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IIoT technologies are becoming more ‘real’

Industry 4.0 implementation is now more possible than ever, Jozef Ceh explains.

While it’s not a new concept, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) continues to generate buzz in the industry with the promise of unlocking further opportunity and great value. Naturally, the adoption rate of such technologies hasn’t quite taken off at a rapid speed but advancements in IIoT have now reached a crucial tipping point.

Jozef Ceh, SMC’s digital transformation leader and electronic platforms manager is an expert on the subject and says that SMC has seen an increase in the demand for IIoT technologies by both current and prospective customers across various industries. He says that IIoT is becoming ‘more real’.

“Thanks to education and continuous demonstration, businesses are starting to realise that there is real value and tangible benefit to employing such technologies. They are realising that IIoT is within their reach and capacity.”

“It is no longer just a future possibility. We are surrounded by evolving infrastructure and return on investment is becoming more quantifiable,” he said.

Experiencing the benefits firsthand: Close the loop

Che said that over time, real-life success stories are coming to light. “We are seeing direct savings and overall value. Through interaction with machinery, production planning and supply chain management is possible. IIoT reaches everyone from the factory floor operator to the senior management level who use artificial intelligence to predict trends in the business,” said Ceh.

He explains that in many forms, value is realised at different levels.

“Slight technical improvements, for instance, could eliminate downtime or bottlenecks and this instantly creates value in terms of quicker delivery to the market and better supply demand management.”

The facts speak for themselves and recently SMC saw great success at a Melbourne-based customer by scaling their packaging line.

“This particular machine was stopped regularly to make manual adjustments, so the objective was to increase throughput capacity with multiple products on one machine – with as little disruption as possible,” said Ceh.

SMC proposed a closed loop feedback system. Using automated smart devices, Jozef explains that the machine now knows where the product is and automatically makes the required adjustments to allow for the product range or to rectify or self-heal any problem situation on the production line.

“When working with plastic temperature plays a big role in how the product will behave. The warmer the weather, the more volatile the product material. With the new IIoT smart system the deflection of a product can be detected and measured by using a low-pressure cylinder and a sensor. The controller will immediately read which product is going to need adjustment and the electric servo drives are then engaged to make the dynamic adjustments during the automation process without stopping the entire production.”

No operator is required – the customer can anticipate the jam and fix it before it happens, thereby reducing downtime and labour.

IIoT is not only about collecting data – but the intelligence behind the data. The data is fed back into the process and can make the process adjustment in real-time. The system provides a summary at the end of each day for informed decision making. Here, customers can analyse the rate of production, the different behaviour of the plastic product lines on the machines, the machine speed, breakdowns etc.

“Now that we have a true data source, we can build models to log data into the cloud and we can utilise artificial intelligence for predictive maintenance, predictive production planning, supply chain management or for anomaly detection,” said Ceh.

He said the real ROI for this particular customer is in the increase of their production and productivity:

  • 4500 units up to 7000 units packaged
  • Cycle time reduced from 100 to 60 seconds to 38 seconds
  • Ability to run 7 products on one machine
  • The recycled raw plastic mix is no longer rejected (more environmentally friendly) because the machine’s performance is not limited by the quality of the raw material
  • Higher throughput – efficiency up from 60 per cent to 118 per cent
  • Self-diagnosing systems allows all operators across all shifts to be productive equally
  • Overall a safer machine
  • No longer summer and winter products due to ambient temperature of the plastics which would affect production. Now all plastics can run equally.
  • Reduced downtime of the machine

“The real secret here is unlock value by closing the loop,” said Ceh.

Start with SMC’s four-stage process

Priding itself on walking the journey with its customers, SMC has taken a practical approach to Industry 4.0 and has developed a four-stage process to help implement such solutions. Here we look at understanding the drivers for change, conducting a digital maturity check, identifying key enablers and developing a road map for deployment.

“Customers can contact us to find out more about the four-stage process and we look forward to walking the journey with them,” said Ceh.



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