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Internet of Things: What is in it for Manufacturing?

There are many phrases describing the content of that fourth industrial revolution – from the Industrial Internet of Things (Industrial IoT), Industry 4.0, the Smart Factory, or just the Industrial Internet. What they all have in common, is that they describe the concept of using information technology and internet infrastructure in industrial applications.

Published April 2018 in the FAS Converting Newsletter (link)

Due to the technological availability at affordable costs it is now ready to launch and fully spread in the market. The main focus that it is gaining the most interest is the chance of securing a company’s competitive advantage by offering an opportunity to further improve efficiencies in manufacturing. In order to be a champion, these technologies require successfully bridging the gap between Information Technology (IT) and Operation Technology (OT) offerings to gain the expected competitive advantage. A key success factor in delivering continuous improvement is accurate and consistent measurement of the right key performance indicators (KPIs). Top performers use the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) metric hierarchy. OEE is widely used in manufacturing, but is particularly applicable to packaging given that value creation is driven by the efficient conversion of a small number of costly raw materials into a product using expensive machines and a fairly fixed labor cost. OEE is expressed as a percentage, with 100% representing perfect conversion of the inputs into product without any losses. There are three sources of losses, namely availability, performance and quality. OEE is the product of the percentages of these three quantities. In packaging, these losses come from characteristic areas:

  1. Availability losses come from machine downtime (changeovers, maintenance or repair).

  2. Performance losses come from operating machinery slower than its rated speed (inexperienced crews or product mix and formulation changes).

  3. Quality losses come from scrap — which is the percentage of material produced that is not good for sale (depending on the process, some of this may be recycled or re-introduced into the process as mentioned above).

So let me mention some solutions which might give you some hands on ideas:

  • Remote monitoring / operation / service: Remote operation can decrease operational costs by reducing the headcount and increasing efficiency. Remote service allows fastest response times when it comes to troubleshooting or advising the crew at the machine. The Industrial IoT architecture facilitates the migration toward remote monitoring, operation and service. An immediate side benefit of the Industrial IoT investment is decreasing the cost of migrating to remote operations.

  • Big Data analytics and data mining: This concept is the biggest and most significant advantage of Industrial IoT technology. By aggregating data in one place and utilizing the almost unlimited computational power, companies can perform Big Data analytics to manage volume, velocity, and variety. Data mining techniques are used to extract key performances indices from raw data. Big Data is leveraging transparency on particular behavioural performance patterns which are not visible to the operator viewing the real time data on the machine. Companies can optimize their operation based on the data acquired.

Since adopting or migrating to an Industrial IoT solution requires capital investments, industrial plant / machine owners will likely consider conducting Industrial IoT projects in a gradual manner, starting with areas that provide the highest ROI (such as asset condition monitoring and performance optimization). The existing information/control system can be retained so that it runs alongside the new architecture that gathers data from a variety of sources to increase operational efficiency and reduce costs.

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