(Blog) — With the sudden interest in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), manufacturing has finally received the attention it deserves, says Thomas R. Cutler (pictured). After being neglected by computer technologists and innovators for over 15 years, manufacturing and industrial automation have not taken advantage of the latest advancements utilised from medical to media and web searches.
Even without the love of the technology companies, manufacturers were still able to produce amazing amounts of high quality products with incredible accuracy; there is a lot of room for improvement.
According to Cisco, by 2017 there will be 1.7 billion wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) connections across the supply chain. They also estimate that smart factory technology can create US$1.95 trillion in value by 2022 by improving control, agility, and flexibility in the manufacturing processes. This is money saved by the industry because of more efficient practices; the improvement is a return on investment – which considers the cost of the technology.
The transformation of raw data from manufacturing equipment and sensors to actionable information requires innovation in the three following areas: pervasive standards, big data analytics, and real-time data-in-motion.
The industry standard, MTConnect, has enabled us to move from an environment with a multitude of custom data sources to a common format and delivery mechanism. William Sobel, CEO of System Insights reported, “Using MTConnect, provides a read-only, secure, common transport and format for all manufacturing data from all devices, reducing the complexity and increasing the value that can be delivered by applications.” There are still additional standards that must be created to cover the entire manufacturing ecosystem.
Big Data analytics are the key to uncovering the hidden patterns in mountains of data. Raw data will look like noise without the proper context and understanding of the underlying processes that created it. To achieve the levels of return projected by Cisco, one must examine the context of the manufacturing process which means understanding the details of every operation performed. One of the most important new platforms, the vimana platform, provides the industry’s first Big Data platform specifically designed for Manufacturing.
Data in motion is where everything comes together. Once the patterns have been discovered using big data analytics, manufacturers can begin to improve the processes; reducing losses due to equipment failures, predicting when a process will produce a defect, and optimising processes from the supply of material down to individual operations. Capturing real-time data from multiple sources and utilises the latest stream-based analytics and pattern matching to transform data into information and delivers it to where it is needed most. Sobel suggested, “The expectation that the market will mature rapidly is the foundation of the economy and improving the performance of manufacturing equipment will become a major focus as we move back to producing goods – a necessary macro-economic course correction.”
Bottom-line: Manufacturing is becoming more data-centric where the flow of data from the planning, design, and engineering areas, have a continuous feedback loop to the shop floor which allows manufacturers to utilise the data improving processes from design to execution. $1.95 trillion dollars will be returned to manufactures with the Industrial Internet of Things and start the next industrial revolution.
The author is Thomas R. Cutler, CEO of TR Cutler, Inc. (www.trcutlerinc.com). He founded the Manufacturing Media Consortium; authors 500+ manufacturing feature articles annually. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow at Twitter @ThomasRCutler.