GAMS preview: IIoT and the promise of better maintenance

In preparation for the 2016 GAMS Conference on Sept. 14 in Chicago, CFE Media asked our panelists to discuss some of the key issues facing manufacturing. This is one in a daily series of articles.


The 2016 Global Automation and Manufacturing Summit (GAMS), presented by CFE Media, will bring together experts from all areas of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to look at not just the current state of IIoT but also at the potential benefits of deployment for the manufacturing industry.

The third GAMS conference takes place Wednesday, Sept. 14, beginning at noon. It is held in conjunction with the Industrial Automation North America (IANA) pavilion at the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show at McCormick Place in Chicago. The event is co-presented by Hannover Fairs USA.

Sal Spada, analyst, ARC Advisory Group. Courtesy: ARC Advisory GroupIn preparation for the 2016 GAMS Conference, CFE Media asked panelists Sal Spada at ARC Advisory Group, Franz Gruber at Forcam, Aurelio Banda at Beckhoff, and Chris LeBeau at ATS to discuss some of the key issues facing manufacturing. This is one in a daily series of articles leading up to this year's conference:

CFE Media: Maintenance is an area of IIoT deployment that seems to hold the greatest promise for productivity improvement. Talk a little about your vision for maintenance and its future with IIoT.

Spada: Maintenance has been the Holy Grail for the IIoT because it promises to replace reactive, scheduled maintenance policies with predictive maintenance. The availability of "big data" and remote analytics has improved the viability of commercially available predictive maintenance because it is far easier for relatively small companies to deploy solutions.

Aurelio Banda, CEO and president, Beckhoff Automation North America. Courtesy: Beckhoff Automation North AmericaBanda: At Beckhoff, IIoT is being leveraged as a major agent of change to improve numerous areas of plant maintenance. Through better data collection and analytics, as made possible by IIoT and Industrie 4.0 concepts, there are great opportunities to improve predictive maintenance technologies and establish a real-time stream of machine and equipment health information. This data can be pushed to comprehensive maintenance dashboards to track all manner of important criteria such as measurements for temperature, vibration, energy consumption, air pressure, and much more. Taking these kinds of measurements has been possible for a long time, but the ability to access and expertly analyze the live data across the enterprise has reached new heights. This permits new optimum levels for machine availability and throughput for maximum uptime. Benefits will spread to other areas such as easier spare parts management, simplified supplier relationships, and more. PC-based control platforms are fundamentally well-suited for application in IIoT architectures simply due to the technological standards they are designed upon.

Like IIoT, PC-based control is part of the ongoing convergence of automation technology (AT) and information technology (IT). Just as PC-based hardware has been put into use as automation controllers and Ethernet has been optimized for use in industrial Ethernet fieldbuses, PC control is inherently complementary to cloud-based systems and ever-more connected field devices in the era of IIoT.

Franz Gruber, CEO of Forcam. Courtesy: ForcamGruber: The backbone of the Smart Factory is a flexible and modular technology that can integrate with any machine and existing IT-infrastructure. It is accessible from every location, time zone, and language, and allows for a competitive surge in overall cost savings and reduction of waste. Full transparency and connectivity are crucial for a modern factory to stay competitive in this day and age.

Chris Fangman, Chief Technology Officer at CSC states: "Technology 4.0 must synchronize physical and digital processes—automate and optimize—and enable companies to obtain real-time production data from any device to respond to any deviation during the production process."

Spada: Plant workers will no longer be insular. The connected worker will leverage remote data scientists that are extracting insights into their operations. Recommendations on maintenance and operational settings will all be affected by the services provided by remote data scientists.

Chris LeBeau, global IT director, ATS. Courtesy: ATSLeBeau: The reality of plant maintenance is that it is, and will remain, a physical and mechanical occupation. Computerization and automation will continue to expand inside plants of all kinds, but maintenance will still look a lot like it does today. The conversation about maintenance, however, will be much different. How it is planned, when it is done, and how effective it is will all be based on the vast amounts of data coming from technologies like IIoT and the applications that collect, correlate, analyze, and leverage that information.

Centralized resources will play an integral role with access to data and leveraging remote tools for coordination with onsite resources. This shift will provide options to have advanced skill sets and capabilities available at any plant, not just the ones that are large enough to afford people onsite. This network effect will extend to a vast array of new resources including access to knowledge and suppliers providing instant parts creation onsite when combined with a technology like 3-D printing.

Effective maintenance departments will embrace these changes to focus their work effort on the things that matter most. This will be driven by plant management having increased transparency allowing better decisions to be made on what to do and when to maximize productivity and profit. These capabilities will also demonstrate the significant business value of maintenance and create better alignment within the operation.

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