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Production workers of the future move from manual to digital

One of the notable trends in heavy industries has been the move towards digitalization. This has an inevitable effect on the roles of current industrial production and maintenance workers. The change brings about questions regarding company core activities and responsibilities, says Mikko Mäki-Rahkola, the Development Manager IT at Pesmel, an internal logistics solutions supplier.

Digitalization brings its own set of requirements for the workers on the factory floor. The need for manual labor lessens, and at the same time specialization in maintenance and upkeep becomes more relevant. In the future looms the idea of a fully automatic factory, where there might be only one worker in charge of the whole production facility. Still, the need for workers who have specific maintenance insight on the different parts of the automated facilities, will exist for a long time due to lack of self-maintaining or self-repairing equipment in sight.

“Let’s say there were a hundred workers on an assembly line in the beginning of the 20th century. Today, there are only ten assisted by automatic equipment and software. In 2030, a single person may oversee multiple production facilities and lines remotely without any workers participating in the physical production process”, Mäki-Rahkola says.

In contrast to the ever smaller number of workers needed for the production, the amount of maintenance staff will increase, as there are more automatic devices which require professionals to keep them in working condition.

For production facilities where the machinery is custom built for its particular use or for which the maintenance requires more specialized knowledge, this maintenance staff will be increasingly hired from a specialized contractor, most often the equipment provider. The kind of maintenance, which requires only basic knowledge of the equipment or the production process in question could still be handled in-house.


“In 2030, a single person may oversee multiple production facilities and lines remotely without any workers participating in the physical production process.”

“Industrial equipment maintenance will be performed by humans for tens of years to come. Regarding the question of how they receive information for the task at hand and how they will perform the tasks, I believe that we will see significant changes in ways of working”, Mäki-Rahkola says.

The benefits of IoT implementation realize over a lengthy period

The rate at which the aforementioned change becomes topical for companies depends on their speed in investing to new technology. And, Mäki-Rahkola mentions, what works for one company might not work for another – the solutions regarding the Industrial Internet need to be tailored for the needs of the client.

“The maturity of discussion and customer-vendor dialogue around IoT solutions is still quite low today and very technology driven. As a result, the actual IoT solution business integration might get fully left for the client, who then has to find out how they can best utilize the provided tools and information. The fact is, that a solution that brings 100 units of extra benefit for another company might bring none to some other”, Mäki-Rahkola says.

Even though the interest towards the Industrial Internet and the possibilities it brings has grown considerably over the past few years, the actual change happens incrementally instead of sudden huge leaps.

“Many industrial operators are playing it safe at the moment, and waiting to see how the current trends develop. Also, the investment cycles, especially in heavy industry are long and can easily span over a decade or more”, Mäki-Rahkola reminds.

The evident and instant benefits from investing into the research concerning the Industrial Internet cannot always be calculated straight away, and it is always easier to follow other companies’ examples than to be the one doing pioneer work in the field.

“I believe that you have to have faith in your vision, take controlled risks and believe in the fact, that your clients will appreciate the added value when they see it.”

Despite the long cycles, according to Mäki-Rahkola, we are going through an interesting and accelerating period in the development of the industrial business. Even though the digitalization process takes time, if someone develops a truly disruptive operating model or a product, there might occur a sudden surge forwards in the way we understand IoT.

“It would be interesting to see what this kind of a disruption might entail, but as the environment differs radically from the commercial markets, there is a higher threshold for these kinds of disruptions to emerge”, Mäki-Rahkola says.

To sum it up, it is challenging to envision how the factory floor of the not-so-far future will look like, but what is certain is that the role of the workers will certainly be different. The digitalization of manufacturing and maintenance doesn’t remove the human factor from the process, it merely transforms it into something completely different.

Mikko Mäki-Rahkola works as Development Manager IT at Pesmel

Interview w/ Mikko Mäki-Rahkola

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Building the reference framework for the IoT

Bryan Moyer of Electronic Engineering Journal has written an introduction to the IoT framework, which aims to establish common standards in setting up the industrial internet. Moyer provides four different viewpoints on the different aspects of the industrial internet, from a business point-of-view straight to the material world in which it operates. It also offers an overview on the challenges the industrial internet brings to maintaining a safe workplace. You can find a link for the whole Industrial Internet Reference Framework at the end of the article. Read more at: http://www.eejournal.com/archives/articles/20151130-iiot/

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Via Electronic Engineering Journal

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Smarter manufacturing – A chat with Haresh Malkani

The Industry of Things World USA 2016 takes place on February 25-26, 2016 in San Diego. The forum gathers together international industrial IoT and advanced manufacturing stakeholders to challenge current thinking, unveil latest innovations and create connections with over 400 peers from around the world.

Industry of Things World USA had the opportunity to discuss with Haresh Malkani, Manager of the Manufacturing Intelligence & Automation Technologies Division at Alcoa, to discuss the impact of the Industrial Internet prior to his talk at the event: http://industryofthingsworldusa.com/cms/media/uploads/events/2069/dokumente/Automation_and_Smart_Manufacturing_Malkani_Alcoa.pdf

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Via Industry of Things World USA

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Successful Industrial Internet implementation requires a broad view

How should a company begin implementing the industrial internet in their business? What are the methods by which companies can ensure that they are on the cutting edge of the on-going revolution?  The answers vary depending on the company in question, but the main thing in the increasingly demanding and competitive industry sectors, is to have an open mind and a willingness to try new things. You can find concrete examples of how it works for both the clients and the companies in the automotive industry, as well as the steel industry, says Oscar Lindqvist, Senior Advisor at SAS Institute.

In the recent years the customers in various industries have become more demanding due to increased competition and the troublesome market situation, and this brings new challenges on how companies can answer these demands.

“Companies can differentiate themselves from their competitors and establish a clear competitive edge by being the first in implementing new solutions to these new challenges”, Lindqvist says.

That could be monitoring your whole manufacturing process to ensure that everything that can be done to make the process more effective is taken into account. It could also include making the maintenance of a fleet of trucks more intuitive and predictive. There is a large array of ways you can add value to your business.

A holistic approach to quality control

In the steel industry, it is of utmost importance, that the final delivered materials meet the quality demands of the clients. If the quality doesn’t fulfill these demands, an extensive process begins.

“There’s the factor that steel doesn’t have a best before date, so some time might have passed from the date of the actual manufacturing to the moment, when the company begins to analyze the reason for the faulty batch”, Lindqvist says.

“This process of finding the root cause can take months and in the meanwhile put a serious dent in the output of the plant and affect the whole supply chain, as well as other clients, who now have to wait an additional period of time to receive their orders. This takes its toll on the value received by both the customers and the manufacturer in question.”

The Industrial Internet applications offer a solution to this by making it possible to monitor the whole manufacturing process, and gather information about it.

“You can for instance see what the temperatures were in different parts of the process, who was working on the batch that was manufactured and where the raw material came from.”

By analyzing this collected data, you start to notice connections relating to different circumstances in the process and begin to see why certain results surface, and make adjustments accordingly.

Better service through collected data

Another good example of applying the ideas of the Industrial Internet to gain a competitive edge comes from the field of automotive industry. A North European truck manufacturer has begun collecting data from routine truck maintenance in thousands of service points globally, and sending it all for processing and analyzing in their headquarters. By doing this the company can determine the remaining life cycles of certain components in the trucks and determine how long they last – or should last.

From there the processed information continues on to product development, where it can be used to make the manufactured trucks better. The information is sent back to the service points to improve the maintenance. With this data, the manufacturer can offer services and maintenance that add extra value for the clients.

“The service points can offer a campaign on brakes that relies on the expected life cycles of the part and offer the clients deals in the service points”, Lindqvist says.

The business benefits grow according to how largely they utilize these possibilities. The small streams form a large current when you’re talking about the uptime of an entire fleet of trucks. For large companies the yearly savings can be counted in millions.

Think outside the box

Both the examples mentioned earlier apply a somewhat unconventional way of approaching the businesses in question, at least from a traditional point-of-view. This might mean for example taking advantage of the large amount of information crunching start-ups.

“Start-ups are agile and have new thoughts on running businesses, so they can come up with innovative solutions fast”, Lindqvist says.

In other cases businesses can set up events to allow for a different view of thinking about the business. Recently, hackathons have become a prominent option for developing new solutions for the needs of companies. Having these kinds of events and having smaller companies participate in the development of new approaches to the business makes the whole process more agile. It also makes it possible to come up with completely new solutions to optimizing the work flow of the production plant.

“The challenge in having these kinds of approaches comes from the fact that often the added value doesn’t show immediately, instead it requires a mindset akin to scientific research from the companies willing to develop new solutions. For companies such as Google and Amazon this is easier, as their core business isn’t as clearly defined as in traditional industries. For industrial businesses it’s more important that the approaches they develop remain close to the core business.”

Oscar Lindqvist works as Senior Advisor at SAS Institute

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Interview w/ Oscar Lindqvist

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Creating new business opportunities means finding the lines that connect the dots

For OEM’s, with Industrial Internet comes the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by shifting their focus from developing features to identifying completely new service models. According to Alexander Damisch, Senior Director, Business Transformation at Wind River, coping in the ever-intensifying competition requires changing the entire approach to how and where business happens. Using Industrial Internet to data monitoring can help detect aspects that turn out to have a crucial impact on the overall process. However, achieving breakthrough results calls for thorough digital understanding on different levels.

Original Equipment Manufacturers at the forefront

Damisch states that equipment manufacturers are the true ambassadors at the forefront of the Industrial Internet. However, most of today’s equipment manufacturers aren’t making full use of this opportunity, but instead focus on competing on a feature level with the rest of the operators in the market. This is something that Damisch sees as a hindrance.

“Back in the day manufacturing of many industrial components, such as control systems and electrical drives, used to be rocket science, so to speak, but not really anymore. There are multiple smaller players in the field challenging the traditional giants with their offering, meaning that there is a constant pressure to compete on price,” Damisch says.

Lower-cost manufacturers who manage to produce components and services that are basically good enough to fit the needs of the industry put OEM’s in a fairly unpleasant position. Especially for the so-called high-end brands simply lowering the price for individual products is not really an option.

“Cost reduction is anything but straightforward. You don’t just decide to start selling Rolex watches at a cheaper price. You need to either find a way to reduce costs on the operational level, or learn how to scale your products in a different way.” According to Damisch, the key is to focus on creating new opportunities for generating revenue. This is where IoT plays a crucial role. “Basically you need to let your client know that you no longer will sell them a vehicle, but instead you sell them the ability and the know-how to manufacture one faster, better and for lower OPEX than anyone else.”

As an example of a successful change of the entire business model enabled by IoT Damisch recalls how Rolls Royce switched from selling actual jet engines to leasing engine operating hours. As a manufacturer Rolls Royce moved towards a service-oriented business logic, in which customer pays for the expertise that enables them to use the machinery. Hitech is no longer only in the component itself, but in the service system that the engine communicates with informing the service provider of exactly how and how much the jet engine is used, and when it needs to be maintained.

Revealing the unseen

Moving from preventive maintenance to predictive is the classical example of how industrial internet can benefit businesses. Unscheduled halt in any industry can be extremely expensive, and therefore predicting the equipment’s need for maintenance and repair can result in huge cost savings by minimizing downtime.

Furthermore, closer monitoring and detailed communication between different systems and components can help improve the overall production process and increase manufacturing yield.

“Industrial Internet makes us become more aware of the surroundings of a certain process. It enables us to find connections that we didn’t know existed,” Damisch summarizes.

Silicon wafer manufacturing in the semiconductor business is one example of how recognition of a formerly unknown connection can transform the whole production process. Closer monitoring of the surrounding conditions of the manufacturing process revealed that only a two tenth-degree difference in water temperature in the factory had a significant impact to the manufacturing yield.


“Industrial Internet makes us become more aware of the surroundings of a certain process. It enables us to find connections that we didn’t know existed.”

“You would never realize those kind of things by only looking at one element or component of a machine, because it doesn’t show you the correlation between data sets. Getting all the information at once allows us to tweak even the smallest of things at the very beginning of the production chain without huge investments to new machines or major changes to the overall process.”

In addition, getting a clearer view of the entire production process can help companies achieve their aim to optimize their existing efforts, and at the same find new opportunities to maximize revenue. All this plays a major role in production facilities’ future investment planning. With new technology companies have seen the value of investing into IT.

IT/OT convergence for smarter business

Simply getting access to more data isn’t enough to transform entire processes and business models. Companies must of course also know how to make use of it on different levels of the organization, which in practice means fostering open source culture.

CIOs play an important role in helping companies harness digitization and big data, and thus shift towards industrial internet. As the world gets more digital it also becomes more complex, and this requires utilizing different skill sets within organizations.

“The challenge with big data is that if you look at highly complex industrial systems, the collected information is so extensive that converting it into real knowledge usually requires very specific expertise. In my opinion, CIOs tend to have a good understanding of the business decision making systems. However, their knowledge about the operational processes in the production facilities can be limited,” Damisch ponders.

In order to ease the transition towards utilizing Industrial Internet, Damisch’s advice is to integrate the operations technology and IT technology understanding within a company more thoroughly.

“A process controller can’t be shut down if there is doubt of it being infected by a virus. Very different measures apply at the factory floor. There needs to be a mutual understanding between the OT and IT experts inside the company”.

And as standards might change over the years, Damisch also recommends utilizing open source thinking from the beginning.

“Make sure that whatever you build is based on open interfaces or you risk it turning into a graveyard of information at some point. Using open standards, like a Hadoop system for long term data storage, you make sure you stay open to extract the value later on”.

Alexander Damisch works as Senior Director, Business Transformation at Wind River

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Interview w/ Alexander Damisch

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