Is your system ready for IoT?

Joseph Zulick of MRO Electric and Supply

What do you need to make sure your manufacturing facility is ready to make the leap to the Internet of Things? What do you want to gather? How will you communicate this information? How will you process this information and actuate based on the data? Existing system integration and communication?, says Joseph Zulick, a writer and manager at MRO Electric and Supply.

Let’s start with what your expectations and demands are for your system. If you are anticipating gathering something as simple as the equipment running or stopped status.

Simple or complicated systems will be able to handle this data. Sensing the operating functions is pretty simple also when all you want to know is if the machine is running or not. When it comes to The communications and transfer of this data, simple is better. No point in trying to develop a communications system when you’re just clicking on and off a limit switch or sensor. The data is simplistic so you can easily gather the data.

The problem with simple data is it provides none of the beneficial data you need in order to truly make educated decisions. The details include the “why? Why are we not running? Why did the machine not start? Why are we not done changing over? The other data is the “What? What job are we running? What tool are we using? What is the estimated time to completion for the job?

These data points are not available in the simple sensor type systems. You need a more advanced system to gather the data as well as communication of the info out to the gathering system which could be the cloud and into the Iot system.

You also need to define your processing. Are you wanting to compare the data to certain metrics? Pass the information to your other ERP systems?

All of these expectations set the tone for your improvement.

This helps you calculate if your existing system can handle the data and has the performance required to handle the data.

If you follow the elements of the theory of constraints and apply them to your data system, you’re going to need to determine where the bottle neck of information occurs.

Once you determine what you want to communicate, then the next step is how and in what form. Do you want to transfer the information as simply as a bit turning on and off as a digital or binary signal?

A simple sensor and move that along in that same formats the original. This is pretty inefficient and uses up all the resources as seen here.

Once you used up all your conduits for information you’re done. This is why it’s better to use some higher level which converts this to information and sends it along in a Link format where you’re converting to serial communication, modbus, etc. this is also going to be required when you want to move this up to the cloud.

While there is some cost associated with this it is also the premise for how we move along such large data now compared to years ago when we used a limited format of dial up to where we are today with transmitting millions of bits of information per second!

This is also needed to take your IoT to the next level. You need to have a system that can handle the data.

Serial communication is fine but also limited unless you start to define the bus network in systems like mod bus which the same route is used for multiple devices and information but you are giving it an address so you know where it came from and where it’s going. In much the same way as sending mail requires an address and return address we do the same to identify items on a bus that uses multiple devices.

This is also the same when we need for IP addresses when we start to communicate up to the cloud level for processing and storage.

Once in the cloud or up the highest level of which we plan to transfer the data, we then process or store the data. If the information is stored we need to have a system for storing and retrieving the data. It may need to be processed into a form where we can create a report, compile it into usable information and finally pass it onto other programs or systems.

All of the systems you have currently must be able to handle this level of data or have the ability to upgrade your system to meet the needs. You have to multiply out the amount of information for 1 system for all of your equipment and all of the ancillary devices. Plan for the scalability of this also because as information grows it must be able to meet this change. As you see the supply of information increase, (more sensors, more density of information, more frequency of sampling) the system needs to handle these increases.

Increases come with a need for space, both depth and breadth. As you probably know from your home computer, every year the need for speed and space expands exponentially. This is also going to be needed to be compatible with many of the erp systems.

Once you examine the needs of your business and the existing capability of what you have, this will help you devise the road map you need to get the system launched. Make sure that it meets all the expansion you think you’ll need with the expand ability that is required to meet future demands without scrapping out your current system and starting over.

You may think you have the detail needed but make sure you bring in other team members who may be able to identify holes in the plan. Too often we fail to get everyone’s input which lends itself to these programs failing rapidly. Take into account future business expansion. This doesn’t automatically mean to buy everything for these expansions but it does mean that the system can be expanded to address this expansion.

It’s one thing to get 1 Terabyte memory but it’s different to get 1 Terabyte with a max of 1 Terabyte vs 1 Terabyte with space for 4 Terabyte. Usually speed isn’t expandable and processing is limited by these parameters. Whatever you have today will be without question obsolete in the future but you want to delay the inevitable as long as possible.

Check compatibility between your main erp system and your current network Iot system. Then examine your improvements and insure that the new system has the horsepower. Don’t let this be your limiting factor. Make sure your interface will handle the speed and information packets provided by the hardware.

Joseph Zulick

It may not slow you down today but if it can’t handle the system at full load, you will bog down the system as you bring more online. This could be catastrophic if you get to relying on the system for more and more data and processing to provide you with system decisions.

Hardware needs expandability also, the sensors may have expandability far beyond your needs today but remember that the technology you’ll be using tomorrow hasn’t even been invented yet. Making good choices makes you profitable and will also determine the business winners and losers tomorrow.

The author is Joseph Zulick, a writer and manager at MRO Electric and Supply.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

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