Headquartered in the USA, PTC provides software that helps manufacturers accelerate product and service innovation, improve operational efficiency and increase workforce productivity. The firm is building on the industrial internet of things (IIoT) to help its customers derive value from the convergence of the digital and physical worlds. PTC’s general manager of IoT Joe Biron shares how the technology is liberating the data in control systems, coupled with advanced analytics and the latest techniques in edge computing to meet today’s smart manufacturing needs.
How is the IIoT transforming manufacturing?
There’s an abundance of valuable data sitting in shop floor control systems. However, that data has historically been used to satisfy fairly narrow needs to control and operate the specific machinery it relates to. The IIoT is changing this dynamic by giving that data a new mission: to be used to advance a smart manufacturing agenda. Using the IIoT, different kinds of data – such as machine, environmental sensor and operational data from related business and manufacturing systems – can be aggregated, analysed across cloud and edge computing, and transformed into insights that answer critical questions for a manufacturing process. This allows plant managers to proactively address needs like preventative maintenance and process bottlenecks. This previously static, siloed data is also enabling frontline experts and managers to make better real-time decisions, culminating in a substantial reduction in unplanned downtime, scrap and inefficiency.
How are real-world manufacturers realising the benefits of the IIoT?
Manufacturers are using the IIoT to address data management and labour optimisation challenges with edge-based machine vision systems. For example, one of our customers, China International Marine Containers (CIMC), is a world-leading supplier of logistics and energy equipment. CIMC was no stranger to productivity issues such as unplanned machine downtime, lack of operational visibility, wasted energy consumption and quality metrics. CIMC leveraged Microsoft Azure IoT and the ThingWorx Industrial IoT Solutions Platform to integrate the IIoT with their Manufacturing Execution System and break down data siloes. CIMC is now monitoring production performance in real time. This has unlocked predictive maintenance, and improved energy consumption and trace quality. Equipped with these insights and a deeper understanding of machine behaviour, CIMC is optimising production far beyond previous benchmarks and has reduced unplanned downtime and manufacturing cycle time. By deploying ThingWorx to 35 plants, CIMC reduced unplanned downtime by 30 per cent and energy consumption by 13.2 per cent.
Another recent example is Celli Group, a global company based in Italy that manufactures and services equipment for distributing soft drinks, water and beer. Celli recognised the IIoT as an opportunity to transform its business, while putting more visibility, control and value, into the hands of customers. This IIoT data – turned into insights – enables their customers to remotely perform inspections and sanitation checks, control refrigeration, monitor power consumption levels and more. Collectively, these capabilities translate into a substantial reduction in equipment downtime for Celli Group’s customers. By shedding needed downtime, these customers are increasing beverage sales and profits. Celli is also using the IIoT to collect equipment usage data, enabling product design and production enhancements. These improvements have already reduced equipment failures by 13 per cent.
How do you see the IIoT evolving to meet the growing and maturing needs on smart manufacturing?
As part of the natural progression of technology advancements, we are squarely in the ‘applied physics’ stage of the IIoT, where the advancements in foundational, enabling technology such as connectivity, analytics and artificial intelligence techniques, and context-aware systems integration are being informed by the most impactful use cases we see across our customers’ business challenges. State-of-the-art platforms like ThingWorx and Azure IoT have been maturing to support ever-increasing scale requirements, and to meet industry demands for plug-and-play interoperability. We are unifying cloud and edge computing so that the right compute workload gets done at the right place, without manufacturers needing to be experts in the technology.
Where do you see the IIoT making the biggest business impact?
It’s all about better efficiency. We are driving the top line by increasing throughput and capacity to meet customer and market demand. We are impacting the bottom line through maximum efficiency, reducing scrap, eliminating unscheduled maintenance and ensuring workers aren’t sidelined by unsynchronised machinery or processes. Combining the two helps customers realise meaningful outcomes at scale.
We are excited about deepening and broadening our ThingWorx platform’s ability to directly solve manufacturing challenges as a full end-to-end solution for the mainstream market. Our customers already benefit from the integration of Azure IoT Hub into our platform and solutions, now we are looking forward to tapping into the developments in Azure Digital Twin Service and Azure IoT Central. These advancements bring a complete view of the assets, spaces and relationships with process into our solutions, while giving our customers a scalable way to manage their data connectivity and the linkages their machine data needs to make with our platform. It’s a truly exciting time to participate in this stage of the IIoT, and we’re proud to be partnered with Microsoft as we blaze these trails together.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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