Rittal helps spur global revolution around IIoT
Manufacturers with long histories in both Germany and the United States as especially excited about the U.S. having Partner Country status at the 2016 Hannover Messe on April 25-29. Rittal is one such company, with a long association with the show, and a expanding footprint in the U.S. Glenn Wishnew, senior product manager at Rittal Corporation, discusses both the historic ties Rittal has with Hannover Messe and the new prospects surropunding the Industrial Internet of Things (IioT) and its potewntial impact on global manufacturing.
CFE Media: Rittal has had a long association with Hannover Messe. In this year with the U.S. as the Partner Country, why should Hannover Messe be important to the U.S. market? How is that market different than its German counterparts?
Wishnew: Germany, where Rittal is headquartered, has a long history as a center of machine technology and for industrial innovation. Hannover Messe is where the whole Industry 4.0 concept was born, which has had a particularly profound effect on Rittal in the United States because Rittal embraces manufacturing on a global level.
With the world’s largest economy, the United States has been experiencing a manufacturing resurgence in a few areas. From our perspective, Industry 4.0 is part of what’s making that resurgence possible, by making us more responsive to emerging customer needs and eliminating rework and waste.
CFE Media: We’ve seen a surge of interest in IIoT and Industrie 4.0 in Germany. Our research shows a lot of interest, but not a lot of awareness of specific benefits. What is Rittal’s message about IIoT and its importance to the future of manufacturing?
Wishnew: The Industrial Internet of Things is the next step in the evolution of integrated design and production. It will impact how all manufacturers build their products, as it is already affecting the way Rittal designs and builds customized enclosure solutions for its customers. The underlying concept is an outgrowth of a variety of production processes made possible by new technologies.
The focus is no longer simply on optimizing individual engineering, production or logistics stages separately but rather on integrating them to establish efficient, cost-effective processes with maximum flexibility and high customer benefit. Customer requirements need to be understood and applied at the engineering stage in order to keep product and production data consistent.
By linking people and information with design and production equipment, IIoT tools provide Rittal and its enclosure customers enormous advantages:
- They make it easy to modify enclosure designs to meet customer requirements precisely and know what all the ramifications of a design change will be quickly. That includes changes to costs, production timetable, impact on other aspects of the manufacturing process, etc. long before production of the enclosure begins.
- They allow for faster design and production turnarounds for significantly shorter delivery and commissioning times. That allows Rittal customers to get the new equipment they need to support their own operations in place faster, and have greater confidence about meeting their own deadlines.
- They allow engineers to predict how a design will perform in the field before the enclosure is ever built so design modifications can be incorporated early and inexpensively.
- They ensure greater energy efficiency of the completed enclosure.
In order to remain profitable, all manufacturers need the ability to integrate data from a growing array of sources in order to gain a "big picture" of their operations. Although commercial tools have long been available to provide Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) information to factory management, they tend to be focused on finding root causes for problems that have already happened rather than on providing predictions that managers can use to prevent problems.
The IIoT concept goes well beyond real-time condition monitoring and fault diagnosis. Tools for peer-to-peer comparison and factory health information gathering from systems and their components will allow triggering maintenance activities and process adaptation. IIoT will ultimately link all aspects of production from engineering to manufacturing in one value-added chain.
In essence, IIoT is all about data, software and interfaces and the ability to use them to model and simulate the final product in a virtual environment to optimize the design and eliminate errors prior to actual manufacturing. Rittal is bringing IIoT technology to electronic enclosure and panel manufacturing by integrating the offerings of several sister companies to create a seamless value chain.
A seamless value chain can make it possible to slash engineering/production costs by up to 50%. Some manufacturers have also been able to shorten design times by up to 60% by reducing delays caused by repetitive rework involved in design changes.
CFE Media: What should U.S. manufacturers, regardless of size, be focused on today to get stronger?
Wishnew: Embracing the principles of Industrie 4.0 and IIoT and making the investments needed to make them a reality are critical. They especially need to focus on making the capital improvements necessary to make that happen now, when the cost of borrowing for these improvements in the United States is at historic lows—interest rates are only going to go up from here.
CFE Media: Manufacturing has faced significant challenges in the early stages of 2016. What’s the message to your customers today about why it’s still important to continue to invest in manufacturing?
Wishnew: A big part of the challenges in terms of investment in manufacturing has really been driven by the drop in the oil and gas market. With gasoline now at less than $2.00 per gallon and a lot of supply on the market, this has put a damper on investment for that sector. Fortunately, it appears that drop has bottomed out, and it’s limited to a single sector. But from our perspective, improving your manufacturing capabilities and integrating your systems to serve your customers better and faster is always a good investment.