Fault detection and IIoT: an umbrella for the cloud

Define and analyze data to improve your operational efficiency.


Fault detection and diagnostic (FDD) software can give plant managers a view of operational issues anywhere in the world and can focus on performance issues. Image: Courtesy ICONICSIf you manage your company's national or global maintenance operations-let's say you manufacture umbrellas-each machine operating in your plant has multiple points of failure (symptoms) with multiple causes. The challenge is to manage the different manufacturing assets worldwide to improve production output, optimize energy consumption and make the system visible for all enterprise users via the cloud. This is a project for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Each piece of equipment is an asset of your company. Intelligent asset software can organize all enterprise and equipment data into reusable equipment (asset) classes, which can be organized according to the organization's hierarchy and factory typology to construct a system.

These asset classes can contain all metadata, such as manufacturer, serial number, design number, real-time production data, and equations, and provide graphic templates ("smart" symbols) and trends that are needed to visualize and provide insight for a company's multiple types of equipment. Once these asset classes are defined, they can be easily placed at the appropriate level of the enterprise hierarchy to fully define all equipment and entities to be monitored.

Fault detection and diagnosis

The use of intelligent asset software is a start, as now there is a way to identify and manage assets in an easy-to-manage hierarchical structure. The next step is to connect that system with fault detection and diagnostics (FDD). With individual manufacturing machines connected as manageable assets, you can determine:

  • Real-time status and alarm data
  • Historical data
  • Historical analysis (indicating efficiency curves and energy use)
  • Run time accumulation/downtime accumulation by cause
  • Mechanical drawings accessed from a networked computer-aided design (CAD) system
  • Unit-production data accessed from an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system
  • Maintenance work order data acquired from a network-connected enterprise asset management (EAM) system
  • Fault detection rules.

FDD software helps to significantly reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. It incorporates user-customizable fault rules to weigh the probability of equipment failure and advises personnel of immediate preventive actions that can be taken before failure occurs, improving safety and optimizing energy savings.

When equipment faults do occur, FDD software analyzes current and historical information along with symptom/cause relationships that the system has been taught, executes intelligent algorithms and provides the user guidance with a list of probable causes sorted by probability. This immediate guidance reduces mean time to diagnose and repair, as well as equipment downtime and overall maintenance costs.

Using the cloud

The combination of intelligent asset software and an FDD solution are just two-thirds of a complete asset-management solution using IIoT. The additional piece is connecting these systems to the cloud. There are multiple reasons to consider adopting a cloud-based IIoT strategy in relation to managing assets within a manufacturing enterprise including:

  • Ensure operational uptime
  • Ensure information technology (IT) security
  • Future-proof existing IT and operations equipment
  • Ensure global access to accumulated data.

Without the ability to connect devices from behind firewalls and securely publish data to cloud-based applications, organizations will not be able to achieve the benefits of advanced analytics through computing power in the cloud. IIoT gateways, in the form of hardware devices and software add-ons to existing installed applications inside a manufacturing site or building, play an important role in securely connecting things to the cloud.

An IIoT gateway provides the bridge between an on-premise communications network and a cloud-based communications network. Sometimes referred to as an "edge device," an IIoT gateway provides data connectivity to the end devices, completely on-premise. It also has a communication path that provides data connectivity between itself and the cloud. In the process, factory and building-automation industries, the communications protocol is typically an industry-standard protocol—such as open-platform communications unified architecture (OPC UA), building automation control network (BACnet), Modbus, simple network management protocol (SNMP), or Web services-but it can be a proprietary communications protocol as well. The communication path needs to be highly secure and is often based on a publish/subscribe (pub/sub) mechanism. Emerging communication protocols being used for this include advanced message queuing protocol (AMQP) and message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT).

By combining all three components, you can now visually monitor the manufacturing process taking place in multiple site locations, receive immediate fault conditions due to FDD analysis and direct maintenance staff properly due to intelligent asset technology and connecting to the cloud provided by each site's IIoT gateway. After all, you don't need an umbrella without a cloud nearby.

Melissa Topp is director of global marketing for ICONICS Inc.

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