Using digitised sensors to get more out of manufacturing data

With current findings indicating that less than 5% of a manufacturing plant’s generated data is put to good use, there’s a huge opportunity for firms to reap new rewards through digitised sensors. Experts from Yokogawa and Frost & Sullivan explain how

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 20 August 2019
Using digitised sensors to get more out of manufacturing data

This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of The Record. Subscribe for FREE here to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox. 

The global process industry is becoming more connected, networked and integrated. As a result, there has been a consistent surge in the volume of data generated across the manufacturing value chain. However, according to Nobuyuki Tamaki, a general manager at industrial automation (IA) firm Yokogawa, the high-fidelity data that is generated by sensors and other wireless devices currently yields inadequate insights for value creation. 

Tamaki’s view is supported by recent research by Frost & Sullivan which has revealed that less than 5% of a plant’s generated data is currently put to good use. The primary reasons for this gap are improper data management strategy, limited application expertise, missing data and a sheer lack of resource availability. 

But with challenges come opportunities. As customers realise the benefits of co-relating different types of data using combinational analytics, they can achieve new outcomes. This will encourage process manufacturers to significantly increase their digital spending. Already, more than 50% of customers claim they will invest two times more in analytics over the next two to three years. 

Clearly, this market scenario requires the industry to re-think traditional plant operational management methods. “While process plant owners have installed sensors and digitised their plants for process control, the next prominent challenge will be to take action to digitalise plant operations in a way that leverages the plant’s digitised sensor data,” Tamaki says. “In essence, the industry is looking for solutions that will help it shift from sensing to sensemaking. Until now, customers have under-used the power of plants’ data, but there are huge changes ahead – and big benefits to be had.” 

Muthuraman Ramasamy, automation and industrial internet of things (IIoT) industry director at Frost & Sullivan, agrees that the blurring of traditional automation boundaries is steering the development of innovative business models. “Edge computing platforms are resulting in the democratisation of analytics and near-real-time interfaces with sensing systems,” he says. “The industry understands the imperatives of digital, but the challenge resides in the ‘how’ of digital. This will require customers to partner with accomplished domain experts who can not only help structure a digital roadmap, but also have strong artificial intelligence (AI) application capabilities over plant data and comprehensive expertise over a manufacturing value chain.”

Yokogawa’s Synaptic Business Automation approach to their IA business is designed to help. “Yokogawa delivers solutions that support improved productivity across the plant life cycle, from the management level to the operations level,” explains Tamaki. “Synaptic Business Automation builds on our business and domain knowledge to drive sustainable value creation by blending intelligent sensing and advanced analytics. The goal is to create profitable and sustainable customer growth through co-innovation and collaboration across three potential improvement areas: resilient operation; optimised production; and business innovation.” 

Yokogawa is also expanding its scope for sensing outside the traditional industrial automation field. To achieve this, it has invested €6 million in internet of things (IoT) technology firm Sensire to begin collaborating in the cold chain monitoring field. Through this initiative, both companies aim to develop and provide new services that combine Yokogawa’s IIoT architecture, subscription-based IIoT services and Sensire’s cold chain temperature monitoring solutions.

Yokogawa’s cloud-based IIoT architecture has been developed in collaboration with Microsoft and, based on this, is starting to provide solutions for the remote monitoring of physical quantities. In addition, Yokogawa’s amnimo business unit has been created to develop IIoT services that use this architecture to provide access to data from not only manufacturing plants but also many other types of facilities and situations, with the aim of delivering subscription-based measurement as a service (MaaS).

Tsuyoshi Abe, Yokogawa senior vice president of marketing, says: “Yokogawa is now exploring new business models such as recurring revenue while also aiming to expand its business in the pharmaceutical and food fields. I am convinced that Sensire’s solutions will accelerate these efforts, and I trust that we will be able to deliver new value to applications where precise temperature control is critical by combining the technologies of both companies.”

Through its combination of solutions, Yokogawa is enabling customers – and the entire process industry – to fully realise the shift from sensing to sensemaking. “In order for the process industry to solve its four major management concerns (safety and security, availability and reliability, efficiency, and human reliability) and transform digitally, selecting an appropriate partner becomes very important. Yokogawa can strongly promote change with intelligent sensing and advanced analytics based on business and domain knowledge,” Tamaki concludes. “In addition to our commitment to quality and wide product portfolio, we can implement the intelligent sensing that actually brings management advantages, enabling the analysis of data obtained using operational technology. The result is the true realisation of sensemaking: achieving value creation for customers by leveraging plant data that has, until now, not been fully utilised.” 

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