Enterprises look to monitor, manage and optimise the IoT ecosystem

Nitesh Arora, the head of marketing at Cloudleaf, reveals the benefits of the divide and conquer approach to digitally transforming complex enterprise operations

Global adoption of industrial IoT hardware, connectivity and services is soaring. In fact, over the next few years, investment in IoT technologies will experience a whopping 15.6% CAGR worldwide, reaching projected spending of US$1.29tn by 2020. Nowhere is this more true than in the manufacturing sector, where the IoT is helping enterprises to digitally transform their legacy plant operations. The potential benefits are compelling, including near-zero downtime operations, sixsigma certified product quality, and streamlined asset maintenance. To put things in perspective, manufacturing related IoT spending alone, accounted for US$178bn in 2016 – more than spending in transportation and utilities, combined.

It’s understandable, therefore, that the manufacturing sector is keen to embrace IoT in order to take advantage of obvious benefits. These include addressing the challenges of total cost of ownership (TCO), competition, complexity and risk, but increasingly, early-movers are also using it as a vehicle for generating growth and as a hedge against increasing global competitive pressures. According to Vernon Turner, an IoT research fellow and senior vice president at IDC: “investments by China and the United States in IoT solutions is driving these two countries to account for double-digit annual growth rates and over half of the IoT spending.”

On paper, this all seems perfectly reasonable and straightforward, but in practice, manufacturers are finding that adoption is a relative and loaded concept. Implementing IoT across the enterprise ecosystem in one fell swoop is a tricky business and better left to larger, well diversified outfits able to absorb front-loaded costs and risks. Instead the trend is in smaller compartmentalised industrial IoT (IIoT) implementations that solve a narrow set of business challenges, rather than trying to boil all oceans at once. By adopting a disciplined implement, measure, optimise and replicate approach, manufacturers are able to take short manageable sprints towards solving industrial process automation challenges in a scalable and purposeful way.

The promise of IoT to provide powerful cross-boundary visibility, real-time monitoring and granular control across the entire manufacturing value-chain of people, assets and workflows, is generally well understood. But the real challenges are the next step: How do manufacturers choose an IoT provider? How do they execute? And how do they measure success, scale growth and replicate their gains? Cloudleaf was founded to specifically answer these questions and provide solutions that elegantly solve real-world business problems in manufacturing and distribution, pharma and life sciences, and other process automation industries. Our solutions are designed to simplify the manufacturing processes and solve emerging asset and workflow challenges in a measurable, value-added and sustainable way.

Increasingly, we are finding that manufacturers are investing in IoT technologies that bolster their manufacturing operations management (MOM), enterprise asset management (EAM) and predictive maintenance (PdM) capabilities. In fact the push right now is to get a better understanding of all the assets, processes and skilled labour in play on the plant-floor and at the operational level of the enterprise. And this is what Cloudleaf Sensor Fabric was designed to accomplish. We help our customers to transform legacy operations into real-time digital-factories. Our IoT solutions enable manufacturers to monitor and optimise the flow of materials, sub-assemblies, high-value tools and the use of skilled labour in the manufacturing process. According to the British Standards Institute standard (PAS-551), asset management is defined as: “systematic and coordinated activities and practices through which an organisation optimally and sustainably manages its assets and asset systems, their associated performance, risks and expenditures over their lifecycles for the purpose of achieving its organisational strategic plan.”

If we take a deeper-dive into asset utilisation and material processing, we find that manager pain-points can be summed up in the following four areas of concern:

1. Asset Utilisation – Lack of real-time operational awareness – Where are my things? Many manufacturers still are unsure about what assets they have on-hand, in what quantity and in what condition. This FDH (fat, dumb and happy) approach to asset management is simply not sustainable in today’s highly competitive, global landscape. Barcode serialised inventory sounds good in practice, but without an underpinning of real-time IoT-enabled controls, things start to get out of hand quickly.

Cloudleaf’s Sensor Fabric is a mesh of intelligent IoT sensors and endpoints, gateways and cloud technologies that provide real-time location tracking and data streaming that enables manufacturers to realize just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing, improve material utilisation and mitigate asset-leakage. This includes fixed equipment on the plant floor to a variety of mobile assets such as inventory containers, sub-assemblies and high-value tools that require periodic maintenance and calibration. And for perishable goods or time/environment sensitive materials such as blood and tissue samples, dwelltime management is essential to ensuring biological viability.

2. Condition monitoring – Non-value-added maintenance – Why are my maintenance costs so high? Predictive maintenance solutions not only help manufacturers keep their assets properly maintained and calibrated but also eliminate over-maintenance, which increases total operating costs. Monitoring high-value equipment, such as the a shaft bearing vibration signature in a million dollar pump on a crude oil rig, not only provides valuable advanced notice of potential failure, but allows operation managers to proactively fix issues before they become major problems. Downtime on a rig might be measured in thousands of dollars per minute. In fact in many cases, the tangible and intangible downtime costs far exceed the cost of replacing or repairing the failed asset.

Cloudleaf Sensor Fabric continually monitors operating conditions of assets in the mesh and streams real-time maintenance metrics to predictive IoT analytics. We provide the right data at the right time so that plant managers can take full advantage of powerful reliability-centred maintenance (RCM) processes to establishment safe minimum levels of maintenance, changes to operating procedures and create capital maintenance plans.

3. Factory operations – Compromised productivity – Why am I missing my production goals? In today’s competitive markets, manufacturers are compelled to run tight ships. Over time, a little slack, here and there can add up to a lot of waste. Assets that are improperly utilised create potential for waste and misuse on a mechanical level. Poorly maintained equipment or tools can result in safety issues, delays and compromise the quality of finished goods. In addition, legacy operations without an IoT asset tracking solution in place, make it almost impossible to generate operational insights on the fly, let alone to run complex analytics models. Without access to real-time asset location and condition data, they are operating at a significant competitive disadvantage. The result is an over-dependence on manual operations that increase overall complexity, compromise worker safety, lengthen the audit process and grind production workflows to a halt.

Cloudleaf enables manufacturers to dynamically maximise efficiency of each asset over its native reliability curve to achieve maximum output at the lowest cost. And by connecting each asset to our Sensor Fabric mesh, manufacturers can capture unique insights on the finer points of running highly efficient operations from multiple sources, including back-office enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM) systems, artificial intelligence (AI) analytics, and their tenured highly-skilled staff.

4.Complex assemblies – Improper risk management – How do I keep my enterprise data and processes safe? Every manufacturing process carries with it some level of risk. Each time inventory is turned into a sub-assembly, or tools are used in the building, testing or validation of a component, some amount of cost creeps into the process. Enterprise asset management (EAM) best practices are predicated on an operational plan that understands the risks associated with the ownership and use of the assets it is predicated on, A: proper assessment and identification; and B: effective management, control and review. And none of this is possible without information.

Sustainability, scalability and security are now the name of the game and to play, manufacturers will require more visibility and control over their operations. This includes the ability to reconcile multi-site workflows and to ensure suppliers conform to internal policies and standards.

Security is another hot topic and it should be given the recent uptick in security breaches worldwide. As industrial valuechains become more integrated and global, bad actors simply have more touchpoints along the connectivity chain to steal intellectual property, disrupt operational processes and compromise SCM, ERP, human resournces (HR), customer relationship management (CRM) and other cloud based enterprise systems. Engineered from the ground up, the latest encryption technologies are baked-in at every point of the Cloudleaf solution, from our sensors, gateways, to our wireless connectivity, storage and processing services. We safeguard enterprise IP resources across the value-chain.

Cloudleaf is an end-to-end cloud solution for monitoring, managing and optimising complex distributed-asset ecosystems. Cloudleaf’s value-proposition represents a paradigm shift in enterprise-grade IoT adoption and usage across internal and third partner facilities. By reducing IoT deployment from months to days and adoption costs to a tenth of typical IT system implementations, Cloudleaf is able to deliver immediate and sustained return on investment (ROI). Sensor Fabric is our flagship edge-to-cloud solution. It effortlessly gathers, compiles and analyses streams of live telemetry data from a broad range of diverse enterprise operations across indoor, out-door and in-transit workflows to provide real-time actionable insight. Patented sensors, gateways, location-aware cloud services combine to solve real-world challenges in manufacturing, transportation and pharma by helping managers to easily track, manage and optimise the flow of people, things and processes. Use cases range from simple supply-chain asset monitoring applications to managing complex assemblies, work-cells and works-in-process as they traverse the value-chain.

Take a deeper dive and learn about the nuts and bolts of the Cloudleaf Sensor Fabric Intelligent Mesh and how it’s solving operational challenges within the four-walls and without on page 51 of this issue.


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