Machine Diagnostics and the IIoT

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Guest blogger:  Tim Senkbeil is a product line manager for Belden’s Lumberg Automation brand. In his role, Senkbeil manages new and existing connectivity products and offerings from both Lumberg Automation and Hirschmann. He has also served as a field solutions manager and industrial solutions manager in past roles at Belden. Prior to joining Belden, Senkbeil worked in field sales and sales engineer roles at Molex, as well as several manufacturers’ representative organizations in the electronic component market. Senkbeil earned his electrical engineering degree from Valparaiso University in Indiana. He also completed a bachelor’s degree in computer science and math at Concordia University-Chicago.

Many industrial processes use devices with sensing technology to perform automated tasks with efficiency and precision. With the increase in complexity of manufacturing processes, however, comes the opportunity for things to go wrong – especially with a limited human presence in most industrial applications.

Now, as these applications get smarter and smaller, even the sensors have sensors.

Bottling Plant

The ability of these components to provide diagnostics and feedback has already become critically important. When a fault occurs – whether it’s flagged by a specific sensor or in a component itself – minimizing downtime becomes equally critical.

I was recently asked by Control Design magazine to share my thoughts about the current state of sensors, as well as the benefits of their use in the application of emerging technologies. Let’s take a look at how machine diagnostics are changing to meet the needs of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications.

  (1)  How can sensing technologies contribute to better machine diagnostics, in particular, troubleshooting issues?  Sensors are absolutely key in diagnosing machine problems.  Position sensors, for example, are very common in most machines. They’re the sensors that guide items through a process, whether that’s handling and moving materials through a conveyor system, assembly line, packaging process or manufacturing process control. Position sensors allow the system to identify jams or other faults that might prevent the item from completing the process. Other types of sensors can also provide useful feedback for locating a fault within a machine. Smart sensors or actuators – those that provide additional digital information about the function and health of the sensor itself – can further assist with troubleshooting by eliminating the sensor itself as the source of the fault. Smart sensors/actuators also improve network uptime by providing engineers with health information that can be used to perform preventive maintenance before a component failure causes a system downtime incident.

(2)  What impact does remote connectivity have on detecting, diagnosing and correcting machine problems?  Remote, or on-machine, connectivity offers distinct advantages over central, or “home-run,” wiring. Distributed fieldbus I/O systems create a sort of segmented repair environment. By having the connections housed on-machine, fault locations can be isolated to specific devices and locations within a machine – allowing maintenance workers to replace or repair malfunctioning cordsets or devices at the source. This means a machine can be back up and running in minutes because of the modular nature of the repair. Also, initial installation can be up to four times faster than “home-run” wiring.

(3)  Do things like augmented reality or virtual reality play a role in machine diagnostics?  Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are the pinnacle of system diagnostics. If a system engineer can identify the exact location of a fault by simply using a handheld device to scan a machine, then that failed component can be replaced immediately. Oftentimes, identifying the failed component is the most time-consuming part of the troubleshooting process – and it can take hours. AR/VR, however, reduces that time to minutes!  Not only does this save companies time, it also reduces the downtime costs associated with failed components. Every industry needs to run at maximum uptime and capacity. New technologies, like AR and VR are another way to help get us there.To read the full blog post, visit Belden’s blog here:  

About Belden:  In a world moving toward new levels of interoperability made possible by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), visibility is vital to operators as they face increasing demands to receive, analyze and share data. Belden’s industrial connectivity solutions address these needs head on. With more connected machines, rising data volumes and increasing productivity demands, customers can count on Belden cable and Lumberg Automation and Hirschmann industrial connectors for a complete communications infrastructure designed to last. Belden’s customized systems provide high levels of performance and reliability to help a wide range of industrial automation applications handle the growth of intelligent, networked devices and robust analytics.

Belden is a Gold Strategic Partner member of the Schneider Electric Collaborative Automation Partner Program. Through its Hirschmann brand, Belden is a long time contributor to and participant in the Machine and Process Management sector.  Leveraging Belden’s field-proven industrial network and cyber security expertise, Schneider Electric is better able to offer a complete solution for customers.

To learn more about the Schneider Electric strategic partner program, click here.

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  • We are waiting for an AI to learn and adapt on monitoring sensors! Wonder if we are going to need humans to supervise the process!

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