Transferring knowledge during coffee breaks

Two women are standing to the left and right of the smart coffee machine with sensors and cloud connectivity. The woman on the left is holding an empty coffee cup. The woman to the right of the coffee machine is pressing one of the buttons with her right hand and holding a carton of milk in her left hand. There is an empty cup under the coffee dispenser.

On the Rexel Campus, Rexel Germany’s training center, the coffee breaks have become a true IoT experience. A smart coffee machine by Pepperl+Fuchs and Neoception clearly demonstrates what is possible with sensors and intelligent IoT solutions.

In an initiative to support its customers in meeting the challenges of Industry 4.0, the Rexel Group, a German wholesaler for electrical products for industry and the electrical trade, offers a wide range of training programs on the Rexel Campus in Heimertingen, which was created for this purpose. Practitioners can have a look at and test the latest technologies there. “At the Rexel Campus, we want to give our customers the opportunity to experience and try out products live, rather than just looking at them in an online catalog,” reports Holger Notz, Sales Expert in Industrial Automation at Rexel Germany.

Along with Siemens, ABB, and Schneider Electric, Pepperl+Fuchs is one of the companies that is making its products available on site. A special highlight is a smart coffee machine equipped with sensors, a cloud connection, and an individually configured dashboard which makes it possible for people to experience and understand the possibilities of the Internet of Things – while relaxing in the coffee break!

Coffee 4.0 – The smart coffee machine

“It was always our intention to use an everyday example to show the potential of Industry 4.0,” reports Maximilian Sabe, Sales Expert in Industrial Automation at Rexel. “A coffee machine seemed ideal for this, because most people drink coffee. It gives us the opportunity to demonstrate the content of the training course using a tangible example during coffee breaks.” Sabe asked Pepperl+Fuchs for support with the implementation. “We equipped a fully automatic coffee machine with various components that enable the IoT experience for Rexel,” explains Anna-Lena Haller, Account Manager at Pepperl+Fuchs. “Optoelectronic sensors measure the fill levels of the coffee bean containers, while an ultrasonic sensor records the level in the water tank.” The data is transmitted to an IO-Link master and passed on to the cloud via an IO-Link interface. The dashboard set up by Neoception shows the fill levels clearly and constantly provides information on raw material levels.

The dashboard set up by Neoception clearly shows the fill levels and constantly provides information on raw material levels for the smart coffee machine..
The dashboard set up by Neoception clearly shows the fill levels and constantly provides information on raw material levels.

In order to gain additional insight into utilization of the coffee machine, the cups are fitted with RFID tags. The RFID read/write head integrated into the machine reads these tags as soon as they are used. This makes it possible to tell which cup has been filled how often and also measures the extent to which the machine and milk system are used. “With this data, we can not only set records in coffee consumption, but also illustrate how such information helps with planning maintenance activities depending on use, for example, planning the cleaning processes in the case of the coffee machine,” say the sales experts. “We avoid unnecessary work with predictive and condition-based maintenance, which results in time savings for the staff,” explains Haller, highlighting the advantages.

Scalable to larger concepts

The coffee machine thus shows on a small scale what is possible with IoT. “The intelligent sensors by Pepperl+Fuchs serve as sensory organs,” says Haller. “They record data such as fill levels and throughput rates and transfer the data to a higher-level system. There the data is processed and interpreted depending on the application.” Neoception helps to prepare the data in such a way that measures can be derived. “For example, in industrial plants, condition-based maintenance can entail replacing a worn part – the equivalent of condition-based cleaning of a coffee machine on a larger scale,” explains Sabe. “Monitoring the condition makes it possible to maintain plant and machine parts only when necessary – regardless of whether you are maintaining a fully automatic coffee machine or a production plant. Our participants often start to develop ideas for their own areas of application while drinking coffee.”


Further campus locations are already being planned. In the future, training sessions on all aspects of Industry 4.0 will also be held in Leipzig and Essen. There, too, coffee breaks will be used to introduce a practical example of IoT. “We are very pleased that we can also equip other locations with smart coffee machines and thus clearly demonstrate the possibilities of IoT together with our long-standing partner Rexel,” says Haller, looking to the future.

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