Festo and FlexFactory Combine Robotic Technology for “as a Service” Business Models

December 02, 2021 by Alessandro Mascellino

Pneumatic and electric automation technology provider Festo and the joint venture FlexFactory are renewing their existing partnership to help plant manufacturers with robot integration techniques.

The "as a service" business model option has grown a lot in the industrial automation sector in the last several years. This model may ring a bell if you've heard of Software as a service (or SaaS).

This model aims to provide a subscription-based technology designed to reduce upfront IT spending. Companies can purchase a subscription to the software or service for as long as they need, and eliminate that service as soon as they don't need it anymore. This model provides more flexibility for OEMs. 

Festo and FlexFactory will provide the industry with a new offering for plant and equipment operators as part of the new collaboration. This partnership will focus on enabling the production of several product variants in a more flexible and cost-efficient way.


Festo and FlexFactory

Festo SE & Co. KG is headquartered in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany, and provides pneumatic and electric automation technology to roughly 300,000 factory and process automation customers in over 35 industries.


The dashboard of the Festo and FlexFactory joint solution. Image used courtesy of Festo/FlexFactory


The company specializes in solutions for predictive maintenance, predictive quality, and predictive energy. They all feature Festo’s artificial intelligence (AI)-based software suite AX and mobile and digital maintenance management system complete with a software as a service product called Smartenance.

On the other side of this partnership is FlexFactory, a joint venture of MHP, Munich Re, and Porsche. The organization offers a package of services merging digitalization, flexible manufacturing, and financial business model transformation.

The joint venture’s flagship product is the Risk Balance Board. This platform enables the establishment of a Digital Financial Twin with parametric guarantees and new service models. The solution can also provide informative dashboards for financial insights into machinery and equipment.


Shortening Product Life Cycles with Flexible Automation

Festo and FlexFactory are now bringing their individual expertise together to shorten product life cycles via flexible machine and plant concepts.

In other words, the companies are focusing on “Maintenance as a Service" or "Equipment as a Service" models. These could reduce financial risks by creating a more flexible and scalable production concept enabling the manufacturing of different product variants within a production line through "pay per part" or "pay per use" models.

Within the new joint offering, Festo will make available its experience in production automation components and its AI-based software solutions, including Festo AX and Smartenance.


From left: Philip Plattmeier, Managing Director FlexFactory GmbH, Dr. Oliver Niese, Vice President Digital Business Festo, and Dr. Phillipp Hypko, Managing Director FlexFactory GmbH. Image used courtesy of Festo/FlexFactory


FlexFactory will act as a business enabler and orchestrator, offering its knowledge to help companies set up a production as a service concept from one source and providing support in the actual implementation of customer projects.


The Festo and FlexFactory Joint Offering

The new offering will focus on three types of solutions: deep data analytics to implement Festo’s digital financial twin, predictive maintenance insurance to enable digital risk transfer solutions based on condition data, and guidance towards an ‘as a service’ business model.


Some of Festo’s automation equipment in a factory. Image used courtesy of Festo/Flex Factory


"In the implementation of a Digital Financial Twin, Festo's AI-based software solutions are very valuable because they allow us to calculate the offers in a more differentiated way,” explained FlexFactory Managing Director Philip Plattmeier. “In this way, the positive effects of an ‘as a service’ model come into effect even better," he added.

The joint solution was reportedly tested in Festo's technology factory at Scharnhausen.

“For us as a manufacturer of components and software in the field of automation technology, it is important to be involved right from the beginning in order to be able to help shape service-based offerings,” commented Festo, Vice President of Digital Business Dr. Oliver Niese. The executive added that this could help customers further in their business transformation towards Industry 4.0.

Festo and FlexFactory are hopeful that combining their technology will help engineers integrate robots into their facilities much easier than before.