“Relationships! We all got ‘em, we all want ‘em. What do we do with ‘em? Here we go, I’ll tell ya.” (Buffett & Lee, 1994, track 2)
But first, let’s talk about two of the biggest buzzwords surrounding the manufacturing sector today, the “Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)” and “Industry 4.0”. While I am not going to explain the concepts behind IIoT and why it is important, or how to implement Industry 4.0 technology into your operations, this discussion will cover what happens when you start integrating all these interconnected devices, especially those local to your facility.
Devices: “What do we do with ‘em?”
In addition to using devices such as robots, conveyors and intelligent sensors for the purpose they were designed, you need to be able to monitor them and understand how they are functioning. Because devices collect an enormous amount of data that is traditionally not available to the general user, the question indeed becomes, “‘What do we do with ‘em?’" Moreover, how should the data be accessed in order to make intelligent decisions about factory operations?
The answer is simple: you need a sophisticated tool that captures the data, analyzes the data where appropriate, and then, visualizes the status, health and performance of the device being monitored. This is called “Visualizing Your Operations”.
The Challenge with Traditional Monitoring Methods
Many tools capable of collecting data and managing intelligent devices exist today. These tools either connect to devices directly or are networked together on a plant-wide local area network (LAN). Some tools may even connect to devices outside the facility or monitor everything from “the Cloud”; but that’s an implementation detail. The key point to address is what do data collection tools manage or monitor?
Typically, a data collection tool only monitors the devices from that vendor or supplier. It might be a robot monitoring tool, but it will usually only monitor the robots from that particular vendor. Maybe the devices are power supplies, smart conveyors or sensors of some sort. Again, information from these are probably only accessible by that vendor’s software tool.
Are you starting to get a clear picture of the problem now? With traditional monitoring methods multiple devices require multiple data collection tools. In essence, a monitoring system to oversee all of these tools is needed.
A Single Point of Consolidation Solution
So how do you solve the problem of a growing population of IIoT devices and incompatible monitoring tools? It’s not easy. That’s why device vendors don’t do it.
As a user, you need a solution that can be extensible and incorporate heterogeneous devices. Maybe not natively to the management tool, but certainly by adding to the tool’s functionality. You need a single point of consolidation that can visualize your complete operations.
Now that you can answer the question, “What do we do with ‘em?”, I’ll take this question and dissect it a bit further in Device Management (Part 2). Not only will I “tell ya” what to do, but more importantly, I will explain how to do it by introducing Yaskawa’s new monitoring solution that can be extensible to all interconnected devices in your factory.
Part 2: Not Your Traditional Monitoring Tool
Buffett, J., & Lee, A. (1994). Fruitcakes. On Fruitcakes [CD]. New York: MCA Records Inc. (1994).
Keith Vozel is a Product Manager, Software at Yaskawa America, Inc. - Motoman Robotics Division