Advice on integrating legacy technology with IIoT

Think Again: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) methods can help increase quality, throughput, and cybersecurity, while decreasing unplanned downtime, according to the opening panel discussion and keynote at the Industrial IoT USA conference in Chicago. This includes benefits for connecting to legacy equipment and predictive maintenance.


Interconnectivity is critical for Industrial Internet of Things, said Thomas Burke, president and executive director, OPC Foundation, who served as conference chairman and panelist at the Industrial Internet of Things USA conference, organized by QatalystTo take advantage of increased communications needed for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) initiatives, legacy equipment has to deliver data to help eliminate unplanned downtime and improve quality and efficiencies, as explained by participants in the opening panel and keynote presentation for the Industrial Internet of Things USA conference in Chicago on April 14 and 15. Representatives from Dell, Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, Monsanto, OPC Foundation, and PepsiCo were among those offering IIoT perspectives and advice from the conference, organized by Qatalyst Global. IIoT also can increase throughput and enable data-rich applications, such as predictive maintenance.

Legacy equipment connections can be challenging, however, because legacy equipment often wasn't designed to communicate with other devices and systems; original communications protocols (if any) almost always require translation. Further, the isolation and proprietary nature of legacy systems were seen as a method of security, neither of which offers much protection for today's manufacturing environment, conference speakers suggested.

Thomas Burke, president and executive director, OPC Foundation, who served as conference chairman and a panelist, opened the conference by observing how greater collaboration among industry vendors and organizations enables faster progress in achieving IIoT benefits. This includes more connectivity, more easily and securely, with legacy systems, Burke said, noting that recent agreements announced by OPC Foundation are helping with that

Don Bartusiak, chief engineer, process control, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, moderated the opening panel discussion at the Industrial Internet of Things USA conference, organized by Qatalyst Global. He talked about the need for greater connectivitExxonMobil Research and Engineering's chief engineer, process control, Don Bartusiak, who moderated the opening panel discussion, noted that while process control systems have had a network of things for 35 years, "it's astonishing to see the progress of Internet communications compared to process control networks." Paths are opening for process data to go around traditional process control systems to other needed locations. He said remote monitoring capabilities have been increasing over the past 5 years. Further, Bartusiak expects mobile operators to have read capabilities, although reliability and security are major concerns. Mobile write access is a higher-risk capability at this time, Bartusiak suggested, somewhat akin to flying a plane from outside the cockpit.

Digital networks have been slow to enter process controls, in part because lifecycle operational benefits weren't factored into return on investment (ROI) calculations along with initial savings from wiring, he suggested. Also data incompatibilities among devices from different suppliers have slowed adoption.

To try to get more value more quickly from IIoT technologies, a request for proposals for an IIoT retrofit kit has been made by the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), a public/private partnership of industry and academia to deliver innovative solutions to manufacturing issues, according to Jacob Goodwin, director, membership engagement, DMDII. With existing systems, retrofits, and new systems, industrial cybersecurity is a major concern, Goodwin added, and is among topics under consideration for a future institute.

Increased use of standards by technology providers would improve data flow, said Atif Khan, senior automation manager, smart fields, Monsanto, noting how XML use has greatly benefited information flow in many industries. Integration of OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA) requires some effort, Khan said, but helps data flow among disparate systems, speeding decisions on quality. He said an IIoT retrofit kit would be very helpful to get, process, and use data more quickly and help reduce costs.

Increased connection to legacy devices was among topics for the opening panel at the Industrial Internet of Things USA conference, April 14 and 15, organized by Qatalyst Global. From the left are Jacob Goodwin, director, membership engagement, Digital ManDarren Koenig, senior director, digital innovation and IoT, PepsiCo, said leveraging connections and increasing data flow in existing vending machines and soda fountains could increase productivity and sales, while enhancing the customer experience.

Replacing legacy equipment is a major challenge, Bartusiak agreed, especially with integration of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT), noting that IIoT is more IT-oriented.

Deciphering IIoT benefits

IT and OT cooperation is important to increase information flow, though difficulties can result through misunderstandings in vocabulary, suggested Christine Frank, director of industrial strategic partnerships, SME (Industrial) Global, Dell, and a keynote speaker at the conference.

"Sometimes we speak the same language, but cannot understand each other," she said of IT and OT teams.

IT and OT cooperation can help increase information flow, said Christine Frank, director of industrial strategic partnerships, SME (Industrial) Global, Dell, and keynote speaker at the Industrial Internet of Things USA conference, organized by Qatalyst GlFrank offered a working definition of IIoT: New technology to connect the plant floor to the enterprise, to analyze, optimize, and increase performance of industrial equipment and improve end-to-end business processes.

The power of network communication to enhance innovation hasn't been lost in manufacturing and process applications, Frank said; it's just been more difficult to integrate and use because of disparate systems, she suggested.

The push for IIoT can help resolve various industry challenges, such as increasing competition, regulations, resource constraints, rapidly changing customer demands, and an aging workforce. For manufacturing specifically it can help reduce unscheduled downtime, underutilized assets, resource constraints, and cost, while improving throughput and safety. Why? IIoT applications decrease downtime, labor, and maintenance, Frank said, because IIoT technologies such as wireless, mobility, cloud, and big data analytics empower operators, providing needed information, anywhere and anytime.

Frank said IIoT manufacturing use cases and applications include predictive maintenance, automation, process quality control, factory optimization, compliance, and documentation. 

How IIoT helps predictive maintenance

For predictive maintenance (PdM), IIoT technologies help address challenges with talent gaps, budget pressures, and a greater need to better manage assets, including energy, Frank explained. PdM strategies can include:

  1. Predict failures when needed
  2. Preempt stoppages and unplanned downtime
  3. Optimize operating conditions
  4. Extend equipment life.

IIoT technologies are for those who want to compete and stay relevant, explained Christine Frank, director of industrial strategic partnerships, SME (Industrial) Global, Dell, in a discussion with CFE Media during a break at the Industrial Internet of ThiFrank said companies don't have to rip and replace old equipment to begin using PdM technologies. It's possible to collect critical asset data, apply PdM models, attain insights, and display alerts for existing assets. Asset data can be collected in real time and can be structured and unstructured. Sensor data that can be used to predict motor failure might include vibration, ultrasound, infrared, and lubrication tests.

Data can be collected through a gateway, combined with other data, and create information for asset alerts, Frank said. Security can be applied down to the chip level, and fingerprints may be used to create trust. PdM can extend vision for pending failures from days or weeks to months for better planning and asset utilization to better schedule repairs.

Assets can be tagged in place to explain what machines do, link to documentation, and connect with related experts.

Three tips to getting started with PdM

Frank offered three tips to PdM beginners.

  1. Start small with what you have.
  2. Architect for analytics—that is, design up front for prescriptive maintenance, which offers all the capabilities of predictive maintenance, adding the ability to prescribe what to do to best address the upcoming failure.
  3. Think security first.

Applying PdM through gateways can eliminate the need for control system interaction, which can be a security concern for many, Frank acknowledged.

In a discussion with CFE Media (Control Engineering, Consulting-Specifying Engineer, Plant Engineering, and Oil and Gas Engineering), Frank said many people in the plant live in silos, and a connected worker should think again about how to be more effective and safer in interactions on the plant floor.

"IIoT technologies are for those who want to compete and stay relevant," Frank said, and physical and cybersecurity are imperative. IT and OT convergence can help, but it isn't going to happen overnight.

The Dell IoT Solutions Partner Program for the advancement of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and solutions should help. The program, announced April 19, will combine a global, multi-tiered network of experienced independent software vendors (ISVs) with a portfolio of IoT assets. The program begins with more than 25 partners including GE, SAP, Software AG, Microsoft, OSIsoft, and others.

Dell's also expected to expand its Edge Gateway 5000 series design, Frank said, to include Class 1, Div. 2 capabilities.

Mark T. Hoske, content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

ONLINE extra

Key concepts

  • Manufacturers can realize some Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) benefits by interconnecting legacy equipment.
  • Data from existing assets can be used for predictive maintenance.
  • IIoT benefits include higher uptime, improved quality, and lower costs.

Consider this

Are you advancing IIoT with pilot projects or jumping in on a larger scale?

See related IIoT coverage from Hannover Messe.

Link to related IIoT news and articles from Control Engineering linked below.

Also see the Control Engineering IIoT page and the Plant Engineering and Control Engineering IIoT newsletter

See future Qatalyst Global events

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