Integrating the Industrial Internet of Things

The challenge original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and design engineers wrestle with is integrating new technologies with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in a way that allows them to complete in today's evolving and interconnected world.
By Daniel Repp, Lenze April 8, 2018

When savvy machine builders work closely with leading automation solution providers to standardize and streamline data collection, analysis, and reporting, the result is a system that enables the end user to operate his machine at top efficiency. Courtesy: LenzeAs corporations push digital transformation efforts to capture higher efficiencies and larger market shares, manufacturers and machine builders face more digitalization demands than ever before. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can meet those demands by providing companies with enhanced capabilities, increased speed, and more flexible production. However, the challenge original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and design engineers must overcome is integrating new technologies in a way that allows them to complete in today’s evolving and interconnected world. 

Transitioning to connected, flexible machines

Automation components or machines that can be rearranged without manual configuration or new programming are one of the foundational elements of a digital transformation. It is also a crucial prerequisite for exploiting the IIoT’s benefits. The more flexible the equipment, the more agile the manufacturer.

Incorporating advanced modular components and subsystems can boost reusability and overall equipment efficiency. It also relieves high-value engineers of time-consuming rote programming and maintenance tasks. Embedded connectivity compounds these efficiencies for OEMs and end users alike.

Modularization and standardization of interfaces, dynamic reuse of complete machine modules, and networked connectivity are the first steps toward true "plug and produce" systems where production can be started following a quick reconfiguration performed remotely.

Flexible, decentralized solutions and advanced digital engineering tool chains require project teams with the knowledge to install this kind of production architecture. OEM partnerships between automation solution suppliers and service providers experienced in modular, connected solutions are a key factor to successfully implementing the IIoT. 

Turn data into intelligence

One of the biggest challenges OEMs and end users face is what to do with the overwhelming flow of data. After all, data without analysis is untapped potential. Data collected and analyzed in the right way over time is what predictive models are built upon and is what will allow end users the ability to reduce costly unplanned downtime. While there are many solutions on the market designed to collect data from a machine and send it to the cloud, OEMs are often left with the complex responsibility of programming an interface to read the technology stream and display pertinent information useful to the end user.

For example, if one or more of the controlled data points is changing, this could indicate a potentially concerning issue is happening. The OEM needs to work with the automation solution supplier to interpret the meaning of this data so the end users can get the meaningful information they need to make intelligent decisions about the machine’s operation.

When machine builders work with automation solution suppliers to standardize and streamline data collection, analysis, and reporting—whether it’s through a dashboard or static performance figures—no prior knowledge of information technology (IT) or Big Data is required.

Data from a machine is transferred via encrypted channels to high security data centers and is available preconfigured to OEMs. Machine builders specify the desired data points in the required application to carry out remote diagnosis and maintenance, or to begin exploring the possibility of offering predictive services. The result is a system that enables the end user to operate the machine at top efficiency, giving him an edge over the competition.

Cultivate collaboration and develop partnerships

The IIoT is already well underway. Machine builders that embrace innovations such as flexible machine concepts and leverage the data gleaned will see their business grow.

It is clear strong and cooperative partnerships will be an important element of working faster and smarter. Collaborative mechatronic development, agile software development, and integrated automation solutions are replacing traditional engineering models and playing an essential role in the digital transformation of manufacturing.

Daniel Repp, industry manager, automation, Lenze. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

MORE ANSWERS

KEYWORDS: IIoT, Integration

Integrating the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can help companies integrate and provide enhanced capabilities, increased speed, and more flexible production.

OEM partnerships between automation solution suppliers and service providers are a key factor to successfully implementing the IIoT.

Machine builders that embrace innovations such as flexible machine concepts and leverage data will see their business grow.

Consider this

What else would benefit from IIoT integration?