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Industrial internet changes the way we approach a machine

The way of operating and thinking about machines is changing rapidly. With the help of the industrial internet, a machine is now capable of assessing its overall condition and working environment. Juha Pankakoski, Chief Digital Officer at Konecranes, explains how the industrial internet provides users with better feedback on how the equipment should be used. Day in, day out, it’s all about reliability.

In the past you would simply walk in to the factory floor and start using the equipment. The equipment could be compared to a black box: you needed a wealth of experience and understanding to be able to operate it. You were never fully aware of the status of the machine itself. Is it working perfectly? Is it in a need of maintenance? Is there some kind of a security issue that you should be concerned about?

Risk mitigation was achieved through periodical maintenance and safety training. This allowed you to observe and notice any key issues within the equipment. Periodical maintenance does not, however, extend to measuring the performance of the machine in real time. Neither will it provide the operator with any input on how the machine should be used in the shop.

Based on a view like this, the material handling industry in general can be described as traditional. There are many good things about traditions and long-standing knowledge, but sometimes they prevent you from adopting a new, out-of-the-box way of working.

What should be done differently?

Today’s technology enables us to look at a number of things differently: how to manage factories, how to use the equipment, what kind of capabilities are required from the personnel, to name a few. The main question is what can we do differently?

It is not all about trying to come up with something completely new – existing technologies allow for new products to be created in a very short time. It is not a question of an inadequate product portfolio, either. It is more a question of combining bits and pieces together and coming up with ideas of how can it all be used.

There are many good things about traditions and long-standing knowledge, but sometimes they prevent you from adopting a new, out-of-the-box way of working

Therefore, it all comes down to thinking about all possible applications in which technology can be used. Technology and the industrial internet enable us to rethink existing processes. According to my experience, the amount of possibilities and benefits brought on by those applications often exceed all expectations.

Building a digital cloud around a machine, allowing it to sense its own status and surrounding environment, whether it’s a machine-to-man or machine-to-machine interface, may change the interaction and the way of addressing and approaching the equipment completely.

Getting feedback directly from the machine

The industrial internet is a real time saver, it enables people to focus on adding value and minimize the risks associated with using the equipment. The majority of the issues occurring on the factory floor can easily be predicted and prevented by increasing the intelligence and awareness of the equipment.

Thanks to its sensors, a machine can be aware of its own status and detect if there are any wears on the brakes or if something else needs to be replaced. The machine also knows how much time it has left before maintenance is needed. It starts monitoring its own status and can inform its users through a wireless connection.

The machine is able to provide users with feedback on how the equipment should be used, which enables reliability, day in, day out.

New set up enhances safety

Crane safety is a top priority, since the cranes sometimes carry, not only huge loads, but also potentially dangerous loads. So, if a problem would occur when transferring a load from one place to another, the consequences could be very serious.

Innovations like smart gear, for instance, allow operators to report any possible malfunctions regarding the machine immediately, thus enhancing safety significantly.

Through remote recognition the crane can locate and approach the user. It can also recognize the load to be lifted and position itself optimally for the task. The crane can transfer the load to the right place and plan its route so that it avoids any obstacles or people in its way. When the crane has delivered the load, it can inform the systems in the facility that it has finished its task.

Combining all these different factors leads to, at least one, clear conclusion – The industrial internet will have a huge effect on the way we approach a machine and communicate with it.

Image credit: Corepics VOF / Shutterstock.com

Juha Pankakoski
Juha Pankakoski works as CDO at Konecranes

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Industrial ecosystems: why digitalization needs systems thinking

Industrial companies should focus on systems instead of just products and services, urges digital visionary Pekka Sivonen, General Director at Vertical Accelerator. In the era of industrial ecosystems, companies that partner up with one another to create functioning systems will succeed. Early adaptors of the mindset will also benefit from the technological leaps that the new 5G network enables, affecting companies, industries and everyday life in unimaginable ways.

”Industrial Internet will cause a huge amount of disruption in industrial companies and their value chains. When parts of value chains are being digitalized, they can become parts of a completely different value chain than before. Therefore, digitalization makes it possible to do things in a completely different way,” Sivonen says.

Digitalization brings data, services and physical products together, combining all of them to a new kind of entity. Sivonen says this will lead to the creation of industrial ecosystems. The research of these systems and their effects is also known as industrial ecology.

”Products become systems – and the whole system is what counts. In the future, a company that only manufactures tractors, for example, is not competitive against a company that can create a whole agricultural production system ranging from seeds to harvesting. A tractor itself is just a part of a system.”

According to Sivonen, the people who are responsible for company strategies should adapt this way of thinking now to be a part of the development from an early stage. Every company should look for possible partners in their particular field of business, because ecosystems define the future of companies: when the system is right, productivity and safety will increase.

“In many cases it means that you have to jump in the deep end of the pool and go ahead learning by doing. Eventually, when Industrial Internet extends over different fields of business and the whole value change is thinking together about how to create things in a new way, productivity and safety will increase. But for this to happen, the actors in the supply and value chains need to be in open discussion with one another.”

The explosive growth of data

Already in 2020, 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet, Sivonen predicts. A large number of these devices will have sensors that collect data, and many of these sensors will be with people everywhere or will even be inside human bodies, blurring the boundaries between humans and machines.

“They key in making all of this happen is the 5G network that will have a capacity of 500 billion devices. Data transfer will be a lot faster and response times only 1/60 of those in 4G. The amount of collectable data will grow exponentially, and therefore data mining becomes extremely important. To make any sense of that huge amount of collected data, the development of intelligent self-learning algorithms must continue.”

Data mining is an important area of research at the moment, Sivonen says. In recent years, big investments have been made in service centers that store data, but the next big investments will be made in service centers for mining that data.

Disposable electronics bring everyday items online

The vast capacity of 5G will make many technological leaps possible, Sivonen says. In industrial environments, this brings about new ways of doing things and technologies that are difficult to even imagine at the moment.

One of these future technologies is disposable electronics: printed materials that conduct electricity. This is one of the technologies leading to Internet of Everything, when virtually any object can be connected to the internet.

“Oulu, Finland is one of leading centers worldwide in developing this technology. At the moment, printing houses are making test productions with electricity-conducting colors. Disposable electronics revolutionize the concept of what can be online and at what cost. With this technology, having an IP address for a printed item can become so affordable that every medicine package, carton of food – you name it – can be online.”

In material handling, this brings great possibilities for tracking things. When objects can be located in a 3D environment, nothing gets lost. Indoor positioning systems are also developing at such a fast pace that objects can be located with an accuracy of 10 centimeters, Sivonen explains.

Virtual reality and robotics will have long-lasting effects on society

5G will also speed up the development of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) in industrial environments. Holograms and virtual reality will revolutionize trainings and simulations for operating an industrial crane or forestry equipment, for example.

Eventually, robots with superfast 5G internet connections will change factory environments. Already in the next five to ten years, there will be significantly more robots in factory environments, Sivonen predicts.

“The robots that currently sell for $1500 will soon cost only $150. When prices go down, it becomes common to have a robot cleaning, cooking, and eventually even performing medical operations, because you can teach a robot to do even that. This brings us to the future of work: what will be done by humans and what by intelligent robots? This is an economical but also an ethical question. Will this increase unemployment and polarization? In the next 20 years or so, this will become a real issue to consider,” Sivonen concludes.

Pekka Sivonen works as General Director at Vertical Accelerator

Image credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Pekka Sivonen

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Augmented reality enables a new way of working

The technology called augmented reality (AR) refers to a live, direct or indirect, view of a real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as video or graphics. The technology has been utilized in mobile devices for some time now, but now with wearable technologies including optical head-mounted displays, AR is making its way into industrial environments. Olli-Pekka Nieminen, Senior Innovation Specialist at Konecranes takes a look at the key benefits AR wearables will bring to the factory floors and warehouses.

We have probably all assembled furniture using instructions and thought it would be a one-hour task. Then, after three hours when we have finally finished, we find ourselves still left with a few nuts and bolts. If we could get the instructions in front of our eyes in 3D, we could really see which piece goes where and the task would be an easier one. And, of course, more fun.

The ability to work freely using your both hands is a big advantage. Even though we are able to read instructions from paper, a smartphone or a tablet, there really isn’t any other solution enabling work with both hands than the wearable technology. But how does one navigate without clicking? Operating the glasses is based on the movement of the head or eyes. You can also navigate using voice commands, or in some models, using a separate touch pad.

In the future we will also see gesture-based controlling and virtual keyboards as methods of operating things. One possible development is also the integration of smart watches with AR glasses, where the menu options would be controlled on the smart watch, which would then project information on the AR glasses.

But what sort of possibilities does this technology bring to everyday businesses?

One of the benefits of AR technology includes sales. Using wearable augmented reality enabling eyeglasses, you can virtually bring the product or the equipment to the clients’ premises. Applications that allow you to model furniture through AR in your home already exist.

The potential in customer service is intriguing as well. For instance, a stewardess on a flight is able to get detailed information through her eyeglasses about the passengers with special needs or requests on board.

Equally, house renovations could be planned utilizing 3D-models and augmented reality software. Architects could also depict how a house would look like in a certain landscape. A retail store can plan the placement of products inside a store. When purchasing a new car, the technology enables us to test how a particular fabric or color would look like on the dashboard. The sales person is also able to bring additional information about a car directly in front of the potential buyer’s eyes.

In industrial environments, such as factories, the AR technology enables planning changes in the layout, location of the machinery or simulating material flows in a new way. A production manager on the factory floor is able to get detailed information on the capacity and condition of the machinery right on the glasses just by looking at the equipment. Or if there is a fault, you can get the fault codes and the exact location of the fault right in front of your eyes. The possibilities are immense.

AR in industrial environments

Warehouse picking and maintenance are the key areas in industrial environments where AR can be utilized.

In the picking process, warehouse workers can be instructed where certain units are and they can sign for them instantly. When there is a QR code or a bar code, the application recognizes a certain unit and its information just by scanning it.

The key benefit of AR in warehousing is speed. It enables the right information at the right time and place, as well as reporting at the same time. It also reduces the costs caused by faults, which occur when, for instance, the wrong product gets delivered

This enables better operation. It all comes down to recognizing and scanning a product and providing instructions for next actions. All of this enables working more effectively and with less training when conducting inventories.

The key benefit of AR in warehousing is speed. It enables the right information at the right time and place, as well as reporting at the same time. It also reduces the costs caused by faults, which occur when, for instance, the wrong product gets delivered. It lowers the risk of sending the client the wrong product. It is also possible that this technology improves the circulation in warehouses. The AR technology will also shorten the amount of training that is needed to achieve a certain level of competence. In a nutshell, the preciseness of the work, quality of reporting and employee satisfaction all improve, while the amount of errors reduces.

The possibility for augmented reality also enables better maintenance. When a fault occurs, the maintenance person puts on his or her glasses, opens a video connection to a back office expert who can pinpoint the fault in the equipment and give instructions for any necessary actions. The expert sees the same things that the maintenance person does and they can co-operate. Of course, this doesn’t mean that just anybody with AR glasses can conduct maintenance or that the need for skillful maintenance personnel will reduce. AR technology supports the maintenance personnel, it does not replace them.

Guidelines can be imported to machine operators, such as how a certain operation can be carried out in the most efficient manner or what is the next job in the queue. Machine performance data can also be brought to the operators’ vision scope, which would show whether the machine is operated inside allowed limits and what its current settings are. This would improve both safety and productivity in industrial environments.

Image credit: Stefano Tinti / Shutterstock.com

Olli-Pekka Nieminen
Olli-Pekka Nieminen works as Senior Innovation Specialist at Konecranes

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Striving for simple and easy-to-use IoT

One way to move the world of material handling for the faster growth of IoT technology is to adapt cutting edge IoT technology from other industries waste-to-energy, automotive and steel industry applications. The fast change of both IT and operating industries seems inevitable as M2M communication is developing rapidly in so many places. In his article Connecting the Enterprise to the Edge, the editor of M2M magazine, Alun Lewis, discusses the transformations in both domains with Yosi Fait, president and finance director of Telit Communications. ”The Internet of Things (IoT) is about to change all that as it implies connecting every information asset directly to the enterprise’s information systems, no matter how remote its location or how small the size of the data load and information content involved,” says Fait. On the other hand Fait also emphasizes that to gain coverage within enterprises IoT devices must be as easy to use as plugging in a network patch cable.

Explore Fait’s thoughts about IoT’s Address to specific operational considerations at: http://www.m2mnow.biz/2015/03/10/30580-connecting-enterprise-edge/

Image credit: Melpomene / Shutterstock.com

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Big data: a key factor at the beginning of the supply chain

Big data can create huge business benefits in process industries – but for this to happen, your organization needs to understand the impact and the transformation that is needed. Jacqui Taylor, CEO of FlyingBinary, explains why people are the key for the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Material handling is a key factor in process industries, such as steel or automotive, because it is at the beginning of the supply chain. In order to reap the benefits of IoT, you first have to plant the data seed”, Jacqui Taylor begins.

In order to make the best use of IoT in a sector like this, it is important to understand your organization and how ready it is to embrace IoT. In order to gain the value from IoT, it is important to understand data. How data literate is your organization? How mature are you at handling data and driving the value from data? These are important issues to consider.

“Data is a key resource, but having data doesn’t get you anywhere. Lots of companies will tell you that they’re drowning in data, but they have no information. What you’re doing with the data is the key”.

One component of that is sensor data and the immediacy it allows, for example by creating live data streams and basing key decisions on that data. This change is essential to reap the benefits for material handling and the transformation of the supply chain, because it helps in understanding the heartbeat of processes and contains the key to delivering the efficiencies of real-time data streams.

Big data technology can also deliver evidence of the challenges that are currently unknown in an organization, it will highlight the key areas of focus to gain maximum benefits for moving into this new arena. This allows a board to change strategy and to drive innovation, Taylor says.

Articulating the art of the possible

Big data also starts to transform the organization.

“People are the key. You have an organization that is set up to do one thing, and that legacy has set up the current supply chain, however people understand the inefficiencies of this and with data can use their domain knowledge to spot the opportunities for change, once they have the data. Ultimately sensors and the changes for IoT need to be embedded across the supply chain, but you can’t change all of this at once, but you can’t ignore it either, data allows you to select the best area of focus”, Taylor says.

To create the change that is needed, people need an understanding of which direction to take and why. This comes down to changing mindsets and being able to articulate what is possible to achieve, with the help of big data technology.

“Data is a key resource, but having data doesn’t get you anywhere. Lots of companies will tell you that they’re drowning in data, but they have no information. What you’re doing with the data is the key”

“You choose wisely where you start and what you do, and you do it with confidence. It’s not only about the process in the organization itself and what you’re creating with materials, but also your impact on the ongoing supply chain. The technology on its own is there, but the question is what can do with it and how you’re going to explain the impact and the transformation that is needed in the organization. So it’s a strategic approach more than something that is missing”.

Change can of course confuse or scare people. Therefore Taylor suggests starting with a pilot plan to create an understanding of what is possible. Looking at a specific project or proof of concept, the understanding then goes into the organization of the challenge that has been solved and the opportunity that exists.

“If you enable people to understand, then they will take those steps – not everybody, you do need the right people to make this transition. If we’re going to change something, you need to understand why. But if we don’t understand what the problem we’re solving is, change won’t be transformative”.

Moving towards results

If you understood what the possibilities were, and the competitive advantages this brings, organizations would rush to do them. To put this in context, Hollywood current invests in a movie with a return of x 3 for every dollar invested. Our clients have evidenced that for every £1 invested in this approach the return is between £2 and £40. Taylor explains.

“Officially, now we’re in a world where we have done digital, and the industrial internet is next. Those people who are going to lead this whole concept will rise above the competition in all sectors by having game changing access to and understanding of the data for the industrial internet. You can’t underestimate the importance material handling will have in this, because it is the beginning of the supply chain. The companies that are involved in this sector have a huge opportunity to make a difference”.

According to Taylor, using big data technology to construct the supply chain in a new way allows you to put your focus on the customer in a way that has never been possible before.

“For example, manufacturing is a global business, and with IoT and Big Data across the supply chain it is possible to understand the bottlenecks and opportunities which exist for any product being manufactured anywhere in the world. Using data from sensors through the production process would mean any delay in the delivery components or raw materials, or an extreme weather event would enable supply chain data to be re configured, allowing pre-production and production processes to be moved to new schedules, “inflight“.

“Whilst there is an opportunity to use big data across many sectors such as construction and advanced manufacturing the fact that you can say, as a material handler, what’s possible and what’s not, is because you’re at the beginning of the supply chain, the rest of the supply chain can’t do that. This makes a material handling business responsive, and it allows for big data to really start delivering on its promise for organizations ready to embrace this paradigm shift”.

The downside of this new approach is that it means using different technologies than those the organization is familiar with. This is not necessarily a problem – it just shows that there needs to be a shared understanding in the organization that in order to get to the benefits, you need big data technologies, Taylor says.

And this, again, brings the people into the spotlight.

Jacqui Taylor is the founder and CEO of FlyingBinary, a web science company that changes the world with data.

Image credit: © morganimation – Fotolia.com

Interview w/ Jacqui Taylor

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