Bringing IIoT to Legacy Equipment
Expert views on how to bring legacy equipment into the IIoT environment to facilitate a smooth transition.
To bring legacy equipment into the IIoT environment to facilitate a smooth transition.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Quotes with photos
“A formal but flexible project approach will ensure that 'product' delivers 'solution'”
-Richard Barnes, Solutions Consultant, Intuitive Engineering Solutions.
The journey of IIoT shall be majorly focussed on to – Monitoring, Controlling, Analysis & Improvement”
-Gnaneshwar Kambali, General Manager (IIoT Strategy & Solutions), Hitachi India Pvt Ltd.
“The core is to make your assets/equipment have a digital twin with a ‘body & soul’”
-Avtar Bratch, Sales Director UK & Ireland, Aucotech Ltd
“To become highly productive and efficient into the market and also to match the standards and requirements, investing into IIoT will be a good decision.”
-Chinmay Kamat, Automation/Industrie 4.0/IoT/IIoT Solutions Professional
“Our approach to the IIoT market is to provide a comprehensive solution of EDGE, SCADA, MES and IIoT solutions including Analytics for the End User”
-Aparna Gopalakrishnan, Director – Operations & Finance, Automation Excellence
“Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem is a scalable portfolio of solutions harness the power of the Industrial IoT to expand digital intelligence to the entire manufacturing enterprise”
-Mani Janardhanan, VP Product Management, Emerson Automation Solutions
Yes, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is going to revolutionise the manufacturing vertical. The process has already started. In fact the market for IIoT devices and technologies is estimated at USD 64.00 bn in 2018 and expected to grow to USD 91.40 billion by 2023, according to market research agency MarketsandMarkets. But the total spend for IIoT is going to be much higher than that, according to Econocom, a Paris based company that describes itself as a ‘digital transformation maker’, with presence in 19 countries. One of the blog posts from this company predicts that over the next three years, manufacturing companies worldwide will spend over €900 billion on deploying IIoT projects. While this appears to be a huge amount, it must be understood that the global manufacturing activity is over USD 12 trillion per annum, which puts this figure into perspective, and in the realm of reality.
While the large corporates and manufacturing giants are early adopters of these emerging trends in the wake of Industry 4.0, the growth of the IIoT market is driven by factors such as increasing adoption of automated systems by several small and midsized companies. These are the companies that do not have the luxury of discarding their old and existing machinery and production infrastructure to make a fresh start with all new equipment even as they realise the advantages of reduced production costs, thereby lessening expenses and increasing RoI of the overall process.
This is a huge opportunity for companies engaged in bringing legacy equipment into the IIoT era. Industrial Automation posed this question to a few experts from the vendor community as to how they propose to make legacy equipment IIoT-enabled and this opened an interesting exchange of email conversation. “It can be done by simply obtaining the appropriate digitisation gateway and Edge Connector, but this depends on the particular nature of the installed base equipment and its relationship to the required business benefit. Where are the 'golden nuggets' of data hidden to derive the business needed solution,” says Richard Barnes, Solutions Consultant – Instrumentation, Control, IIoT and Plant Asset Management, Intuitive Engineering Solutions. The UK-based company has expertise in the fields of process automation, historical data, management information systems and software engineering.
It is one thing to deploy sensors on old equipment to collect data, but to make sense out of this is a different challenge. “To embrace IIoT you need software as an enabler,” says Avtar Bratch, Sales Director UK & Ireland, Aucotech Ltd, a company that develops engineering software for the complete life cycle of machines, plants and mobile systems. Aucotec’s Engineering Base is a cooperative platform with central data management plus intelligent, team-oriented editing. Every change is shown in every representation of the changed object – without waiting times or complex synchronisation.
But that still does not answer the question adequately. “Based upon an organisation’s maturity and capability, the journey of IIoT shall be majorly focussed on to – Monitoring, Controlling, Analysis and Improvement. To address these issues, the important step is to check whether individual equipments are having the basic instrumentation/sensor, PLC/SCADA or DCS and those are capable to connect to internet,” says Gnaneshwar Kambali, General Manager (IIoT Strategy & Solutions), Hitachi India Pvt Ltd. He is with the company’s Digital Solutions and Services Group, Information & Communications Technology Systems.
The cost factor
Since most companies exploring this option are apprehensive about the cost of such retrofitting, the question naturally arises of the affordability of undertaking this exercise. Aparna Gopalakrishnan, Director – Operations & Finance, Automation Excellence, a company that provides seamless smart solutions for the manufacturing industry, is of the opinion that the option is not costly if handled with a vision. “The selection of the right IIoT platform that can host the Edge Devices, SCADA, MES and IIoT as add-ons and plug-ins enable the User to start with the existing legacy equipment and move towards a full-fledged IIoT system in course of time. An isolated approach may turn out costly,” she cautions.
“It maybe or may not be a costly option for the customers/clients/vendors who are not aware about Industrie 4.0/IoT/IIoT solutions,” says Chinmay Kamat, a professional in the fields of Automation/Industrie 4.0/IoT/IIoT Solutions/M2M Communications/MES. “To become highly productive and efficient into the market and also to match the standards and requirements, investing into IIoT will be a good decision. Not much but it can be started with a small amount of investment into IIoT. Again there are various aspects through which cost can be minimised,” he adds.
“When deploying IIoT solutions, customers should first identify the end goal. Technology should not be applied without understand the core business or operational objective,” says Mani Janardhanan, VP Product Management, Plantweb and Reliability Solutions, Emerson Automation Solutions. “The objective could be to improve uptime, availability, energy performance, reliability, or a combination of these. Once the objective is clear, then the customer could make a strategic decision based on the RoI opportunity. For example: with Plantweb Insight application, we have seen cases where the RoI is realised in a matter of months. Consulting capabilities like those in Emerson’s Operational Certainty Consulting group can work with the customers up front to define the right solution that fits the needs of their facility,” he adds.
So if cost is no longer a barrier, the next poser is what are the solutions available and are these available off-the-shelf? “Combinations of sensors in one package which connect over the LoRa/ZigBee and IoT enabled PLC or SCADA which doesn’t need any intermediate Gateway instead can connect to internet/cloud,” says Gnaneshwar Kambali. “Yes there are plenty of solutions available off-the-shelf. But in some specific cases the customised solutions are required and there are service providers in India providing customised solutions,” he adds. Richard Barnes also opines that many hardware and software solutions are available and are generally off the shelf. “A formal but flexible project approach will ensure that 'product' delivers 'solution',” says Barnes.
There is of course the need to proceed with caution as failure in implementing IIoT projects is not uncommon. In most cases, failure is a direct result of poor information sharing and inefficient collaboration. The human tendency to safeguard information by maintaining different silos and refusal to share this between departments is often responsible for this. IIoT needs complete transparency between different operations to ensure the complete picture is seen, a digital twin is available to pinpoint the source of a problem, identify and isolate it and take remedial measures. As Avtar Bratch puts it, “Solutions are available in many facets but the core is to make your assets/equipment have a digital twin with a ‘body & soul’. Meaning, the assets or equipment (body) in it have various operating scenarios (soul), on this point there is only pioneering software that can provide this off-the-shelf, for example Engineering Base.” Useful nuggets of information gathered from the various sensors and continuous monitoring of this helps in moving from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance mode, thereby saving on costly downtime and production disruption.
The implementation part
So how do companies address such issues? “Our company, Three M Software Solutions, is equipped with a very strong technically skilled Design and Implementation Team along with Software Development Team and an equally strong Sales and Support Team,” says Chinmay Kamat. “Our approach to the IIoT market is to provide a comprehensive solution of EDGE, SCADA, MES and IIoT solutions including analytics for the End User using the powerful Ignition Platform and its ecosystem. We recommend that customers have a road map of digitising their factories step by step, build a security cover, connect multi-location before moving to the cloud,” says Aparna Gopalakrishnan.
Each of these companies offering solutions to these issues has its own strategy and direction for implementation. Says Mani Janardhanan of Emerson: “Our Plantweb digital ecosystem is a scalable portfolio of solutions to harness the power of the Industrial IoT to expand digital intelligence to the entire manufacturing enterprise using innovative sensing technologies, advanced instrumentation, data analytics and services to improve plant performance.”
But one thing is clear – and this has been stressed by all the respondents – those enterprises seeking to implement IIoT in their manufacturing operations or production processes need to find the right partner who will assess their actual requirements and suggest the appropriate solution. Because there is no one size fits all remedy here. “For successful implementation of IIoT, the capability and maturity of partner and the services provided by them is very important and key factor for us, and we have been incubating and nurturing the eco-system for the last 4 years, also we are constantly in touch and working with education and research institutes to spread the awareness and develop expertise,” says Hitachi’s Gnaneshwar Kambali.
Richard Barnes of Intuitive Engineering Solutions says, “Intuitive carefully assess the true needs of the industrial process automation client in determining with them how best to use IIoT and complementary technologies to solve their challenge.” According to Avtar Bratch, “Engineering Base Software Solutions from Aucotec AG is the core enabler for IIoT and Industry 4.0 technologies. A ‘Single Source of Truth’ for engineering data is pivotal to achieve IIoT technology led productivity improvements.”
Today major automation companies like Cisco, GE, Intel, Rockwell Automation, ABB, Texas Instruments, Dassault Systèmes, Honeywell, Siemens, Bosch and Huawei Technologies, to just name a few, and scores of smaller companies plus thousands of consultants are engaged in providing IIoT solutions. Creating a digital ecosystem has become an imperative for every business, not just manufacturing. This in turn calls for an interdependent environment involving enterprises, competitors, customers, regulators, individuals and Internet of Things devices. Then there are other stakeholders that share standardised digital platforms to achieve mutual benefit.
This edition of Industrial Automation has several other articles and interviews that are focussed on this very topic that could serve as guidelines in approaching the subject.
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