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Many analysts agree the Internet is facing its next revolution where people, machines, data, and processes are becoming more connected and creating new opportunities. This trend is called the Internet of Everything and is estimated to drive $14.4 trillion in value for private businesses over the next ten years. By connecting the unconnected manufacturers will have the ability to respond more quickly to new consumer demand data and respond in real-time with a more efficient automated and flexible manufacturing processes. Auto manufacturers are at the vanguard of this trend and are expected to take automation to a new level efficiency and flexibility.
Internet of Everything: Impact on Manufacturing Real-time visibility to every object and employee or service person in the plant enables manufacturer operators to gain more intelligence data on conditions, equipment status, and energy usage across the production line. IoE is pushing new Places In the Network (PINs) and connecting the carpeted management spaces to the noncarpeted operational spaces to identify and respond faster to opportunities. Here are some of the areas that auto manufacturers are connecting to create business value:
• Predictive machines maintenance: By collecting data from automation machines along a production line, manufacturers can be analyzed data to better predict when machines need maintenance before it breaks. For example, connecting robots via ruggedized IP-based flat networks, with new predictive analytics and cloud capabilities creates actionable alerts that can be delivered to the right person or machine at the right time to replace a part after hours to drive production efficiency and reduce production line downtime. End-to-end IP networks can also speed troubleshooting of issues with plant floor machines. For example, one automaker was “flying blind” when a line electricalrelated downtime event occurred. With multiple potential failure points, it took 3-4 hours to diagnose issues – but by leveraging improved network visibility down to the machine (integrating troubleshooting information into the HMI screens), they were able to reduce the troubleshooting time to minutes.
• Machine-to-machine connections drive flexible manufacturing: By connecting machines in the right way, manufacturers can be more flexible in their manufacturing process. For example, a large motorcycle firm could not share information between manufacturing cells, making it almost impossible to easily adapt these cells for changes in manufacturing. Ethernet architectures extended to the machines factory-wide to offer more flexibility and support real-time production coordination to build any bike on any line. Connecting these machines is not as difficult as it once was. Integrators can quickly enable new capabilities and set up new machines with Ethernet versus other hard-wired connections because of more modular, easier to integrate test capabilities. One integrator claims installation, commissioning and debugging for 10 stations with 12-15 robots with Ethernet took two days versus 1-2 weeks.
• Connect mobile workforce: When a decision needs to be made, the right expert needs to be called, but how do you find them. Using the latest collaboration tools available on mobile phones, remote experts can be quickly contacted via mobile phones soon-site factory workers can share information/videos instantly to make better decisions. Beyond phones, new wireless networking technologies connect workforce through mobile machines and reduce machine cabling costs.
• Connected supply chain: By connecting supply chains auto manufactures can connect customer orders directly to plant floor PLCs and HMIs, improve product and supply traceability, and gain more visibility across the transportation product/supplies– resulting in a supply chain that is smaller and running at a higher velocity at lower cost. For example, one automotive paint shop saw a 10X increase in SKUs with a 50 percent reduction in inventories with new generation controllers with Ethernet connectivity to the end machines. It can also mean faster delivery of more customized vehicles with options customer want, verse options that are available by the dealer.
• Connected automobiles: As more cars enter the market that is connected, manufacturers are able to gather data on the driver and vehicle for future product research and development. Also, service maintenance that can drive more revenues for automobile dealers through alerts of maintenance and automatic scheduling of service at closest dealership.
Building a Connected Factory for the IoE World
The biggest area of opportunity for manufacturers is to move toward a connected factory—an intelligent, networked plant environment that enables smart manufacturing. To make a connected factory a reality, there are four foundational steps to consider:
Step 1: Converged Plant Information. Plant floor devices and robots have traditionally been connected to proprietary networks that are expensive and transmitted highly limited machine operational data. By pushing connectivity down to these machine levels, manufacturers can gain visibility into an explosion of amount of data current dark to do amazing things.
Step 2: Increased Security, especially for machine control systems and contractors. Today, most plants have limited security. Plants are “air-gapped” to provide “securityby- obscurity” hampering connectivity of machines to enterprise systems. An escalating trend of advanced cyber attacks targeting industrial controls (e.g. Stuxnet, Shamoon, Flame), plus the need to provide new kinds of secure connectivity to machines for remote monitoring /trouble shooting, makes securing the plant a corporatelevel priority.
Step 3: Plant Wireless and Controls Mobility for “things” in the plants. Wireless is being extended to machines on the plant floor including torque tools, agile testing equipment, and machines with rotating components. Higher reliability wireless to plant devices is enabling reduced physical cabling, providing tremendous cost savings and enabling next generation flexible manufacturing. Enabling push-to-talk in a plant can have a six-month ROI. Wi-Fi tags for asset management speed production processes and improve quality in tire plants.
Key Success Factors to Capture Value
In conclusion, two key success factors for connected factory are to align manufacturing operations with IT and leveraging an architectural approach. IoE requires adding more physical objects to the IP networks, new plant applications, security, unified wireless, and managed network capabilities. All this imposes new requirements on existing operating/governance models, not just in networking, but also in the business operations. Secondly, IoE requires an integrated flexible architecture combining network, mobility/wireless, security, and application requirements. The investments you make in IoE and connected manufacturing are worthwhile, positioning your company for flexibility, competitive advantage and growth. With proper planning, you will reap the business benefits well into the future.
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