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Building the IIoT Nervous System – With Everything Connected

IIoT, smart manufacturing, Fortech, Advanced Design and Manufacturing Show, connected systems, legacy equipment
Best practices in IIoT means connecting across the entire enterprise, including everything in manufacturing.

Smart manufacturing is connected manufacturing. During the session, Challenges & Best Practices in Deploying IIoT, at the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Expo in Cleveland earlier this month, David Iyoha, director of software solutions at Fortech, spelled out the considerations that must be in place to make sure the manufacturing enterprise is connected effectively. “Smart manufacturing is data driven. It’s flexible with centralized data. The IIoT is the heartbeat of smart manufacturing, the glue,” said Iyoha. “It can include complete enterprise connectivity, making all systems visual to each other, from the sales department to the warehouse.”

David Iyoha spoke at the Advanced Design and Manufacturing Show in Cleveland, explaining the importance of planning and feasibility studies when deploying IIoT. (Source: Design News)

He noted that when an order comes in from sales, all the systems need to know immediately. “One of the big promises of the IIoT is instant visibility across the supply chain on a common platform where everything is entered,” said Iyoha.

The picture Iyoha paints is grand, but he insists the affordability of new technology is making comprehensive connectivity a real possibility. “Computer power is less expensive. Processing can be sent to outside systems. Robots are cheaper, with entry-level investment at $35,000. Plus, vision systems for the robots are cheap. You effectively get cheap labor in the middle of nowhere.”

When All Systems Talk to Each Other

The ultimate goal for smart manufacturing is that the entire enterprise is connected to a company-wide system. “It’s taking everything we do and putting it into one set of car keys: robots, cybersecurity, smart systems, big data, and storage,” said Iyoha. “Yet you don’t want to become an IT company, so some of it needs to be done by experts in cloud computing. Activities such as simulation, augmented reality, or configurations can be sent off for heavy calculations and then returned with the answers.”

Iyoha noted that most companies are deploying connectivity piecemeal, some here and some there. “At most companies, the systems are not on the same car keys. Most people are only doing part of it – a bunch of little projects that won’t give you the effect you’re after,” said Iyoha. “With true visibility, you can improve supply chain management and make better decisions. You won’t have to wait a week to see how you did. You won’t have to use paper or remember things in your head. You won’t have silos, since all of the systems will talk to each other.”

Connecting the Last Mile of the Operation

You don’t have to wait until you have all new equipment before you begin the connectivity process. Legacy equipment can be part of the connected plant. “What do you do with systems that don’t talk to each other? You get cheap sensors,” said Iyoha. “You first connect the systems that can be connected easily. Then, for legacy equipment, you use sensors to get at least something out of the tools. Then you’ll have IIoT as one system, connecting all the devices together and creating a nervous system that becomes the conductor.”

Data planning needs to be part of the mix. What data does each area of the enterprise need? Then you make sure that data is available on the overall system. “As you get more and more systems doing a good job, the idea is to take all of the systems and ask what information we need,” said Iyoha. “You get the system to provide it rather than having to dig through four different systems. In the old days you went from one file cabinet to another to find what you needed.”

The Pitfalls of Connectivity

Planning is essential, according to Iyoha. Creating the connectivity without sufficient planning can cause a series of problems. Plus, the connectivity needs to be protected, since it opens the plant network to the outside world. “People will jump into TIoT and they won’t plan for the data. For instance, cybersecurity is an issue. Plants used to have a firewall, and now that’s opened,” said Iyoha. “If you have an issue of people wanting to control the data, it’s a battle you must go through. You have to find out if it’s OK to have a black hole or whether you need to be fill that black hole with sensors.”

The solution to the challenge of connecting the plant includes making sure all parties who are affected by the connectivity are included in the planning, and that all the steps along the way are tested. “Use best practices. Do a feasibility study. Generate use cases. Select a platform and do a pilot, create a data source plan, review it with IT,” said Iyoha. “It’s best to involve IT as soon as possible. Get buy-in from everyone involved. On the plus side, CEOs and CIOs are really getting this.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) pushes automation to new heights, people will perform fewer and fewer “simple tasks.” Does that mean the demand for highly technical employees will increase as the need for less-technical employees decreases? What will be the immediate and long-term effects on the overall job market? What about our privacy and is the IoT secure? These are loaded questions, but ones that are asked often. Cees Links, wireless pioneer, entrepreneur, and general manager of the Wireless Connectivity business unit in Qorvo, will address these questions, as well as expectations for IoT’s impact on society, in this ESC Boston 2018 keynote presentation, Thursday, April 19, at 1 pm.
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