VISICONSULT X-RAY SYSTEMS & SOLUTIONS GMBH
VisiConsult, a specialist provider of x-ray and computer tomography inspection solutions, builds customized cabinets to match each customer’s needs. After 25 years in business, it is a world-leader in x-ray inspection equipment, switching first from authoring software to designing and manufacturing machines. Now, under the joint leadership of founder Hajo Schulenburg and his son Lennart, the company is on a digital transformation journey. New automated evaluation processes replace physical and analog inspections, resulting in more efficient and cost effective product validation.
Well before the Covid-19 pandemic, Hajo and Lennart knew that VisiConsult had to apply digital tools to future-proof itself and to give its customers what they wanted and valued. Now VisiConsult is investing heavily in artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, 3D printing, robotics and sustainable growth.
An AI platform is under development to detect defects even more reliably and more automatically than the conventional, and still efficient, X-ray image processing methods. Cooperation partners can upload evaluated image data to a cloud platform. The data is anonymized and used to parameterize the AI and the higher the quality of the data, the better the AI can become.
The company uses computer tomography (CT) imaging to produce a “digital twin” of the inspected part. These can be interrogated remotely, anywhere in the world, by customers’ and VisiConsult’s engineers to spot and correct faults on the digital twin, before conveying the corrective action to the customers’ sites.
In the past the imaging process required physical analog film and software to inspect parts at a micro-scale. This has now been replaced with a range of digital detectors that perform automated image evaluation with image processing on top of the X-ray images, much faster than analog film.
VisiConsult is a world-leader in industrial x-ray inspection equipment.
Hajo and Lennart saw they had to be more efficient, to lower costs and prices, but also be more sustainable. Therefore they invested in Autodesk's Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software Fusion Lifecycle. This enables control of new product information in an automated machine-building process and connects VisiConsult with the customer before the X-ray cabin has been built, ensuring they get the specifications they want.
“We can program the complete simulated model in advance, we can run the virtual inspection process on the part before it’s even produced,” says Hajo Schulenburg. “We can simulate a change, refine it and keep improving the design.”
The use of PLM reduces the time to market for new solutions. It helps the product to be made faster and cheaper, with better quality.
“This is where PLM is such a critical tool to have,” says Lennart. “It makes processes clearer and more transparent and speeds everything up.” PLM helps companies track the product over its lifecycle, seeing and reducing waste and extending product life.
Product lifecycle management helps VisiConsult to streamline processes, reduce costs and go to market faster.
Now this innovation champion has begun the next chapter of its digital transformation, offering images and even image interpretation as a service. It is the first company in its sector – and a leader in Germany’s machine-building industry – to change its core offering from physical product to service, providing what the customer needs in a subscription model.
Quality control departments are traditionally complex to setup. Customers must invest extensively into the inspection equipment, personnel training and process qualification, while ultimately, they are only interested in the inspection results.
In the future, customers can get an X-ray system on a subscription basis without big upfront capital expenditures. Using CT software and AI, VisiConsult can build an exact digital twin of the actual part and run different simulations. The customer VisiConsult’s extensive know-how in X-ray inspection standards, to check for defects of a certain dimension in the part or run a finite element analysis.
The customer gets images and analysis on-demand, saving on the costs the large machine and the overhead of running a qualified inspection department. Substantial fixed costs are therefore transformed in variable costs that can be easily predicted.
Offering image analysis and interpretation as a service helps customers save time and money.
Image courtesy of Chris Mueller, eyeamchris.com
As a family business, VisiConsult is going through generational change. Its leaders combine software and engineering skills, experience, marketing and business skills and Lennart’s two brothers have now joined the company, bringing more “digital native” knowhow.
VisiConsult is worldwide building solutions centers to discuss equipment and image subscription service with customers in their time zone. The approach is agile, more local to customers, more responsive and much cheaper than building a factory for inspection machines abroad.
“Traditional business processes will not cut it in the future,” Lennart says confidently. “Our industry is under attack. Other countries can also build high quality machines and operate from a lower cost base. If we do not wake up and move fast to maintain our competitive and technological lead, Germany’s traditional businesses will soon be in deep trouble.”
“The pay-per-image or even pay-per-evaluation strategy is a great example of digital transformation because it goes far beyond business processes into the business model, and asks what we are and what we do.”
—Lennart Schulenburg, Managing Director, VisiConsult X-ray Systems & Solutions GmbH