Industry 4.0 is a term being used a lot in the industrial world right now. It can be applied to anything from batch size 1 machinery to artificial intelligence; essentially technologies we expect to see in a modern-day facility. One of the topics of Industry 4.0 is data collection: How do we get it? Who gets it? What do we do with it?
How we get it could be simple or a bit more involved. New equipment typically comes prepared for easy network integration for exchange of information through protocols like OPC-UA, industrial fieldbus, or simply some form of TCP/IP messaging or file exchange. When engaging in new equipment purchases, make sure to inquire about the availability of such things even if you are not prepared to collect data. I say this because if you are buying new equipment today, there is no reason that it should not come with the ability to provide valuable data in some format that can easily be integrated into a larger system at little to no extra cost.
Older equipment has some hurdles to overcome to collect information, but it is not impossible. In many cases, it can be easy. B&R Industrial Automation, a member of ABB, has a product called the Orange Box. The Orange Box is designed to grab information from established equipment with minimum impact. We have used this in various manufacturing environments where equipment is over 10 years old, a PLC was not used, or the PLC that is being used does not have any networking capability.
Figure 1: B&R Orange Box
One installation experience of the Orange Box we had was at an older machine that consisted of relay logic that controlled three VFDs. Using the Orange Box, we were able to monitor emergency stop, fault logging, runtime, downtime, idle time and output without changing anything or even powering the equipment off. Within 2 hours a 20+ year old machine was providing enough data to perform an accurate OEE calculation and provide a history of all faults from the simple equipment, without adding software or additional control equipment.
So, with the how do we get it problem solved, and the who gets it would be an automated system, let’s discuss what we can do with the data that we are extracting from our equipment.
Create a benchmark and try to improve production stats
When starting up new equipment, or if you are doing a major preventative maintenance routine on existing equipment, data can be used to provide a snapshot or benchmark of your machine’s performance at that time. You can then use it to easily track the effectiveness of process modifications.
Historical data can be used with current data to determine if it is time to invest in more equipment, or when to shift maintenance activities to lessen the impact on production capabilities. In other situations, the same machine may be used to manufacture various products, however, the amount of energy required to create the products may fluctuate. Recording energy usage during manufacturing of a particular product can help you determine what time of day to manufacture that product to assist with energy costs.
Have a better understanding of your manufacturing costs
KPIs such as performance and quality can help you determine if you are capturing true production costs. Monitoring discrete or local energy consumption (can be added at a relatively low cost) along with other equipment data can provide even more information about the true cost of production.
Identify real maintenance issues within your process
With a benchmark and active data collection, it is possible to easily identify when the process strays away from benchmark targets enabling management to schedule maintenance activities before an unexpected equipment breakdown occurs.
It’s not as difficult as you may think
It really isn’t difficult to start collecting data that really matters, no matter what age the equipment is. Be it the Orange Box product or similar solutions. It doesn’t need to be a complicated, expensive, custom process.
Interested in how you can start collecting data? Complete our request form and an IDS representative will be in touch with you right away.