Manufacturers are constantly facing pressures to continuously improve their operational excellence in performance, efficiency and flexibility. Efforts have been made through reducing bottom-line costs by implementing more advanced, dynamic systems that can adapt to changing complexity and variety, and improving machine and equipment uptime. The efforts are not without their challenges, the high variability of systems and equipment in plants, in different production lines and manufacturing processes, combined with a mix of modern and legacy equipment, creates visibility, interoperability and flexibility challenges that are strong barriers to operational excellence. Manufacturing operations are increasingly using smart equipment, but the amount and variability of data generated by automation systems and robots, NC machines, PLCs, digital gauges, cameras, sensors, wireless tools and all sorts of others devices, creates oceans of data that isn’t collated and analyzed in efficient ways.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and its ecosystem of smart, connected sensors, gateways and systems brings much needed and insightful visibility to manufacturing operations, but the value isn’t isolated to the convergence of the cyber-physical worlds, but instead its about the centralized, efficient, flexible and interoperability of data stemming from multiple, disparate data silos. If done right, IoT transforms manufacturing in various industries into the Smart Factories of tomorrow, and sparks the true beginnings of a new Industrial Revolution: Industry 4.0.
Discover how IoT is transforming Manufacturing into Smart Manufacturing.
The IoT platform provides manufacturing companies the opportunity to build and transform exiting operations, processes and systems into true ‘Smart Factory’ or ‘Smart Manufacturing’, where rapidly built, deployed, and user-friendly applications can connect and collate data from disparate devices, processes and systems such as Industrial Control Systems (ICS), Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA, Distributed Control Systems (DCS), Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), Supply Chain Management (SCM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The result is extensive control, interoperability, and highly optimized process and information flow from supplier, right to your customers.
Using smart gateways that centralize data from various communication and industrial protocols, operational big data in your existing manufacturing landscape is augmented, analysed and transformed into actionable insights for timely, informed decision-making. It’s fast becoming a critical requirement for manufacturing processes that require highly transparent, versatile and 360 degree operations, including the ability to drill-down into correlated data to find root causes as opportunities for improving operational performance and excellence.
Given increasing demand for manufacturing companies to reduce bottom-line costs and to provide for process flexibility, globalization and distributed division of labour has now almost become a necessary requirement. Different devices, systems and manufacturing processes are now spread across geographically dispersed floors, plants or companies. The challenge for manufacturing companies to get timely, actionable insights from operational data in geographically dispersed and distributed manufacturing processes, arises in the necessity for a diverse mix of different industrial protocol standards, such as RS-485, RS-232, CAN-bus, Modbus to 4-20mA, to all play nicely together and support interoperability.
With the help of our hardware partners that provide modular, horizontal and flexible wireless options, existing devices and systems using any industrial protocols can now be transformed into cost-effective and highly interoperable devices and systems. Insights from operational data can now be obtained with the freedom, ubiquity and scalability of wireless connectivity.
Process and equipment automation has enabled manufacturing companies to significantly increase their productivity, operational excellence and grow profits. Whilst positive outcomes are clearly evident when such process and equipment automation are up and running, they can also contribute to significant economical loss and production downtime when any failures arise. Machines used in manufacturing automation are the beating hearts of the manufacturing processes. Without their operational excellence, processes come to a standstill. Complex and involving many components that are in constant motion, they are prone to component-failure. Furthermore, they are expensive machines to both buy, operate and maintain, where scheduled maintenance, fault diagnostics and repairs are both costly and laborious.
Smart, connected sensors measure the localized temperature, rotation, acceleration, electrical and other physical parameters of the individual, failure-prone components for each machine. The sensory data is sent to the cloud where a ‘digital twin’ is modelled. The data is then visualized for remote monitoring and control, and advanced analytics are able to predict based on rule-based conditions, historical or comparative data, when an equipment is likely to fail. With this insight, scheduled maintenance becomes predictive maintenance, operational excellence and production is maintained; reducing unnecessary and excessive reactive costs.
Any inventory level shortage significantly impacts production efficiency and performance, so consistent and transparent communication is essential between suppliers and production to prevent such risks from occurring. With ‘Smart Inventory’, smart, connected cameras constantly and automatically take photos of an inventory bin or location. These images are constantly collated into a smart gateway, which then sends the images to the cloud where advanced analytics processes the images in near real-time, reporting any inventory issues to inventory managers or if required, to ERP systems to autonomously manage inventory ordering, fulfilment, and invoicing; all without the need to ever manually intervention.
Manufacturing processes are quickly becoming dynamic, flexible and/or dispersed processes, with equipment and machinery able to quickly change capabilities through component swap-outs and remote control. This equipment and process dynamic and versatility presents a growing challenge with having to manage the real-time and continuous location and status of fixed and moving assets such as critical parts, jigs, fixtures, tooling and goods that enable these capabilities, especially in such a busy, complex and crowded floor.
Using RFID tags along with RFID gateways spread across the manufacturing floor, each asset’s location and status can be actively tracked in real-time. With IoT, all assets can be tracked like in any GIS, with a localized map of the manufacturing floor, showing where assets are, anywhere and anytime.
As in any industrial facility, lighting must be sufficiently bright to maintain personnel visibility and occupational safety. The indoor environmental conditions must be maintained at acceptable conditions in order to ensure quality control in the manufactured goods, as well as to maintain any equipment’s operational excellence.
Lighting and HVAC are significant factors when considering the facilities energy consumption and process and goods quality control. They are most often left running at full brightness or capacity even when few personnel are around, and they cannot adapt to changing indoor conditions. In a ‘Smart Manufacturing Facility’, facility lighting, HVAC and indoor conditions are smart, connected and can adapt to change.