If you’re a machine builder trying to differentiate your company from the competition, you may be considering investing in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions. Today, there are numerous cloud-based manufacturing technologies that can dramatically improve production efficiency, reduce downtime, and streamline maintenance.
But how do you find the right IIoT solution while meeting industry standards for process automation protocols? How can you use this technology to customize your machines for your end users?
Reaping the benefits of IIoT begins with data. IIoT is based on machine connectivity and data conversion for performance assessments, and choosing the right solution is a complex process. Your customers serve a hugely diverse mix of applications. They also are counting on you to provide access to tested and validated functions. Your systems have evolved from one-size-fits-all to a scalable and flexible approach to bring machine data to life.
The ideal IIoT platform improves performance and allows for future needs
You can meet the promise of IIoT for your customers with advanced connectivity and smart technology templates, which helps them connect machine data to performance through:
- Operation alarms that either are managed by the equipment, independent of the operator, or that advise needed actions, and provide relevant information
- Maintenance alarms that send an alert for needed maintenance, or to provide troubleshooting details
- Performance parameters to manage usage and energy consumption
- Connectivity that enables remote monitoring and programming, and analytic-driven predictive maintenance
Your IIoT platform should have a high-end build time and a robust runtime software with multi-driver support. Ultimately, the solutions allow your customers to incorporate the connected worker, commission machines faster, and offer more effective service. The right technical stack impacts business models and provides additional revenue possibilities.
Trends are all about leveraging the many IIoT capabilities
One trend in IIoT solutions is the use of a digital twin to identify optimization opportunities. A digital twin allows a real-time simulation of physical systems without needing the actual physical system. This helps machine builders advance their code optimization, design validation, and problem solve.
A digital twin framework allows you to facilitate integration by bringing together the benefits of:
- Sensors and the widespread connectivity of equipment and assets
- Copious amounts of data, both structured and unstructured
- The cloud’s lower-cost, cybersecure capabilities for secure data storage and computing
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for data-driven insights and business intelligence
- Human-machine interface (HMI) innovation with 3D visualization, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR)
- Edge architecture to generate intelligence close to the source of data
Industrial PCs give end users flexibility to run in parallel systems
As machine end users process more data locally for real-time decision making, they are relying on more powerful industrial PCs. These devices utilize edge computing to eliminate network latency due to having to send data to the cloud for processing and having the data sent back to the origin device. This is tied to the increasing demand to run applications while connected to programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and HMIs.
End users want the flexibility to use HMIs on Windows-based hardware in parallel with a machine on a fixed operating system. Your partner should provide flexibility for the use of industrial PCs that meet your operating system (OS) and software requirements. They will show you how an open system has advanced so that you can use an industrial PC in a factory environment to increase industrial performance and efficiency.
HMIs offer data points, ease of use, and remote access
HMIs began as a portal into a system, providing an easier way for operators to set up and run machines, and to give them more digital capabilities. But HMIs have quickly become a sort of hardware for IIoT, working in conjunction with the software to deliver IIoT “products.” Your end users may still be using the same PLC or HMI, but now they can capture machine downtime information, such as which operator was logged in when an event occurrence took place.
Look for a partner who makes it possible to:
- Customize your HMIs, such as putting your logo on the front bezel so it differentiates your machines in the marketplace
- Create custom part numbers so you can build the service side of your business
- Operate an entire HMI on a tablet or on a device that does not require HTML5
Providers have also developed PLC-HMI combination devices. This is a natural extension as PLCs have advanced in their interfaces, and HMIs have taken on traditional machine control. Why not integrate them into a single, more compact housing?
Your machine stack should include real-time digital advisors
The leading IIoT platforms connect with machines, sensors, and smart tools to collect data for analysis and better decision making. However, they also feature enhanced security with encryption for hardware and software, and facilitate local and real-time control for improved productivity.
Look for a suite of software that functions as a digital advisor, including:
- A secure connect advisor, in which customers can dial in and bridge via ethernet to update PLCs or other components in the plant network
- An augmented operator advisor, which enables machine builders to provide a range of machine maintenance, such as remote access that superimposes data or virtual objects off a cabinet or machine on a tablet
- A machine advisor, which is a cloud-based solution that gathers data from connected products such as PLCs to enable the creation of data dashboards and threshold alerts
Equipping machines with the latest suite of software not only helps with troubleshooting; it also makes for a great sales enablement tool for reselling services, and extending your revenue potential.
The right partner will leverage IIoT as a competitive advantage
Your customers are looking for machine building partners that provide complete digitalization, from the data acquisition level to edge control, and cloud-to-asset management solutions. Leveraging IIoT is a competitive advantage because it creates new ways to proactively monitor and manage equipment performance, and reduce unplanned downtime. IIot will make it easier to adapt and grow with opportunities for differentiating and developing new business models.
A partner with a customer-first based approach will listen to your pain points, and work together from design to proof of concept, implementation, and service. Their product offering will include a large number of connectivity options with OPC Unified Architecture (UA) that support new technology to integrate with different automation vendors.
Learn how a partner can help you leverage IIoT as a competitive advantage.