ZEISS and Cisco: Improving Metrology with Connected Data


At ZEISS, innovation isn't something we strive for—it's something we depend on. Innovation is baked into the very DNA of our company. Certainly, this sets the bar high whenever we introduce new products or services, but that’s music to the ears of our customers.

ZEISS began all the way back in 1846 as a small workshop for precision mechanics and optics. Carl Zeiss, along with Ernst Abbe and Otto Schott, developed the foundation that would soon become known as the base of modern optics and manufacturing in Germany. 

These days, ZEISS is an internationally leading technology enterprise operating in the fields of optics and optoelectronics, offering a wide array of different products for nearly every industry you can think of. Whether we're enabling chip manufacturing to unlock powerful optimization opportunities or developing medical technology solutions for diagnostics and treatment in ophthalmology and microsurgery—we challenge the limits of human imagination. 

We have clients in several different manufacturing industries, including automotive, aviation, medical, and even energy. But regardless of industry, all of their parts need to be measured. That’s where ZEISS adds value. The core of what we provide to our customers is our metrology solutions. So long as the parts they build are accurate and fast, we've done our job.

But our challenge was one of connectivity. The Internet of Things (IoT) was making its way into manufacturing, but it hadn’t yet at ZEISS. We had a large install base that was globally distributed, but only a small amount of those units were connected devices. With sensors everywhere and our own developed controllers, we had large amounts of information about the quality of the product and the process. Unfortunately, we weren’t extracting and using that data in a meaningful way. Our customers needed better insights into our machines—and we needed to find a way to deliver. 

When Your Own Resources Aren’t Enough

Initially, this was a problem we tried to resolve ourselves. Employees from different areas of our company—the medical field, semiconductors—all had this same issue and attempted to solve it in the same way. They brought in IoT devices, got a programmer, and set out to assemble a solution in-house. 

I watched the barriers they had to overcome and realized we didn’t have the money, time, or expertise to do this ourselves in-house. We needed a partner. Thankfully, we found one in Cisco. 

Cisco has a great brand and global reputation. As a worldwide company ourself, that was important. Cisco was a partner who could help provide the hardware, software, and services expertise to tackle this connected challenge together. 

A team from Cisco customer experience truly guided us throughout this process. They helped us define our technology roadmap and our IoT services strategy. Then, they worked closely with us to implement our innovative IoT lifecycle services framework. And to ensure our continued success, they assigned us a program manager, architect, and dedicated support resources to keep it all up and running.

We’ve securely connected around 200 of our devices with Cisco industrial routers. That’s an amazing start in such a short period of time, but it won’t stop there. We’ll be able to scale up to thousands of devices in the near future. But what we’ve accomplished with these connections is where the magic truly happens. 

Smarter Services for a Smarter World

Thanks to the Cisco Kinetic platform, the first digital service ZEISS provided to our customers was an app that enabled a supervisor, a head of production, or the quality manager of a manufacturing line to have full transparency and control over their equipment. 

It's a single view for total visibility over the entire machine pool and all of the metrology tools they use. From one screen, they can easily see which elements are available and which are connected, all so they can have the most complete, accurate, and actionable information to work with.

Everything is color coded for their convenience, giving them a simple visual language to make their job as straightforward as possible. Items listed in green represent assets that are ready to measure, will produce good results, or have conditions that are more or less under control. If an item is listed in yellow, it has some slight reliability issues. It's probably still ready to measure, but there's some setting or other issue that needs to be addressed.

Items listed in red are critical problems that need to be addressed as soon as possible. A machine can look like it's ready for action but still provide sub-par quality results because of temperature, the environment, or other factors.

Whenever there's something wrong, the problem is singled out immediately and the user gets a quick diagnosis. With ZEISS plus Cisco, our customers always have the intelligence they need to make the best decisions in any moment, allowing them to produce quality results.

If a machine measures a part at 1.0 micrometers, is it really 1.0? Or is it 1.1 or 0.9? Can that result be trusted? If not, why? Is it too hot? Is the machine overheating? The answers to these questions can dramatically affect output, and those answers are what we work hard to provide.

This level of detail helps our customers better produce their parts, but also helps them extend the longevity of their equipment for a better return on investment. And this solution isn’t just for our customers. ZEISS also benefits internally from this new level of connectivity. 

A Virtual Hand When You Need It

Based on the success of that first app, we continued to work with Cisco to see how far we could expand to improve other areas of our customers’ lives. We developed another application, which we call our Remote Expert Solution.

ZEISS has a network of a couple of thousand service technicians. They’re used to driving and flying out to customers to spend a day onsite and then come back to problem solve. But with the Kinetic platform, our technicians can remotely get insights into our machines. And the insights are outstanding. 

As an example, let's say that an employee producing a part is under a strict deadline with an incredibly high workload. Suddenly, they face a serious production problem they don’t know how to handle. The Remote Expert Solution will connect them immediately to a ZEISS employee. With the insights we can gather on our end, they can see the customer issues remotely. 

I’ve had service managers in Europe reach out and say their newfound visibility means they can resolve customer issues in minutes—not hours or days. Going onsite to gather insights is no longer required. 

At any given moment, the customer is seconds away from tapping into a collaborative support room that we've provided them. From there, we can start the troubleshooting process together.

The data is powered by Kinetic, but we communicate with our customers using Cisco business collaboration solutions. With Cisco Webex, we're always connected with our customers, so if any trouble comes up, we can launch a collaboration session and take a look at what is really going on with someone who is actually in the room. 

We can show users on a specific system or measuring application tool how to produce the right results and what approach they need to take to obtain the highest quality data. They're connected to one another, they're talking through and discussing the problem, and the employees are able to solve the problem locally without requiring any service travel or additional effort of any kind.

If the first solution was all about proactive maintenance, the second is about empowering the best reaction. You always want to stop a problem before it occurs. But that isn't going to be the case 100% of the time, so you still need that extra layer of assistance that will allow you to react quickly and rectify the customer’s problem. 

Start with Value

At ZEISS, we focus solely on the quality and performance that we deliver to customers. We offer them results they can trust. There is zero tolerance for failure. 

When I look to the future, we need to take this quality and precision element outside of the hardware world. Success going forward will be found in connecting devices and handling the data. Together, Cisco and ZEISS will bring reliability to that data. We’ll provide faster insights that are more powerful and accurate than ever. The future is in having more data at every step of the journey. But it’s important that it’s precise and accurate data. But that’s only one part of the equation. 

An important part of this to consider is security. When I look at our largest clients, they don’t fear moving too slowly. They know they can keep up with the fast-moving world of technology. What they fear is a data leak. So while speed and accuracy are always at the front of our mind, none of this matters without security. A data leak for these customers would be a catastrophe. For ZEISS, that’s why we picked the best global partner in Cisco. We went with Cisco so our customers can sleep at night, knowing their data is secure. 

We’ve made tremendous strides, and we’re only at the beginning. With greater insights, our customers can continue developing solutions to the world’s greatest challenges. The world will be a better place for it.