Smart Factory explainer video at the forefront of IIoT Industrial Internet of Things technologies.

Smart Factory explainer video at the forefront of IIoT Industrial Internet of Things technologies.
July 6, 2017 Brendan Sheppard

As IIoT Industrial Internet of Things becomes more prevalent, how can you leverage this technology to make a difference to your factory?

As more factories become automated, it’s clear that communications between machines, robots, and the computers that direct them is critical. The more information that’s communicated, the greater the productivity. But with ever-larger amounts of data being communicated, the need to analyse and interpret the information, and use it in decision-making, becomes that much more critical. Integration of wireless sensor networks and artificial intelligence (AI) helps meet those demands.

The ultimate solution, of course, is the industrial internet of things or IIoT. This is the application of standard IoT concepts to manufacturing. IIoT is essentially the monitoring and control of factory equipment using wireless methods, internet cloud connectivity, and advanced data analysis incorporating artificial intelligence. You may also know of this as Industry4.0, the German reference to the current fourth generation of manufacturing that incorporates better communications and intelligent computers and software to greatly improve manufacturing through automation.

IIoT advocates connecting all possible devices with sensors to a network that’s able to send the data to computers that can store, analyse and display the data. Software will analyse the data and harvest the knowledge it contains to help make smart decisions that will succeed in achieving the productivity objectives previously set.

Virtually every employee, tool, robot, or device contains valuable data that can potentially improve your manufacturing operations. Such data will identify inefficiencies, spot potential problems, and provide improved quality control. The outcome could produce a competitive edge. An IIoT system can also spot trends, help streamline the manufacturing process, avoid downtime, and optimize your existing assets. The whole approach involves new hardware and software.

Wireless Factory Communications

In the past, wired communications was the norm in factory automation. Many special networks and fieldbuses were created to connect sensors and controlled devices to computers and one another. Many of these networks are still used. In addition, Ethernet has emerged as the networking technology of choice for industrial applications, sometimes replacing older legacy technologies.

Furthermore, wireless technology has become more reliable with many flexible choices. Thus, it’s emerging as a way to not only replace older systems, but also to increase the amount of sensor monitoring, further increasing the breadth of useful machine data. Below is a rundown of some choices to consider when looking to expand the communications capabilities for a factory automation system.

SmartFactory go Wireless.

No costly cable drops, reprogramming and re-validation. We extract data in hours saving thousands with our non invasive overlay system.

In Q1 of Last year we launched our new Company, SmartFactory, based in the Nexus Innovation Centre in the University of Limerick Ireland. Over the previous 12 months as we were promoting data visualisation, we have had numerous site visits with some of the tier1 manufacturing companies in Ireland. Coming from data-centric backgrounds, we were very surprised to discover that although many potential customers were really impressed with our data visualisation software, they don’t have automated data acquisition systems. Even some of the most successful multinational companies believe that the costs and effort to implement a data gathering system on legacy or stand-alone machines is prohibitive or won’t provide them with the information they require. Therefore, we have developed a solution to wirelessly gather production information from any type of equipment, using low-cost IIoT devices, see below:

Our smart solutions reduce the amount of resources required to gather and communicate critical information across an organisation and dynamically translate this data into actionable intelligence. Our solutions are built on the industry proven technology of our hardware partners Siemens and Banner, and our data acquisition, analytics and visualisation tools are best-in-class. We help identify hidden losses, thus reducing planned and unplanned downtime, increasing productivity and maximising efficiency. We have been chosen by Siemens as a solution partner for their digital factory technology and are the first partners to be nominated by them in Ireland, in more than twenty years.

Manumatic Data Acquisition (MDES) system We have also developed a solution for manufacturing which includes tough tablet PC’s and wireless buttons, sensors and light stacks. The manumatic (part-manual, part-automatic) system counts the number of units, rework and scrap produced and provides a visual indication when the semi-automatic production process is running at the required cycle speed. The operator logs in to the “work-cell” using the barcode or RFID reader on the tablet. The system reports equipment efficiency (OEE) in real-time, per work-cell and can also be used to report the output per operator. If the cycle-time of a given process exceeds a pre-set target, the operator is prompted to add a comment/explanation via a pop-up on the tablet.

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SmartFactory, NEXUS Innovation Centre, University of Limerick, Limerick, IRELAND