The Hermes Standard Interview – NEPCON China 2018

The Hermes Standard Chairman, Thomas Bliem

Trevor Galbraith interviews The Hermes Standard Chairman, Thomas Bliem about the latest updates to the standard and the growing membership.

Let’s talk a little bit about the Hermes Standard. It’s had a phenomenal introduction. You started just over a year ago at the meeting in Germany where you had 16 participants. By the time you got to productronica you had 28, and now I believe you are up to 40 here in China?

It is pretty exciting. We had a meeting here in Shanghai, the day before NEPCON. It was hosted by Koh Young this time. So Koh Young invited and arranged everything. More and more companies are joining and the community is growing, going from 16, 28, 40, maybe next time 50 at APEX in San Diego. It’s amazing, how big the attraction is, and how many customers are asking for it. It’s very good.

As it gets bigger is it more difficult to manage to how does it work? Do all 40 of these customers, they have an input obviously, as to how the standard is developed?

We have a website forum which is the base for all our communication. This is quite efficient. If you see how people are communicating and sharing their ideas on the internet, this is what we do for Hermes as well. We use a website forum and companies can present their creativity and ideas there, then we can discuss it. Sometimes they meet off-line –we have done this for seven companies now. You had some topics for the ovens. They wanted to rearrange and simplify the processes, then bring it into the Hermes world. They have proposed a lot of extensions to the standard.

So all the oven companies have got together and created a mini-standard that will become part of the Hermes Standard?

It’s not a mini-standard, it’s just an extension of the Standard – if you add this kind of command sequence, if you do this and that, then we can simplify the board handling at the end of the oven. What is good to see, besides the forum, where certain communication takes place, is that companies who are competitors are now working together to do something which is bigger than their individual solutions. This really shows the openness that has been created and they all understand that it does not make sense to continuously develop interfaces all the time, we have to have other features. This is what the customer wants to see, not the same adoption again and again.

It’s very exciting to see how they are all coming together, As they do you’re going to get a whole mix of ideas coming through with that. I believe you have actually got the first version of the Hermes Standard in operation?

There’s this most important task for RENA in the Netherlands, they wanted to be the first real running Hermes line in the world. They did the installation last week, so the machines are in place now and production is going to start. This is really exciting that a customer had the clear vision to say, If I do this, I have a new factory to build-up and they really want to start from scratch with Hermes. More and more field tests are coming up, we have two field tests, one in China, one in EMIR going on already. These are field tests for sections of the line. Every few days I have a meeting about “how can I adopt Hermes into my factory?”, “how can I make this work?’, What are the implementation plans?” The mass adoption has just started.

You can really see the inertia building. You’ve had a lot of update from the supplier side of the business, what about the EMS side and the contract manufacturers, are you seeing a lot of people showing interest from that side?

Most interest is coming from EMS companies because they can simplify what to do, they want to have traceability, but they cannot spend all the money for barcode readers and things like that. This is what Hermes can give them. They also want to do automatic product changeover, things like that will be available in the future. They see that Hermes is the best backbone for that. This can be a baseline for them. On the other hand, for automotive companies, they want traceability and other, similar topics, but on a different level. We also have interest coming from multiple sources for a network infrastructure.

Just to be clear, members who join The Hermes Standard, what they get is essentially a set of documentation which they work to and they get a test driver. Is that how it works?

The Hermes Standard Initiative, this group, is creating The Hermes specification. We’ll be talking about version 1.1 after this meeting. This means it is continually expanding. The Standard can be amended. This means you do not have to implement the latest stake, you can also stay on version 1. Then you will have a core feature set or you upgrade to the later versions – you can do both. What we provide as a group is documentation, test driver, creative ideas, common sharing, things like that. It’s beyond documentation, it’s more we are the industry, we are working together, now we can do more for our customers.

This whole initiative started out just a little of a year ago, you and Florian Ritter from ASYS GmbH were the two key proponents at the time and you are actually chairman of Hermes Standard at the moment, How long is that term going to run and how is that going to operate within the group?

This is only how it started. Again, what Florian and I did, in the end, belongs to the past, it’s good that we have done this. It is now a group which is acting, and this is good. You can see that all are contributing. For the next meeting at APEX, someone offered that we could do it in their backyard – where their company is located, if you do it in Europe, I will host it. You can see how much everyone wants to bring in. Yesterday, many said “I will do a presentation. I will send you my ideas and we can discuss at the next meeting.” Starting this is very important. You need a seed for everything, but at some point, you need to forget the seed and you have to see the plant.

We talked about some vertical extensions you are building for Hermes Standard, Earlier this year at APEX, it was clear that The Hermes Standard was working closely with (the CFX intiative and everything was integrating nicely there. Can you expand on what’s happened there?

Yes. We had very good discussions with the CfX team. CfX can be the next big standard, but there are many other standards out there as well. There’s OML, SecsGem, SEMI, and so on. If you have this horizontal layer, it has to have some data input and some data output. This is where we need to have connectivity for the Hermes Standard in addition to connect to the higher-level standards, the vertical standards. We will have vertical standards here, this is simplifying, again, the life of the different vendors because they do not have to implement for a simple board handling. They just do the vertical extension and the adoption can be achieved much easier.

This, for example, to MES systems?

ITAC was one example yesterday. ITAC was only one point, so it is easier for some functions to connect to ITAC, but not everyone needs to implement the ITAC interface. Then you can focus on your core business and this is what we all want to do, we should not need to implement the same software interfaces again and again.

It is really very exciting to see everything that is happening at the Hermes Standard, and I have to congratulate you on everything that you have done so far. Thank you for joining us today Thomas.

Thank you for the interview.

–Trevor Galbraith

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