This article was first published in the Spring 2015 issue of OnWindows
The internet of things (IoT) and the growing number of internet-enabled devices in use offers manufacturers a fantastic opportunity to significantly increase their productivity, quality and flexibility. This is especially the case for manufacturers with multiple dispersed production sites, who can benefit from reduced consumption, performance improvements as well as energy management initiatives on a company-wide basis.
However, many companies fail on the road to creating a ‘smarter factory’ – often because of a reason most people wouldn’t expect: human relations. Indeed, IT professionals and automation engineers, when faced with the exact same situation, often think or act very differently.
To take advantage of IoT, you need to bring the right people together, find a common language, create a mutual understanding of the business objectives, determine the ideal status, clarify responsibilities and match technologies.
This interdisciplinary project team should involve (but is not limited to), people who understand the automation and control mechanisms as well as the production processes, people who know what is possible from a technological point of view and those who are aware of the company’s objectives. Usually, such scenarios include engineers and operators from field level, IT professionals, supply chain managers and C-level executives. The teams often recognise very early on that connecting ‘things’ in terms of IoT may sometimes be easier than connecting all people involved. For example, whereas IT professionals usually see security as one of their main concerns, automation engineers often don’t give security issues enough attention.
If manufacturers successfully manage to combine the two previously separated worlds of IT and automation, the benefits of implementing a complete end-to-end IoT solution seem endless: improving company-wide overall equipment effectiveness; performance increases and benchmarking; multi-site dashboarding and analysis based on real-time and historical data; predictive maintenance; better forecasting; and reduced consumption of resources such as energy, water and chemicals.
Coming from the automation field, COPA-DATA also aims to approach previously classical IT fields in order to offer additional services to our customers and meet the rising demands of smart factories. Therefore, we have – in strategic alliance with Microsoft – developed a machine-cloud system which supports IoT scenarios. The system starts with equipment from the field, connects to the cloud and combines machine data with ERP data, providing a global view on real-time data and enabling comprehensive company-wide analysis.
Johannes Petrowisch is partner account manager at COPA-DATA
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