Efficient Plant February 2018 - 48
column | efficiency insight
Industry 4.0, IoT, IIoT, digital factory,
smart manufacturing, and cyberphysical systems have become the backbone
of today's manufacturing operations
because the technology facilitates efficiency and reliability.
HILE SITTING IN a
coffee house recently, I
was joined by an engineer
acquaintance. The resulting discussion
focused on what is meant by digital
factory, smart manufacturing, cyberphysical systems, and Industry 4.0/IIoT
(Industrial Internet of Things).
Our conversation actually had started
with Internet of Things comments. My
friend works for Emerson Commercial
and Residential Solutions, St. Louis
(emerson.com/en-us/commercial-residential-solutions), manufacturer of
HVAC and refrigeration compressors.
We began talking about how they can
use the internet to connect and monitor
What would they monitor? The same
things you all do within your plants.
They can monitor performance aimed
at developing a database to aid future
design and evaluate components. Most
of all, they can monitor reliability and
maintenance issues-downtime, performance degradation, problem prediction.
Oh, and they could possibly sell services.
The maintenance managers among
you readers will recognize these issues.
And you'll recognize the tension among
the many companies wishing to provide
those services. Do you "own" the data
and then use it for in-house maintenance? Do you contract with a distributor or integrator who is positioned
between you and the OEM who might
want to tap into this information trove
and sell the services? Do you contract
with the machine builder? Or do you
go to the source and contract with the
The IIoT can be thought of as the end
result of all the buzz words that I used in
my opening statement.
Design is now done digitally. The
CAD drawings, components, parts lists
are all just digital files these days. The
cyberphysical systems part of this means
that you can have a digital (cyber) representation of just about everything in the
physical world. And not just a database,
but also motion, engineering, performance curves and models, and metadata
of the parts and system. Potentially huge
amounts of information.
This information can now be manipulated and studied. Dump it into a simulation application (maybe with virtual
reality headset), and operators, techs,
and engineers can "see" the process. This
is great for training new operators or refreshment training for current operators.
Suck the information models into an
application with performance information and analyses can be made to predict
problems or even prescribe solutions
before problems crop up.
With all the information coming
back from the system automatically,
think of the cost savings and error
prevention from sending technicians
out into the field to manually record
data. These concepts are more than just
buzz words. They point to very real plant
efficiency and profitability benefits.
Only four years ago I gave a talk at a
maintenance conference where one of
the audience members told me "engineering says this stuff doesn't work."
Guess what? It does. EP
Gary Mintchell is an industrialtechnology subject-matter expert.
He can be reached at gmintchell@