The next wave of smart-factory innovation will be driven by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), as they discover the value-added features of providing IIoT-enabled machinery. Jonney Chang, associate vice president, Advantech, and Brandon Cannaday, co-founder and chief product officer, Losant, a provider of enterprise IoT software, reinforced this message during the Advantech Connect Online Partner Conference in a program session entitled “Smart Factory Digitalization and Efficiency.”
There will be more than 50 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things generating 80 zettabytes of data by 2025, predicted Chang. Artificial intelligence in the manufacturing market is estimated to be valued at $17.2 billion. Additionally, 5G will contribute more than $2 trillion to the global economy between 2019 and 2035; and 35% of that will go to the manufacturing and utilities sector, he explained.
“The 2020 pandemic has accelerated the use of IoT sensors, robots and software to enable remote monitoring,” said Chang. “This application has brought out the development of key technologies and features, such as IO-Link, long cable lengths, explosion protection and interoperability.”
For software technology, Kubernetes, the open-source system for automating cloud computing applications, has become the de facto standard, said Chang. “For connectivity deployments, many people have turned to Kubernetes to support layer migration to new microservices architecture for continuous integration and deployment,” he explained. Additionally, Industry 4.0 and 5G are bringing incredible opportunities to the manufacturing sector. In a survey of 600 manufacturers by ABI Research, 92% are considering 4G or 5G wireless technology to improve the agility of their operation, said Chang.
Use-case examples include: enhanced mobile broadband use in wide-area connectivity for fleet maintenance and inbound logistics for manufacturing; augmented reality; remote access and maintenance; process automation for plant asset management applications and monitoring; human remote control of automation equipment; and control-to-control communication.
“An integrated MES helps manufacturers to layer decision-making by providing real-time data visualization in the cloud platform,” explained Chang. “Digital services have become an important cornerstone to the various industries. The value is driven by the management of the data.”
Advantech offers technologies to enable edge-as-a-service, machine-as-a-service and even factory-as-a-service.
DeviceOn/BI is a simple and smart device-management portal for edge-as-a-service. It provides remote access and monitoring. DeviceOn/BI provides device connection setup and configuration; real-time trend and monitoring; firmware over-the-air (OTA) management and update; and platform software installation management.
Advantech’s iFactory Smart Manufacturing Suite can be used to improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Seamless integration enables edge intelligence and smart sensing devices, explained Chang.
IIoT deployment via smart machines
Over the years, Losant’s Cannaday has had the opportunity to work with a lot of industrial customers, bringing to market their own IoT products and services.
“When it comes to anybody utilizing IoT, they’re either a consumer or provider,” explained Cannaday. “Consumers are using it for their own internal processes, improving costs or mitigating risks. One of the commonly overlooked opportunities is getting manufacturers to become IoT providers.”
Cannaday cited the IIoT cycle as one of the challenges faced in the manufacturing environment. OEMs have the opportunity to sell IIoT in CNC machines, air compressors, construction equipment and other machinery. “That OEM may have thousands of customers, which also have thousands of customers,” explained Cannaday. “Each customer is starting from scratch. All of them have to invest in technologies. The cycle gets highlighted if that OEM’s customer is selling into another process.”
This creates the potential for deployment of IIoT technology to millions of users.
“Why I like the IIoT provider strategy is it allows the OEM to provide that technology to customers and escape that cycle and get smart manufacturing distributed much more quickly,” said Cannaday. “There’s value to the customer; they get a turnkey solution. They get that remote visibility and that real-time alerting right out of the box. It provides service and support.”
When a customer looks at two different pieces of equipment and one of them is equipped with smart-manufacturing technology, it’s a competitive advantage, giving that lower cost of ownership, which makes the customer happy, explained Cannaday.
“One of the biggest selling points is recurring revenue opportunities,” he said. “When I buy a device, the transaction is complete. An IIoT service is sold as a subscription license. It turns it into a recurring model.”
The manufacturer also gets an advantage by delivering a product to the customer that gives them a lot of visibility into the data so they can see how the customer utilizes what they manufacture and use that information to make improvements.
“I can’t talk about remote without talking about COVID,” added Cannaday. “It’s a driver and causing demand in these services. We were at a customer site, and they said, ‘Why do we need sensors? We have Frank. Frank can walk up to the equipment and feel if there’s something wrong with that equipment.’”
While a person with a clipboard has been effective for years, now we’re in a world where physical access is limited because of COVID and the need to keep a distance, explained Cannaday.
In the past, equipment was serviced using preventive maintenance. Cannaday cited an example of a car driven 3,000 miles in the city, which has different wear and tear than one driven on the highway. Just as vehicles can now be monitored with sensors that indicate when an oil change is necessary, rather than basing it on time, machinery can be maintained based on the condition.
“We can transition to condition-based maintenance,” said Cannaday. “We can target maintenance to the devices that need it. In a world without a high level of physical access, remote monitoring is a driver.”
A company that did this really well is WEG Industries, said Cannaday. “One of their main product lines is motors,” he explained. “They saw this cycle, as well. Every customer needs to monitor motor vibration and temperature. If the bearing is experiencing wear and tear, it’s an early indicator. They saw this opportunity to offer WEG Motor Scan, a small sensor that works out of the box. It’s turnkey. WEG provides the sensor and the gateway. Instead of solving the problem themselves, WEG’s customers can buy it from the manufacturer.”
It takes a village to raise a child, and the same is true for IoT, said Cannaday. “It takes a lot of pieces to come together to deliver the IoT product,” he explained. “The stack of technology starts with the manufacturer that provides the equipment. Then, at the gateway/edge computer stage is where Losant has partnered with Advantech. It allows our customers to deploy. Then that data’s got to get to the cloud. That’s where the connectivity comes in to take it to the IoT platform. That’s us.”
From there, professional web or cloud services may be involved. “A lot of companies seek outside help for this,” explained Cannaday. “All of that comes together to deliver that product with real-time alerting and remote monitoring. Think about how your customers can become IoT providers.”
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