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Connected Factory: added value, uses and how to start?

 

Today smart products and digitization can be found all around us in the market. June is a good example of this. This service makes decisions based on external data such as energy prices and real-time information from your meter readings. This gives you, as a private individual, more insight into your energy consumption, and the lowest rates and the cheapest supplier are automatically selected for you.

Naturally, industrial processes, installations and production lines differ from private applications and environments. The process is more complex, there are more data points and the hardware is industry grade. But, if a consumer with a limited consumption can save a few hundred euros a year by reading one or a few data points, then what could be the potential profit for an entire production line?

By ‘communicating’ with your “connected factory”, you obtain information that enables you to make informed pro/active decisions and optimize processes. And it so happens that this is one of the business objectives.

The possibilities are endless. Just think of:

  • Predictive maintenance: With machine learning early predictions of where and when something in the process will malfunction;
  • Reducing waste and unwanted by-products through better insight;
  • Automatic or proactive ordering of raw materials based on parameters such as current stock, customer orders, the current market price compared to historical prices, ...
  • Detecting anomalies that affect quality and/or process efficiency;
  • Providing information or readings to customers in real time.

Getting started

“So, how do I actually get started?”, I hear you ask. First and foremost, you will have an initial business objective for the digitization, such as: cost savings, higher customer satisfaction, better quality or greater flexibility. Innovative and digital transformation inevitably provides new insights throughout the process, with the possibility of discovering additional optimizations and objectives. By first analysing your available data and estimating the possibilities, you can detect the additional optimizations early on in the process. Before starting a full implementation, it is important that you:

  1. Experiment with existing (historical) data. This is often available in dump, but not used. These experiments validate the set objectives and enable you to find additional optimizations.
  2. In the event of no historical data, connect devices without interruption or modifications, such as existing controllers or PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to a gateway or Edge. This can be done with, among other things, the OPC Unified Architecture which supports secure communication.

You can then start to itemize the prospective optimizations.

  • Compile reports;
  • Visualize trends and data, which may or may not be externally accessible;
  • Integrate alerting;
  • Create links to ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems or other Master Data;
  • Link bots to real-time data and knowledge databases;

Are there any other applications in addition to optimizations, in which connected factory can play a part? Important applications that have already been discussed are; customer satisfaction and transparency: access to parameters, quality enhancement... Another example is certification in the production of sensitive products, such as foodstuffs or pharmaceuticals. By recording the parameters or values that apply at that moment, in a blockchain, they become incontestable. And they cannot be changed retroactively. The uses of blockchain include much more than simply specifying data points. You set up smart contracts for example, and integrate integral traceability into the supply chain.

Xylos can assist with your analytics, IoT or blockchain schedules. In addition to visualization in our IoT platform and our templates (based on Azure IoT Suite components), Xylos uses PowerBI for transparent visualizations. Training users to become power users for designing reports? or assisting in the formatting of new reports, is part of a range of services we provide.

Furthermore, Xylos is committed to guaranteeing the security and privacy both of data and applications. This takes into account the current standards, such as ISO27001, ISO27017, GDPR and PCI. Our services in the field of security consist of risk analysis, identity & access management, cloud access security (CASB), privacy impact assessment, application security, data protection, encryption and key management.

>>> Do you have clear plans or do you need assistance with optimizations and possibilities? Then arrange an appointment with frederick.dierickx@xylos.com.

 

>>> Security related questions about your current applications and data (cloud, on-prem or hybrid)? Please contact johan.celis@xylos.com.

 

 

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