Orchestra: many deployments, one harmony
As the remaining element of the 5G Suite triad, Orchestra is the soul of the entire system, allowing a high degree of secure remote control and application networking for many deployments, all under a single umbrella.
At Valmont, Orchestra works in the background, ensuring proper allocation of cloud compute resources, managing virtual networking, and granting access to the CLASP Control Plane System. Orchestra permeates all layers and ensures seamless operation, from hardware and backend to cloud resources and frontend.
Although the 5G Suite is built to support flexible APIs for secure and straightforward integration with 3rd party services, this feature is still to come into play for Valmont as they progress in their digitization journey.
Now, they can rely on the CLASP Dashboard, a standalone web application that allows them to interact with the data in a straightforward way.
Dashboard supports asset tracking, localization, and smart inventory use cases with a straightforward user interface. Valmont employees use it to manage nodes and trackers, check battery levels, adjust inventory designation, and set up configurable alerts.
In its mobile version, the Dashboard allows the workforce to configure, check status, and reassign trackers in a few simple steps through QR code reading or optional NFC connectivity.
A future-proof 5G IoT approach
CTHINGS.CO believes that the precious data in processes and assets is something that enterprises cannot unsee. Industrial IoT is more than a tool, it’s a shift of mindset and a different approach to getting things done with data.
With the CLASP deployment, Valmont has noticed improvements like increased safety and inventory management, reduced loss of materials, and higher transparency in the production process.
It has helped them achieve 20% of time savings in intralogistics, 20% faster order processing, and a 15% lower cost of employment. Considering the improvements resulting from the solution, Valmont can save over EUR 300,000 annually just by becoming more efficient.
Naturally, the results bring the prospect of more 5G IoT deployments. With the 5G Suite already up and running, scaling up is a piece of cake.
The 5G Suite was developed not as a proprietary solution but as a platform that can help spread the benefits of ultra-reliable massive data transmission from 5G networks throughout industrial facilities of all sizes. It accomplishes that by being as agile and flexible as possible, working as a hub to connect different deployments, applications, and network protocols.
Another benefit is the ability to fully integrate IoT solutions into an enterprise’s infrastructure without heavy and time-consuming interactions with the IT department. Since the entire ecosystem doesn’t need dedicated wiring and on-premise servers, implementation gets cut down from three or four months to a matter of days. All of it while complying with safety regulations and enabling highly secure virtual networks between devices.
The 5G IoT Gateway brings a modular and agnostic approach. It is prepared to support any connectivity technology, including 5G, 4G LTE, LTE-M1, NB-IoT, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Ethernet, and the legacy 3G and 2G.
CTHINGS.CO and Valmont continue to cooperate and are working on expanding the use cases of 5G IoT. Thanks to the 5G Suite, Valmont now has a solid foundation that can bear a load of many deployments beyond asset tracking, including other solutions that will get them closer to the goal of doing more with less, as quickly as possible.
Want to hear more?
Our expert Oula Välipakka will be happy to tell you all about it. Just a book a meeting with him.