Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Takeaways From the 20th Annual ARC Industry Forum

IT and OT Are Converging! Traditionally the Information Technology and Operational Technology groups operated in separate silos and far too often did not work together. Matter of fact, in the past, the only thing they shared was a loathing of each other. However, with an evolution of systems and mindsets, the groups now realize that they are customers of each other and bring best practices from both domains – infrastructure, manufacturing and information.

Big Focus on Visualizing and Analyzing the Data. Manufacturers are using their wealth of data in interesting ways. While some companies are just starting to connect and use manufacturing data to provide a better understanding in their processes, it is more common that manufacturers face the challenge of “too much data” Today’s software systems are allowing manufacturers to apply context so that optimization can take place. Ultimately, the goal is to provide systems that automatically use the data and manipulate the process without need for human intervention.

Information is Bigger Than the Four Walls of Manufacturing. Groups such as Dow and Shell are using data from multiple sources – manufacturing, supply chain and news to form a “Control Tower for IIoT Visibility.” Imagine where an alert notifies a plant that a catastrophic event just took place at a supplier’s factory…or that an earthquake or flood might delay critical shipments - and being able to act upon that information immediately? You might think that this is only for the large companies – but the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) intends to deliver this for all manufacturers – regardless of size.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Making the Internet of Things a Reality at Your Plant

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a giant network of connected “things” (which also includes people – an often neglected topic). The relationships in the IoT include things-things, things-people and people-people.

But what does this mean for manufacturers?

Your equipment can talk to your equipment, to your information systems and to your people (engineers, plant managers, analysts – really anyone). This type of connectivity and data flow can lead to greater efficiency, better-informed decision-making and higher profit margins. To really capitalize on the capabilities made possible by the IoT, manufacturers need to make changes in the manufacturing process and investments in technology.

Phase 1: Identifying Key Metrics and Collecting Data
Companies cannot use data unless they collect it first. Deploying devices that measure data – and the tools to analyze it and yield actionable results – has quickly become a requisite for manufacturers. The first step, however, is to identify which key metrics and data points will help you improve your operations the most.

Phase 2: Investing in Infrastructure and Technology
Most manufacturers cannot build the sophisticated, complex infrastructure needed to truly connect every aspect of their operations overnight. But, as new, less expensive solutions are developed that can be implemented in weeks vs. months or years – the barriers are becoming smaller. A logical place to start deploying this technology is in a plant or warehouse. The next step is to extend that to the supply chain and to customers, eventually building an enterprise level system.

Phase 3: Streamlining Continuous Improvement and Optimizing Operations
Now that the data is being collected and your equipment, systems and people are all connected, it’s time to make that data actionable. Using manufacturing operations management software, manufacturers can analyze data and events in real-time to enable a highly agile and modular approach to operations management and continuous improvement initiatives. This includes the ability to readily scale from small, single plant applications to large, enterprise-level applications. Collaboration and workflow services will support both people-to-people and people-to-systems interactions, enforcing procedures and rules while flexibly adapting to real-time situations, which dramatically reduces the time and effort needed to resolve issues and prevent them from occurring again.