It’s no secret that industrial technologies have progressed exponentially. Both mechanical and digital advances have been boosting manufacturing standards for years, but the collaboration between AI-based manufacturing optimization technologies and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has ignited a true revolution.
The Real Value of Manufacturing Optimization Systems
Industrial Internet of Things basically involves the implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to bolster manufacturing and industrial processes across multiple sectors. However, the ability to connect machines and digitalize environments isn’t, in itself, ‘something to write home about’.
IIoT technologies have enabled the collection of big data from hardware-based systems, that’s true, but smart analytics and AI-based technologies form the foundation of the optimization solutions that added recommendations and actionable insights to the mix (i.e., smart alerts, notifications). This resulted in a big transformation that allowed manufacturers to reach new levels of efficiency.
IIoT based technologies are emerging primarily due the plateauing of manual optimization techniques. There is only a finite number of deliverables that can be executed by humans, let alone ones that maintain perfect quality against growing demand. IIoT-based solutions can take optimization to the next level by leveraging data that is generated from the simplest of machines and making smart, instant calculations or predictions.
Adding calculations and smart predictions dramatically increases quality.
That’s because actionable insights are helping manufacturers not only identify inefficiencies, risks, faults and more, but also to make smart and quick decisions.
I can’t get to the bits and bytes here, but if you wish to learn more about the potential of the connection between IIoT and AI, I recommend that you read our recent article: Why is AI-based IIoT such a game changer? Turn data into actionable insights.
Did You Know?
The Quality Challenge
Here I wish to specifically dive into the connection between manufacturing optimization solutions (IIoT being a part of it) and production quality (along with quality assurance). I will later use as an example our partnership with TE Wire to show how this is done.
Knowledge is power
IIoT based optimization solutions aim to make every part of the manufacturing processes transparent and measurable to the tiniest detail. This results in the minimization of human errors and manufacturing defects. The more transparent data gets, and the more accurate your measures are, the better your decision making becomes. This is especially true in the area of discrete manufacturing, where endless data points should be accounted for before optimal decisions can be made, and accurate predictions should form the basis for future production strategies.
There are quite a few areas where technology can boost manufacturing production quality standards. I’ll list five that I believe to be the most significant:
1 – Machine and Tool Predictive Maintenance – Machine wear and tear is one of the biggest challenges that manufacturers have to take into consideration today. IIoT-based optimization solutions can predict defects in machinery before they actually occur, enabling smarter maintenance processes and more accurate estimates of machine life spans and time between failures. This applies to tools that require maintenance and calibration as well.
How is this related to production quality? Well, machinery defects can be responsible for quality issues, especially when production is done at scale. A faulty machine or tool can easily become the prime culprit for creating a batch of defective products or production disruption. When a manufacturer is gearing towards scaling up production, maintaining best-in-class quality becomes a huge challenge, and smarter machines and tool maintenance turns into a survival must. No human can ensure quality facing today’s production demands. Technology turns into ‘a cease or exist’ parameter.
2 – Real-time smart monitoring – Take, for example, power resources such as water, fossil fuels and electricity. monitoring materials is a big part of many manufacturers’ operational expenditure. By using smart IIoT technologies, manufacturers can not only learn about their consumption patterns and find new ways to save power and smartly allocate resources, but they can do so with ensuring that they don’t harm production quality.
3 – Raw Material Traceability– AI-based IIoT optimization solutions enable better inventory and material management. All stocks are tracked and traced for effective management. Furthermore, manufacturers can also measure the raw materials that are discarded or disposed, while finding creative ways to minimize wastage. For instance, ‘material and asset tracking solutions’ support manufacturers by tracking critical assets in real-time using multiple technologies and sensors, running paperless production tracking, improving quality by minimizing human intervention, keeping full traceability of the digital thread from raw material to end product, and leverage AI engines to reduce waste and re-work.
Unless done smartly, implementing smart calculations and minimizing waste while maintaining optimal quality is almost (if not entirely) an impossible task.
4 – Scaling Up Production and Handling Peak Times – Preparing for production volume increase or being able to handle peak times can be a huge challenge from a quality standpoint. Tight deadlines might lead to rushing through quality processes to meet deadlines, more manual errors and extra wear and tear on equipment that can lead to deterioration in quality. An automated IIoT solution can help you prepare and handle throughput increase and peak times while maintaining product quality standards.
5 – Quality Assurance – Maximizing production requires an optimal working environment with a real-time feed from all involved machinery. Problem-solving times need to be brought down to a minimum. IIoT can help by collecting valuable data and other key information from various stages of the product cycle to support efficient quality assurance processes.
Did You Know?
The Story of TE Wire and Plataine: Bringing Smart into Manufacturing Tools
More and more manufacturers are going the IIoT route, due in part to the ever-shrinking margin for error in today’s ultra-competitive market. TE Wire and Plataine have partnered to offer manufacturers an innovative ‘Smart Thermocouples Solution’, enabling them to extract maximum value from their thermocouples.
TE Wire & Cable LLC, a Marmon Wire & Cable/Berkshire Hathaway Company, is a premier thermocouple and specialty wire and cable manufacturer that manufactures a full line of thermocouple wires and cables, from iron and nickel-based alloys to control cables. Temperature is the most frequently measured process signal in manufacturing and the accuracy of the temperature measured is critical to the quality and cost of the end product. TE Wire & Cable maintains the industry’s best equipped and most accurate temperature calibration laboratory.
Plataine’s IIoT-based AI software tracks and analyzes the location, status and duty cycles of TE Wire & Cable’s thermocouples, enabling users to view analytics, get actionable alerts, insights and related optimized recommendations.
The TE W&C thermocouples are being traced using RFID or barcode technologies. Plataine’s software monitors TE W&C‘s thermocouples’ location, status and duty-cycles to provide automated, real-time alerts and recommendations to optimize thermocouple calibration, refurbishment or replacement. The Plataine/TE W&C joint solution improves quality compliance, reduces the risk of using thermocouples that are no longer fit and eliminates the need for manual tracking processes and the risk of production delays.
Other benefits of this smart product include:
Better ROI – You pay for what you get. The business model is like that of a classic Software as a Service (SaaS). You pay only for the tracking you need. Even companies on a tight budget can now prioritize their requirements and invest strategically in what they need. Installation and maintenance are also cheaper.
Location Tracking – Tracking thermocouple movement from station to station is a challenge that manufacturers know well. Smart thermocouples that can be easily tracked hold specific benefits:
- Save time (fewer searches)
- Avoid delays due to missing thermocouples
- Automate replenishment of thermocouples
- Reduce thermocouples loss
Improved Quality Compliance – Enhanced visibility plays a key. Monitoring thermocouples’ autoclave duty-cycles based on their work history triggers alerts that can be set for thermocouple refurbishment, calibration or ‘end of life’ scenarios. Risk of overuse is eliminated and hence quality improves.
I wanted to share this story in an attempt to go beyond the buzzwords of IIoT, AI, smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0, and demonstrate how simple it is to showcase real-life examples of leveraging IIoT-based technology and transform modern manufacturing.
Smart thermocouples are just one example of the ‘so many’ use cases that serve us in understanding how technologies are combined together (in this case, IIoT and AI) to change our everyday life. You can only imagine how much farther manufacturing optimization can go.