Using 'Big Data' to deliver a competitive advantage

The digital revolution, globalization, and market forces are upending the manufacturing industry, causing manufacturers to face unprecedented challenges

03/03/2014


The digital revolution, globalization, and market forces are upending the PLE1403_WEB_IMG_Big Data_Mary Ramsey_Schneider Electric Image Courtesy of Schneider Electricmanufacturing industry, causing manufacturers to face unprecedented challenges. Senior managers are wary of making long-term investments due to widespread economic uncertainty. 

Plant managers have a hard time justifying system upgrades through increased productivity alone, while the infrastructure of plants and facilities is becoming outdated. Volatile energy prices and rising costs of maintaining legacy systems make profitability hard to predict, and these challenges are heightened against the backdrop of a skills shortage prompted by a wave of retirement of experienced managers. 

Despite this sometimes uncertain market, manufacturing continues to be a driving force in the U.S., contributing $1.87 trillion to the economy in 2012. That’s nearly 12% of GDP. Coupled with this economic strength, a new era of manufacturing is emerging, known as the manufacturing renaissance. It places a renewed emphasis on developments in technology and improved operations to help manufacturers take advantage of unprecedented intelligence in their facilities to boost productivity and stay ahead of the market challenges.

Big Data and intelligent modernization in manufacturing top the list of emerging solutions to help plant operators address today’s industrial challenges by optimizing and modernizing their production environments. Industrial processes create more data than any other source, and the ability to transform this data into actionable insights through data analytics technology gives plant managers tangible, measurable steps to improve operations and productivity.

Intelligent modernization is the practice of establishing integrated, highly efficient manufacturing systems that use less energy, increase productivity, and reduce maintenance costs across the plant. Effective implementation of Big Data and intelligent modernization can revolutionize plant operations, business practices, and the industrial market as a whole.

Big Data 

Big Data and data analytics technology help manufacturers extract actionable insights about their plant’s operations. Plant managers can pull data from their plant’s systems and run it against algorithms to compare a facility’s current operations to the optimal range for a system or piece of equipment. 

This process allows plant managers to easily see when a system or piece of equipment deviates from optimal operating conditions. In addition to spotting deviations, the data can also be used to proactively optimize a building’s operations, from an entire plant down to a single terminal unit. Plant managers can leverage Big Data to reduce energy use. Schneider Electric encourages plant managers to use process analytics tools or manufacturing execution systems (MES) to create a model of how energy is used in their operations. Plant managers can build an energy profile or forecast model from their operations data, and can then use the profile to spot deviations. The MES can be configured to capture all process conditions that exist when the forecast model is violated. For example, plant managers can capture all the settings for a single piece of equipment, including the operator, temperatures, tank levels, and overall conditions that existed at the time of the energy overage. Then plant managers can take action based on a granular understanding of factors that lead to a violation of the optimal energy use forecast model.

Big Data allows plant operators or maintenance specialists to repair or replace a machine or component before it fails unexpectedly. This proactive, planned approach minimizes operational disruptions and equipment downtime, helps extend equipment lifetime, and improves overall operations.

For example, consider a commissioned facility such as a product shipping warehouse that might have dozens of identical motors, conveyors, and variable frequency drives. By gathering data about the characteristics of the machines, plant managers will know the characteristics a motor displays just before it fails, allowing them to effectively execute preventative or predictive maintenance.

Here are best practices for plant managers who wish to collect and analyze their plant’s data to drive optimal manufacturing and operating conditions. 

Collection and analysis best practices to leverage Big Data for industrial processes:

  1. Integrated data collection: Plant managers should implement a dedicated and integrated data collection product, instead of disparate non-integrated, homegrown tools or commercial databases.
  2. Correlation with time: Data collection should be highly periodic and should include an efficient and effective time stamping functionality.
  3. "Selective storage" techniques: The selective storage approach takes up storage only when significant changes occur, while still providing a real-world depiction of operational conditions taking place. This ensures all the necessary information is collected without needing excessive data storage capabilities.
  4. Manage interpolations: If there are gaps in the data due to loss of a sensor signal, the system must be able to fill in the gaps. Additionally, if there are competing values, interpolation capabilities can calculate a weighted average.
  5. Multiple levels: Ensure the facility’s data is being analyzed at various levels, including enterprise, operations, and control, particularly when it comes to energy management.

Integration and modernization

Intelligent modernization is the approach Schneider Electric takes when consulting with customers on their modernization strategies. The approach focuses on creating efficiency through products and solutions that use less energy, increase productivity, reduce maintenance costs, and increase cost effectiveness.  

Intelligent modernization focuses on offsetting capital investments through the resulting increases in efficiencies, and modernization upgrades focusing on energy efficiencies can often pay for themselves in energy cost savings. This approach supports the continuous push across the manufacturing sector, which, for example, in 2008 led two-thirds of all private-sector research and development in the U.S., driving more innovation than any other sector

Integration and modernization helps plant managers gain an integrated, multi-level perspective of a manufacturing facility. This visibility creates opportunities for organization-wide scalability, or what Schneider Electric describes as plant-to-plug capabilities. This scalability allows for consistent operations and data, from a single machine to the entire enterprises. For example, many manufacturing facilities are already collecting data from databases from existing PLCs and other sources. The ability of an integration system to pull data from manufacturing equipment from third-party systems and various vendors allows a plant manager to leverage integrated data analysis without needing to rip and replace existing systems. 

Some data analytics technologies include managed software as a service (MSaaS) solutions—often referred to simply as managed services—to help optimize a facility’s operations. With managed services, external, third-party engineering analysts help aggregate and analyze diagnostic results, track progress, and consult with building stakeholders on more complex or challenging issues.

The managed services aspect of data analytics technology ensures that data is used to keep buildings operating at peak performance for optimal return on investment. For example, a member of the managed service team can help direct the maintenance team, helping them choose the best course of action on a daily basis to optimize operations. 

The managed services team can provide building owners and managers with expert advice on priorities for the day, week, or month that will result in the biggest savings based on unique priorities such as cost or occupant comfort. Additionally, managed services can help reduce or eliminate the need for businesses to hire the talent and skills on their staff on a full-time basis, allowing internal teams to focus on their core work while benefitting from the expertise of building optimization expert business partners. 

Driving value

Leveraging Big Data and intelligent modernization helps plant owners and managers understand not only how their facility is operating, but also why. The “why” emerges through a comprehensive view of collected data from various disparate sources and using intelligent modernization to analyze that data to drive actionable insights. 

Through the application of algorithms and detailed diagnostic reports, plant managers can proactively identify operational problems that would not otherwise be detected. Big Data and intelligent modernization helps plant managers gain a deeper understanding of the “why,” which in turn leads to more permanent and effective solutions in their manufacturing facilities. 

Mary Ramsey is senior vice president of U.S. Industry Business for Schneider Electric.



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
The true cost of lubrication: Three keys to consider when evaluating oils; Plant Engineering Lubrication Guide; 11 ways to protect bearing assets; Is lubrication part of your KPIs?
Contract maintenance: 5 ways to keep things humming while keeping an eye on costs; Pneumatic systems; Energy monitoring; The sixth 'S' is safety
Transport your data: Supply chain information critical to operational excellence; High-voltage faults; Portable cooling; Safety automation isn't automatic
Case Study Database

Case Study Database

Get more exposure for your case study by uploading it to the Plant Engineering case study database, where end-users can identify relevant solutions and explore what the experts are doing to effectively implement a variety of technology and productivity related projects.

These case studies provide examples of how knowledgeable solution providers have used technology, processes and people to create effective and successful implementations in real-world situations. Case studies can be completed by filling out a simple online form where you can outline the project title, abstract, and full story in 1500 words or less; upload photos, videos and a logo.

Click here to visit the Case Study Database and upload your case study.

Maintaining low data center PUE; Using eco mode in UPS systems; Commissioning electrical and power systems; Exploring dc power distribution alternatives
Synchronizing industrial Ethernet networks; Selecting protocol conversion gateways; Integrating HMIs with PLCs and PACs
Why manufacturers need to see energy in a different light: Current approaches to energy management yield quick savings, but leave plant managers searching for ways of improving on those early gains.

Annual Salary Survey

Participate in the 2013 Salary Survey

In a year when manufacturing continued to lead the economic rebound, it makes sense that plant manager bonuses rebounded. Plant Engineering’s annual Salary Survey shows both wages and bonuses rose in 2012 after a retreat the year before.

Average salary across all job titles for plant floor management rose 3.5% to $95,446, and bonus compensation jumped to $15,162, a 4.2% increase from the 2010 level and double the 2011 total, which showed a sharp drop in bonus.

2012 Salary Survey Analysis

2012 Salary Survey Results

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.