Over the last few years Hannover Messe has been the global focus for Industrie 4.0. This is no surprise since it is a German initiative and a vast number of German automation and industrial software companies have jumped on the bandwagon. This year, the words were still eminently visible across many, but a deeper look showed that real progress is being made in developing business processes and equipment to implement the concepts so important to Industrie 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
Although we were at the fair for three full days, seeing everything is impossible. So, please feel free to comment about facinating IIoT technologies that you witnessed at the event. One of LNS research’s predictions for 2016 was the advent of the IIoT gateway. We were surprised and delighted to see so many examples of simple devices that provided Internet connectivity to shop floor equipment, some of whose data would have otherwise been unavailable to Internet of Things (IoT) apps. This is important because traditional methods of collecting data that are not used for control can prove very expensive; connecting through a controller and hardwired IO is an unnecessary expense for non-control data. The importance of low cost was highlighted by Siemens, who used simple Raspberry Pi computers with a handful of IO to connect old equipment that had no Internet capability; a $30 solution to an important stepping stone into the world of data availability.
Using existing Information Technology (IT) in an industrial environment is nothing new and there has been a lot of talk about Big Data Analytics in the IIoT world, so when the two come together to make a dramatic improvement in a manufacturing environment, we should get excited. The application demonstrated by contract manufacturing company Jabil on the Microsoft stand was truly impressive.
Jabil used the Microsoft Azure Cloud with Stream Analytics to implement a predictive failure application on complex circuit board manufacturing lines. By measuring and analyzing the position of each and every thousands of pins, it could predict manufacturing faults even when every pin is within manufacturing and positional tolerances. Other analytics, like looking at the solder used when a component was pre-loaded with solder and then fitted simply by heating enabled the prediction of faults previously is almost impossible to diagnose. Jabil also used existing manufacturing data to enable the analytics they use to learn about potential complex faults. The cost savings were spectacular especially since they could detect failure much earlier in the manufacturing process thus enabling them to remove faulty boards from the line at a much earlier stage. This allowed corrective actions to be made and a reduction in the waster of valuable components and complete boards.
IoT Platforms – Getting There, But Apps Still Shallow
As one would expect, there were many companies claiming to have complete IIoT platforms and others promising great things in the near future. LNS Research will investigate in much more depth in its upcoming guide for IoT platforms. Most applications today are fairly light and really there to demonstrate the integration to the IoT platform for data collection and, to a certain extent, analytics.
We expect to see much more rapid expansion of Apps in the coming months, but for now the four main pillars of IoT platforms, Cloud, Connectivity, Analytics and applications development are not equally advanced. Cloud and connectivity are moving fast while apps and analytics are lagging.
And Then There Is Siemens
Hannover Messe really is Siemens’ home ground. Every year they have the largest and most impressive stand in the show and this year was no exception. Unlike previous years there was less pizazz and more solutions being shown in depth. We approve. Going back to its acquisition of UGS in 2007 Siemens has always said that it would build an integrated set of solutions from design to production and beyond. It has taken a while and now we see the dream in reality from CAD all the way through simulation, process design and production management all sitting on the PLM, Teamcenter collaboration backbone. During one demonstration, they quickly flipped up a layer on top of a work instruction to demonstrate in 3D how to do a particular manufacturing operation. The 3D data came directly from the CAD system across Teamcenter. What was most impressive about this little demonstration was it was over in under a minute; no hoopla, just a practical demonstration of real integration.
We should not get too carried away – there is still a lot Siemens need to do to complete its Digital Enterprise story. Although Teamcenter is used from design to production, actual, real-time, production data is stored in a separate database and the two analytics platforms they have; Omneo for product performance analytics and Mindsphere for Production-focused analytics. However, since Mindsphere runs on SAP’s HANA database, we should see some quick deployment even if the integration is back to Teamcenter and MES.
We anticipate by Hannover Messe 2017 there will be even more practical progress. We await heavyweight apps that can be integrated together to address key functional areas such as quality, Manufacturing Operations Management (MOM) and Asset Performance Management (APM). That will be the true start of the 4th industrial revolution.
Access this NEW eBook, "Manufacturing Metrics in an IoT World: Measuring the Progress of the Industrial Internet of Things," presents results from the fourth iteration of the biennial Metrics that Matter research study conducted between LNS Research and MESA International. It places particular focus on what IIoT means to manufacturers in the MOM space.