Harnessing the power of big data

June 28, 2022

Data has always existed in the manufacturing environment – in the temperatures, pressures, sounds, and appearance of machinery – but can be difficult to access.

Harnessing the power of big data

Data has always existed in the manufacturing environment – in the temperatures, pressures, sounds, and appearance of machinery – but can be difficult to access.

Manufacturing professionals would spend years or sometimes decades, gaining the expertise that would help them understand the meaning of certain measurements and observations.

Data analysis is essential to help businesses innovate and improve.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises to revolutionise this learning process by turning such observations into quantitative trends that can be leveraged for decision-making.

So, what are the best ways to develop an effective IIoT strategy?

In this article, the experts at OMRON look at some overarching strategies for making the most of this new way of using data.

Step 1: Find a way to gather real-time data that maintains its integrity

Data is becoming much easier to gather and store. Therefore, it’s important to find a simple way to maintain the integrity of this data as you build it. Make sure you have a reliable that can handle large volumes of data. It must be sufficiently secure to protect your vital information from hackers.

The challenges involved in gathering data securely often require more cooperation between the Information Technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) segments of a business than is usually present. Bringing IT and OT together is key for ensuring that real-time data is readily available, can be stored for long-term trend analysis, and isn’t vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Step 2: Analyse the data to understand your processes and identify trends

In this stage, you need to employ analytics to crunch the data from the previous step and see if you can identify any trends. This can be on a moment-to-moment basis (are there any parts of my machines that are currently overheating?) or a long-term one (are there any seasonal trends in production or machine health that could be related to humidity or other factors?).

From a broader data analytics perspective, the algorithms you use might even identify trends you wouldn’t otherwise be able to see. In fact, this strategy has blossomed into a growing market in which third-party analytics companies help smaller manufacturers. In some cases, in-house marketing analytics teams are also taking on the responsibility for plant floor analytics.

OMRON’s Ai Controller is an excellent way to discover these hard-to-see trends. By applying machine learning and optimisation at the edge level, this controller helps you turn tacit knowledge (such as the intuition of experienced operators) into explicit knowledge and extract the most value from your equipment, even without putting any data into the cloud.

Step 3: Determine areas that could be improved with automation

This is vital. You’re not just gathering data for the sake of having an “IIoT application” – you’re gathering it to make informed decisions about how to make your operations more productive. Though it’s important to be using the latest smart manufacturing technologies, you must also have a well-defined purpose.

That’s why it’s important not to rush with the previous stage of analysing your processes.

You should have a thorough understanding of what’s going on in your facility at the machine level before you start implementing projects to improve things. Otherwise, your efforts to introduce automation may have unintended consequences.

Step 4: Design and implement the automated solutions and analyse the results

To truly make a case for continuing to use IIoT in your facility, it’s important to get a clear set of before-and-after comparisons. That way, you’ll be able to demonstrate that your solution has led to real cost savings, and you’ll find it easier to justify future projects involving IIoT.

OMRON can help support your next IIoT initiative with the all-encompassing SYSMAC platform that gives you a single point of access for all data and runs on the ultra-fast EtherCAT network.

You’ll also have access to embedded SQL client technology, OPC UA, and function blocks for protocols like MQTT.

We can deliver a real-time, comprehensive picture of your data assets. And we can help you to connect data, systems and processes throughout your IT ecosystem.

Interested in learning more about OMRON’s smart manufacturing technologies?

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