Leveraging IIOT to achieve Operational excellence

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Why Industry 4.0?

Industry 4.0 is a holistic convergence of information technology and automation technology to elevate the operating efficiencies in the industry, cutting across company boundaries. The term Industry 4.0 originated in Germany, but the concepts are in harmony with worldwide initiatives such as Smart Factories, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Smart Manufacturing, and Advanced Manufacturing.

A driving force motivating the adoption of greater manufacturing automation worldwide is the realization that pursuing low labour rates is no longer a winning strategy. Remaining competitive and flexible can only be accomplished by leveraging the latest technologies to enhance automation and visibility into operations. Industry 4.0 envisions entire ecosystems that connect machines to machines and systems to people managing complex processes attuned to minute details of assembly-lines and how they affect large-scale logistics of sourcing and supply chains, distribution and market demand.

According to a 2015 survey conducted by Morgan Stanley & Automation World covering 200 automation executives, many of them expressed plans to significantly increase spending on these technologies. Two points came out loud and clear from the survey:

  • Improving Operational efficiency and Productivity are the most critical business drivers among manufacturers adopting the IIoT & automation.
  • These opportunities are real and will be key drivers of industry growth.

Morgan Stanley expects IIoT - Automation related spending to increase from ~8 percent of Industrial companies’ capital budgets to ~18 percent over the next five years. According to the report, “discrete automation is expected to see the greatest [IIoT-related] growth opportunities given faster upgrade/replacement cycles and lower penetration of software compared to the process industries.”

IIoT & Automation

“Things become intelligent, and this will change everything” The “Industrial Internet of Things” (IIoT) focus is on how products, processes and people connect to each other across traditional domains to enable changes / corrections to be incorporated quickly; while automation is to improve speed, quality, accuracy and precision with more predictability.

Several examples of this adoption are already being experienced today. Smart work spaces & processes in shop-floors is one such adoption - as an operator enters the work place, he picks up his smart device / or goes to an HMI and logs in. The operator will be guided to the work allotments, critical schedules & tasks for that day. The operator can also access Setup change guides, related work instructions, drawings, best practise documents / videos etc. The system also provides dash boards on target production versus actual, OEE of the shift, major down reasons. The System enables the operator to raise HELP requests for material shortages, maintenance requirements, process deviations which will trigger alerts via SMS and Email. Digital gauges can be interfaced to capture quality parameters of the process to provide Cp, Cpk analysis in real time. Preventive maintenance alerts published by the machine / equipment can be communicated to the right people at the right time to minimize down times. Digital ANDONs in the shop-floor display real-time production status and relevant information. In the Central Maintenance Department, a break-down request raised in a distant shop-floor is visible immediately in the Maintenance ANDON board. The Maintenance person may choose to log into the system and look at critical alarms and status information from the machine, so as to go equipped with the required spare parts and tools to solve the problem. This breakdown also notifies the Delivery department that a certain batch of components could be delayed by a certain period of time which will then trigger down-stream corrective actions to be taken. As an example, a large forging company with multiple plants in India has already started on this journey by implementing an IIOT system called TPM-Trak on their hot-forging presses and CNC machines, which covers various touch points of what has been described above.

Historic perspective: Cooperation essential

Industry has strived since the 1980s through Computer Integrated Manufacturing. The vision to homogenise all functional areas including design, planning, purchasing, accounting, inventory, CNC machines, and delivery is a basic necessity even today. Although promoted and used by manufacturers, such as General Motors, Boeing, and others on a small number of projects, it was cumbersome and expensive with the available technology. A major challenge was the integration of components from different suppliers, including programmable logic controllers, CNC machine tools, conveyors, and robots using different communications protocols.

Industry 4.0 and related initiatives recognize that efficiently building self-managing production processes requires open software and communications standards that allow sensors, controllers, people, machines, equipment, logistics systems, and products to communicate and cooperate with each other directly. Being able to deliver connected products with value added services requires two key capabilities: cross domain system integration and efficient product manufacturing for any implementation, both sides of the equation are important. Validating new IIoT solutions is very important, and the test bed approach is a great way of doing this to bring these two important worlds even closer together. As the automation industry evolves towards its cloud-based future, let us look at what it may mean for manufacturers, workers, investors and consumers.

IIoT & automation opportunities

IIoT & automation opportunities can be split into two broad categories, supporting the process or supporting the product.

IIoT & automation supported processes

A study predicts that by 2020 at least half of all corporate standard processes will have automated data acquisition and a quarter will have self-correction capabilities. A Morgan Stanley survey lists the major factors driving IIoT adoption as given in the fig. below.

Increased Operational efficiency combined with access to accurate and up-to-date information to take quick and decisive action will enable companies to respond to manufacturing dynamics like changing customer demands, material shortages, and machine break downs.

Let us look at an example of how an Indian CNC machine manufacturer and a large Auto component supplier worked together to successfully implement an automation and IIOT initiative on a machining line consisting of turning machines and a gantry for loading & unloading.

The raw forged parts require 3 operations - threading, ID finishing for seating the bush & OD flange turning operations - of different cycle times. In order to optimize and reach daily production target, 6 machines with 1 gantry loader to each line is installed. There are 3 such lines manned by single operator. The parts are passed through a sensor connected to IIoT device for the part count and moved to get dropped to a fixture to test the position, size & shape of the component. The rejections are dropped to a rejection bin and a sensor recognises & gives a feed back to the IIoT device. If on the conveyor beyond the thresh hold time no component is recognised by the sensor then a material shortage message is sent to the line operator who is managing 3 such lines. If no action is taken beyond the next thresh hold time an SMS based auto escalation mechanism escalate it to the next level & onwards like wise.

The gantry handling unit picks up the controlled positioned work piece individually and takes it to the first machine for loading. Then gantry retrieves the finished part with the double gripper and loads the raw part into the machine. First operation completed part is loaded on to the next machine & returned to home position to pick the next part & to load like wise to next set of machines. After the second operations gets completed gantry picks up the part & loads it on the gauge for checking the critical dimensions. At any stage if no material is recognised by the handling unit of the gantry for next operation an alert is sent to the operator & gets escalated as required. The machines are networked and any critical alarm is recorded and the line is stopped for corrections. The automatic gauges installed on the line check for the critical dimensions and provide a feed back to the IIoT system. If the dimensions of certain parameters cross threshold limits, an automatic correction offset to the machine is initiated by the IIoT system and the process is corrected. If any process deviations are observed beyond the critical limits, then the line is stopped with the alert system taking over. Any rejected parts go to the rejection bin for further inspection & validation. The OK parts get loaded on to third machine. After completing the loading sequence, the door is closed and the machining process is repeated. The machines are also equipped with MachineConnect OEM software which is connected to a central display system and to host of other systems for feedback. The system provides the real time production data such as machine running status - In Cycle / Emergency / Not running, hourly part count - by program number / numbers of programs, Down time or Machine stoppages, Power on time, operation time & cutting time.
An hourly production report by SMS / mail is sent to key people. Any production deviations are immediately noticed and corrective / preventive actions are immediately enabled. It also has maintenance check list with the scheduled time & date & CNC Preventive / predictive maintenance alarms. The entire system of men, machine & communication working as a closed-loop, has resulted in quicker responsiveness & improving productivity – the simplicity of the project demonstrated the following:

  • Speed of actionable information available at the right time with the right people, translates directly to savings.
  • Industry 4.0 is about harnessing the power of automation & IIoT technologies to increase productivity & operational efficiency with uptime upwards of 90%.
  • Rate of response is crucial to minimize loss of production.

IIoT & automation supported products

Manufacturers have the opportunity to adapt processes with IIoT & automation to lower costs, optimize operations, reduce resource consumption, improve productivity, enhance customer service, and manage the supply chain. Similarly, they can also use IIoT & automation to drive product related benefits, such as improving product quality, increasing uptime (decreasing the time the product is down for maintenance or repair), and using actual performance data to drive future design changes in the next generation of products. This creates new opportunities for end-use industries as well as machine builders. Organizations can set up and install machines more quickly. Customers can partner with machine builders to spot problems before they occur, so they can schedule maintenance before operations are interrupted.

To understand this let us look at a scenario. In a critical manufacturing line, a CNC machine tasked with turning a thread on forged component has went down. The manufacturer dispatches a service technician by plane to figure out what is wrong. Till the service technician identifies the problem and prescribes a fix by procuring the right spare parts, the machine remains idle and the entire line stops in turn affecting the delivery targets. What if that same service technician could diagnose and repair the machine without ever leaving office? And what if, a week earlier, the machine had let the service technician know that it needed maintenance?

This opportunity exists right now, IIoT & automation enabled machines today provide you that critical edge required for you to make your products that much smarter & efficient. To understand these possibilities, let us look at the adoption of IIoT by an Indian machine manufacturer to build a system that is connected to an on-site computer. This on-site computer can be accessed via internet by the manufacturer. This system provides production and other status information to the supervisors and managers on-site. It also provides relevant information to the CNC machine manufacturer located remotely.

This system has a dash board to show production data and stoppages, machine running status - In Cycle / Emergency / Not running, provides hourly part count - by program number / numbers of programs, Down time or Machine stoppages, Power on time, operating time & cutting time.

"CNC ALARMS AND PREDICTIVE ALERTS" enables the on-site engineer to trouble shoot critical alarms effectively by guiding him through relevant images and steps.

Preventive maintenance activities that are recommended by the machine manufacturer are displayed along with the image of relevant part of the machine to aid the on-site engineer to carry out these activities easily.

Predictive maintenance alerts provides information regarding the upcoming maintenance activity. The information will have type of schedule for each alert – either time based or cycle based, along with the image of the area of the machine where it needs to be done with a systematic procedure of how it needs to be done. This will allow the engineer to plan & conduct activity to ensure trouble free running of the machine

A record of all Operator messages, System alarms and MTB codified alarms are time stamped for deeper analysis.

This is just one example of how a Smart enabled machine (line/factory) transmitting real-time data to the Maintenance Department and MTB, would experience lower maintenance downtimes / breakdown times leading to reduced product-manufacturing costs — all of which could translate to lower prices at point-of-sale.


As IIoT & Automation provides huge opportunities for automated data acquisition, manufacturers will be able to adapt this information not only for incremental improvements but also for radical transformation of their products, services and business models. IIoT & Automation gives manufacturers the opportunity to create "intelligent" products that can sense, learn, and predict customer needs as well as interconnect with other product and information ecosystems. A controlled integration approach would be required to accommodate thousands of legacy machines already installed in the field. A Smart Factory that is Digitally Connected to the entire ecosystem including Machine manufacturers, Vendors, Suppliers, Service providers and customers would result in lesser Downtimes, better maintenance, improved asset performance, quick turn-around times - all leading to Increased Operational efficiency, higher productivity, new business opportunities and increased profitability.

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