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Manufacturers of all kinds, from smartphone producers to those that assemble airplanes, all have at least one thing in common. They make huge investments in machines used to build their products. And there’s no question that uninterrupted production is priority number one.
But necessary predictive maintenance and real-time quality control are often out of reach due to lack of visibility into the inner workings of their complex machines.
Today’s IIoT technologies—AI, machine learning, and edge computing—enable factory operations to be proactive instead of reactive, solving problems before they lead to costly, unplanned shutdowns. That’s why machine builders design IIoT sensors and analytics software capabilities into their equipment.
CANCOM GmbH, a provider of digital transformation solutions and services, works with machine builders to make it possible.
“We help machine builders get data from sensors and analyze that data with their customers. We help them determine what kind of edge devices they need for real-time analytics and what can be processed in the cloud. This enables our customers to deliver a very good added-value service to their customers,” says Markus Fabritz, Digital Solution Sales Manager at CANCOM.
AI and ML Unlock a “Black Box”
A factory machine can contain dozens of sensors or more, which helps it operate at the right temperatures, detect excessive vibrations, and move in concert with other machines or robots. But much of the information these sensors collect remains locked inside the machines.
“Manufacturers may perhaps get data for five of a machine’s performance indicators. But without information from all the sensors, they never really gain transparency into operations,” says Fabritz. “The data that manufacturers do receive is often segregated on separate platforms and doesn’t arrive in time to prevent problems.”
For technicians, the situation is even worse. Because factory floors often lack internet access, they must rely on their eyes, ears, and experience to detect brewing problems in a busy, noisy setting.
CANCOM helps manufacturers solve these problems with the CANCOM Smart Product Solution—a preconfigured Intel® processor-based edge computing device. The company offers a broad range of customized services as well. “We offer a blueprint, an IoT architecture to make an individual solution using standardized modules,” Fabritz says. “The machine builder gets the service from us, so they only need to install this device in their equipment. The end customer just has to plug it into the internet, and then everything is set up.”
The CANCOM platform collects sensor data where manufacturers can view it at the edge and in the cloud through a single interface. AI and ML algorithms can provide operational status in real time. Glancing at the screen, machine operators can fix incorrect settings or tweak them to optimize performance.
Sensor Data Eases Predictive Maintenance
The experience of Austrian plastics recycler EREMA is one example of how the CANCOM Smart Product Solution helps the company better serve its manufacturing customers.
EREMA, a producer of recycling machines since the 1980s, wanted to improve its products but wasn’t sure where to start. The large, complex machines the company builds are outfitted with close to a hundred sensors that monitor the temperature of plastic heating, detect vibrations, and measure the speed, direction, and power needs of rotating parts. But because customers couldn’t easily collect and analyze this accumulation of information, they couldn’t use it to improve operations.
CANCOM worked with EREMA to connect sensor data from customer machines at the edge and in the edge. Today, on-site customer technicians can view and analyze this data, monitoring the condition of machines along every step of their multistage journey.
Alerts about failing parts and other emerging problems are sent to service technicians at the customer’s site and to the recycling machine builder. “If there’s a problem, EREMA can send spare parts right away, which can be installed before a breakdown,” Fabritz says. “This saves them considerable time and money.”
And by integrating their solution with machine builders’ information architecture, CANCOM can help make sense of sensor data, transforming machine builders’ customer operations and creating new business opportunities for machine builders themselves.
By producing better, more reliable machines, #machine builders can offer customers reliable uptime, #PredictiveMaintenance, and other services. @CANCOM_SE via @insightdottech
Sensors Track Tool Alignment
Not all factory machines include built-in sensors. In its role as a solution provider, CANCOM can also be beneficial for those that do not. Industrial toolmaker Marbach is one example. When one of its customers started to experience issues in plastic cap production, it was challenging to track down a reason. Because the tool itself was contained in a larger machine, it was impossible to see that it was out of alignment.
Working with CANCOM, Marbach installed a handful of sensors on the customer’s tools, connecting them to edge devices that automatically detect when the system is out of alignment. The smart system has both improved product quality and extended the life of the equipment. And by connecting sensor data to the cloud, technicians can monitor the machines remotely, performing fast troubleshooting and reducing downtime without having to go on-site.
Providing a Wealth of New Services
Manufacturers aren’t the only ones who gain valuable insights from solutions integrators like CANCOM. Machine builders analyze information from customer machines in bulk to help them improve future designs.
“Having sensor data from just one machine is like getting an operator with 15 years’ experience,” Fabritz says. “Imagine what you can do with data from 100 machines. Maybe you can build a machine that doesn’t break down anymore.”
By producing better, more reliable machines, machine builders can offer customers reliable uptime, predictive maintenance, and other services, providing the builders with new sources of income. Eventually, some may transition from selling their machines to leasing them—a model that is more profitable for them and also appeals to customers, who don’t have to tie up their capital in machine purchases.
“It’s a win-win,” Fabritz says. “And this is the vision of all machine builders.”
This article was edited by Georganne Benesch, Associate Editorial Director for insight.tech.