The value of real-time information and insights is now being realised across many industries.
Status updates in logistics and transportation have become central to the customer experience, and the manufacturing sector is increasing its investment in the technologies that are realising this level of transparency and instantaneity.
“A real-time manufacturing business integrates business and management processes with manufacturing processes seamlessly,” says Andrew Thomas, CEO of industrial internet of things specialist Skkynet. “The goal is a digital architecture that is real-time, synchronised and optimised through closed-loop connectivity between IT departments and operational technology (OT) groups.”
In these scenarios, data is passed from equipment operations to business systems like digital twin models, analytical tools and artificial intelligence engines. These systems send control commands back to the OT systems in a closed loop, all in real time.
Despite the demand for these processes, the technology has not been available for long and its implementation among manufacturers has been limited. “Right now, companies typically rely on historical data,” says Thomas. “They might use enterprise resource planning systems which are not directly synchronised with operations, so the data can be anything from hours to months old. Many also employ a manufacturing execution system, which is quicker, but adds a layer of cost, complexity and fragility. Typical systems only collect data, which then needs to be analysed separately. Any feedback loop is commonly a manual process.”
Relying on historical data creates issues, so the drive towards using live data could transform the industry. “Integrating production data into the business meets the needs of the times,” says Thomas. “For example, it enhances existing plant automation systems to keep costs down as we shift from labour-rich to labour-scarce economies. It can power smarter and more versatile production lines that are needed to meet consumer demand for customised products and sustainable use of resources. And it can enable more dynamic and flexible supply chains.”
But Thomas also recognises that there are challenges, such as network security, performance and closed-loop control.
This is where Skkynet proves its value. The firm provides secure, real-time, bidirectional industrial data communications. “Our latest release, DataHub 10, introduces capabilities not available anywhere else,” says Thomas. “It runs on-site and as a subscription service on Microsoft Azure. This provides end-to-end real-time connectivity and links OT to IT securely. And it supports networking of both real-time and historical data, giving management a complete view of their production systems.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.