How much does one minute of your production cost?
This same question has been asked by many people and companies across the globe. According to a study in the US, the cost of production stops varies depending on the company but could reach, for example, around $22,000 per minute in companies in the automotive sector. Moreover, a similar study focused on data center shutdown times averaged $8,000 per minute. Today, a drop in the data center of a company can probably force to stop all or part of the chain of production, reaching high amounts in losses of income. This gives us an idea of the weight and impact that IT technologies currently have on the network of industrial companies.
Which factors exacerbate the lack of control over systems and processes?
Currently, the lack of control in both production processes, supply chains, etc. such as the lack of control over resources, are the main factors causing huge losses of income for companies. These factors are aggravated by the diversity of the elements to be controlled: multiple systems and different equipment manufacturers, geographically dispersed systems or hard-to-reach locations, among others. The configuration and understanding between monitoring systems become tedious and complicated due to the differences mentioned above, which ends up impacting the end customer's wallet.
From "connected factory" to "connected enterprise"
The control and monitoring of both parts of the business, IT and production, must be seen as a single element, and therefore it must be unified. The idea is to "monitor everything" (#MonitorEverything) in the same system: software like ERP, PLCs, robots, servers, databases, switches, and routers, among others, as well as the security of our equipment, especially today that all things are connected. The idea is to take a step beyond the "connected factory" or "smart factory" to talk about "connected business" or "smart business" by bringing together the monitoring of these elements in a single system.
When we talk about "smart business", the manufacturing chain is the segment that most challenges entail. Regardless of the specific production process, there are thousands of variables that can influence the quality of the final product or the performance of the line / machinery. But which of these variables are really important and which are not?
It is very important to distinguish which are the most important variables that add value to the customer's business, and to control them. Historically, when we talk about industrial processes, companies have chosen to implement SCADA solutions to control their production processes. Although SCADA is a very robust and commonly accepted system within the industrial community, with the advent of IIoT, other distributed control systems (DCS) have divided the cake since the solutions based on SCADA platforms have become less flexible and notably more expensive than the current solutions proposed by IoT and IIoT.
Advantages of centralized monitoring systems
The great advantage of today's IIoT-oriented systems is the wide variety of solutions they offer, and we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. The current market offers multiple options that allow you to easily collect real-time data and display them on fully customizable dynamic dashboards. Within this range are included free software solutions (Open Source) that allow saving the licenses compared to proprietary software. This provides a great advantage to companies since they are not limited to a single solution of a manufacturer, but they have the full range available, being possible even to integrate several DAQ systems with a centralized tool.
The advantage of these systems lies also in their flexibility. Networked systems must remain flexible in order to react quickly to changes. As a result of the opening of today's monitoring systems, production systems can scale up and expand more easily. Networks can be configured individually and flexibly with a few mouse clicks. Sensors or Endpoints can be added to the network or easily moved from one point to another with little or no impact for the manufacturer or to the centralized monitoring platform. Through industrial communication standards, the information is collected by strategic "coordinators" within the factory and transmitted to the central monitoring platform.
Analysis of information is done through maps, charts and dashboards, similar to those provided by SCADA solutions, but more powerful and 100% customizable. Only the data that really matters is shown, and in the way of interest for the company, and not the total of scattered data in diverse screens that in many cases just annoys and doesn´t help to tackle the problems.
Another key point is the alarms: these can be as complex as we want and check, for example, that certain thresholds are exceeded in several systems under certain conditions, taking into account interdependencies, thus avoiding avalanches of alarms. These alarms, which can even be predictive on the basis of historical, can trigger multiple actions: from simple email or SMS notifications to sounding alarms or to act automatically by executing commands on a server or activating actuators.
The centralized platform manages the data and the actions to be performed. It integrates networks beyond hierarchy levels, from the production sensor to the smartphone at the enterprise level. Production data can be transferred directly to the company's ERP system, or be stored in the cloud.
Just worry about running your business and sleep peacefully
As you can imagine, the possible applications are very numerous and at a lower cost than similar products offered by the usual manufacturers. But above all, the greatest monitoring advantage is to provide the end user with the ability to operate their business with the peace of mind that the system will warn you of any anomaly, wherever you are.