Industrial Internet Now
Subscribe
Contribute
Loading...
×

An IoT platform for material handling

The IoT is all about using sensor data to make better decisions. For decades, warehouse management systems have relied on scans from barcode scanners to confirm floor level activities have occurred correctly. In the last ten years, other automatic identification technologies have achieved the same types of process reliability.

According to an article in Forbes, material handling systems are a natural generator of sensor data. Contributor Steve Banker cites SensorThink, a digital platform for the connected warehouse. Making its debut at ProMat, the leading material handling conference in North America, this platform includes a warehouse control system, a digital platform for capturing IoT data, and Cloud analytics for analyzing the data.

“The digital platform collects the IoT data, cleanses it and harmonizes it. The data can come from material handling systems, lift truck sensors, building automation systems – which control the temperature and humidity of buildings, and security systems,” Banker writes. SensorThink compresses massive amounts of data by only collecting change of state data.

Read more about new potential for analytics and optimization in warehousing at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevebanker/2017/04/05/an-iot-platform-for-material-handling/#77581e9b1182

Image credit: zhu difeng/ Shutterstock.com

Join the conversation!

Your email address will not be published.

Learning by doing and the value of pivoting in an IIoT environment

Data-driven technologies and business models are becoming increasingly linked. For many companies, this means that the skills and assets they are today investing in bear little relation to those they sought five years ago, and neither do the services they offer. Mika Parikka, Managing Consultant at LINK Design and Development Oy, holds that the Industrial Internet of Things plays a central role in this redefinition process, as it is fundamentally affecting how businesses are being run and what kind of talent is deemed necessary.

According to Mika Parikka, the Industrial Internet has introduced a distinct shift in business models from times past, when often what companies sold was technology or machinery itself. Parikka is the former CEO of TreLab, an electrical manufacturing company whose activities include retrofitting wireless smart sensor solutions for industrial equipment.

“The question of IIoT must be understood as not being primarily about technology, but instead about positioning and differentiation. After you understand how the machinery is being used, you can begin to see how the business is, or should be, run,” Parikka says.

He doesn’t see the Industrial Internet as being completely defined by technology, although it determines the types of data companies will be able to offer their customers. Herein lies the crux to his argument; customers will essentially come to define the businesses which serve them. Parikka maintains that for companies to reap the benefits of IIoT and IoT, mentalities need to shift form ‘we are only selling hardware,’ to ‘we are selling services that benefit our customers.’

“This affects who the products and services are being marketed to, as well as how contracts between parties are being drawn up,” Parikka says. “At TreLab we provided our customers with technology which they could utilize in IoT and IIoT scenarios. We began seeing the kinds of problems that customers were having in selling and conceptualizing their services as they began telling us that their businesses were fundamentally changing, and that they are no longer billing their customers for what they used to.”

This is not a surprise when considering the types of customer relations that the Industrial Internet is spawning. “Previous business models were largely about selling machinery and technology to customers, whereas in the future, they will largely be defined by customers wanting total solutions. Thus, the most significant change that will occur is that sales, customer services and most notably contracts, will need to be done from the perspective of customer value, as opposed to selling things in the traditional sense.”

“The question of IIoT must be understood as not being primarily about technology, but instead about positioning and differentiation. After you understand how the machinery is being used, you can begin to see how the business is, or should be, run.”

Trial and error yields the best results

Parikka cites Kati Hagros, the Chief Digital Officer at Aalto University and former CIO of KONE, as someone who often speaks about the need for companies to learn from their customers.

“She often urges companies to go with the customer and try things out. Then after these tryouts, once the business model begins to take shape, to fund it lavishly so that is has the ability to overcome corporate inertia, which tends to stifle ideas that appear radical at first,” Parikka relates.

The willingness to engage in these tryouts necessitates a significant internal philosophical shift in companies, most of all from the people at top management level. However, Parikka feels that a mentality shift shouldn’t be seen as totally restructuring what a company has been doing or selling up until that point. This is particularly true for larger organizations who have the resources for testing and experimentation, as well as for setting up smaller units that have more autonomy in terms of serving the customer.

“I believe that those at top management level must start acting more like venture capitalists. Potential solutions to customer needs exist, particularly among those at the frontlines of organizations who understand and see both problems and solutions. The role of top management is to then recognize and understand which of the possible solutions to fund to put the company in the best possible position, and to allow the frontline people lead the change,” Parikka says

He asserts that this is particularly true for industrial organizations who manufacture and produce material products. “Especially for organizations that are now moving into providing anything as a service, the leadership need to clearly lead the way, saying: ‘this is important in our business, we need to do this and above all else try that.’ It is important to prioritize what seems to be the best option, going for it, and changing direction ­– or pivoting as they say in the start-up world – if it doesn’t work. Learning by doing is definitely the way to go.”

The birth of the knowledge worker

After successful learning and experimentation has taken place, the emerging business models will set new demands upon the workforce, breathing new life into them. Drawing on the topic of companies requiring new expertise and new talent, Parikka highlights how knowledge workers will play an essential role from an operational standpoint.

“Most of the work will be about defining the procedures and algorithms, when there are a lot of sensors and subsequent data coming in from different sources. A knowledge worker will need to be able to analyze vast quantities of data, and really understand where all the data comes from. On top of this, the worker will need to create ways to deduce action-oriented alerts from the data. In most cases this is not what we would call programming, but instead, the type of work we would be doing every day in Excel – creating rules and procedures to act on.”

Parikka, who is an engineer by trade, holds that this workforce will be increasingly made up of people with a technological prowess, who will then take the lead when it comes to business initiatives. He concurs with Bill Gates’ statement that ‘it’s very difficult to teach technology to business people, and thus much easier to teach business to technology people.’ Approaching business from a technological mindset will mean that issues such as IIoT data ownership will be prioritized and dealt with early on in contracts signed between service or data providers and their customers. For tech people to spearhead business model realization processes, they ultimately need the license, capacity and funding to experiment to get the best results.

 

Image credit: Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Mika Parikka

Join the conversation!

Your email address will not be published.

How to use plant floor data to make smart strategic business decisions

In the case of HK Metalcraft, a manufacturer specializing in precision metal stampings, IoT has made possible the harnessing of plant floor data. “Connecting the plant floor to HK’s business operations through cloud ERP turned that data into actionable information,” according to an article published by Industry Week. The piece is based on a White Paper published by US software company Plex.

When coupled with what happens on a plant floor, a cloud ERP solution enables “the kind of insight and control manufacturers need to make critical business decisions.” Cloud ERP has allowed HK Metalcraft to manage the downtime of operators and see everything from the direct overhead down to the specific amount of time that each operator has spent doing a specific job. “Now not only does HK Metalcraft know exactly what caused the downtime but they also have actionable data to improve processes and overall equipment effectiveness.”

Read more about how HK Metalcraft turned data into actionable information at: http://www.industryweek.com/cloud-computing/how-use-plant-floor-data-make-smart-strategic-business-decisions

Image credit: Pavel L Photo and Video/ Shutterstock.com

Via Industry Week

Join the conversation!

Your email address will not be published.

How to build Big Data competencies

There are two separate topics to consider when it comes to Big Data. One involves finding a solution to an existing problem or challenge. The second has to do with building something new. Matti Vakkuri, Head of Technology, Internet of Things at ‎Tieto, outlines ways in which companies can build their Big Data competencies. He also discusses the aggregation of unstructured and machine IoT data in a manufacturing context.

“If we narrow the discussion to cover only the data drivers of Big Data, we are going in the wrong direction,” says Vakkuri. As an example, in B2B operations in the maritime industry like port optimization or fuel consumption optimization in vessels, data delivers huge benefits for a shipping business. “Less polluting engines – or ones that generate more power from less consumption – could be designed based on data that is collected. This would affect productivity and competitiveness because shipping is a volume business.”

Vakkuri adds that this data needs to be utilized so that all the information isn’t amassed for the sake of it. “You always ought to build something with or on the data. This brings an opportunity for data-driven firms,” he continues. “In nuclear power plants in Finland, there’s a regulation that data has to be stored for a relatively long period. Before Big Data, it was mainly in passive storage only. With Big Data, however, all data can be online. This means that we can do research based on the data that already exists.” Vakkuri points out that this is one of the paradigm shifts – that instead of having inaccessible passive data, we now have available data from which we can build analysis, business, opportunities and innovations.

Case examples

Amazon is a good example. “The truly remarkable thing about their business is that they see who is checking their products, putting them in their basket but not buying them. Checking but not buying – taking things out of your basket and not proceeding to check out – these send very significant signals. Big Data allows this to be done, but it must be understood that Big Data is also about analytics and machine learning,” continues Vakkuri. The same kind of implementation that is being applied in webstores can be also be used in brick and mortar retails stores using indoor positioning.

Tieto’s Intelligent Building Product Line is another case of effective Big Data usage. “This allows us to establish who is where in our new headquarters at any given moment. As long as I have given my permission, for instance, I can be followed around the office. Knowing where co-workers are at any time helps us to be more collaborative,” shares Vakkuri. Beyond determining where people are, the company is also gathering data to optimize and remodel how space is used in their offices.

A question of ethics

To CIOs and CDOs keen on building Big Data competencies in their respective companies, Vakkuri offers this piece of advice. “The answer is really simple: multi-disciplined people. You need technology guys who possess not just domain competence but also ethics. There must be somebody who is capable of understanding ethical aspects and good manners not based on gut feeling, but rather on an understanding of the logic behind whatever ethics is used.” Ethics, Vakkuri notes, is vital in technologies such as AI and Big Data.

“Another thing is that you need a team of people in which every person is different, and from a different background, but who are able and willing to build things together. Never hire just one person to be a data scientist, but a team made up of individuals with a variety of experiences, ages and educational backgrounds, and who come from diverse cultures.” He believes that the more heterogeneous your team is, the better.

“Never hire just one person to be a data scientist, but a team made up of individuals with a variety of experiences, ages and educational backgrounds, and who come from diverse cultures”

Combining unstructured and machine IoT data

“Let’s start with instruments: Instrument everything. This means – as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey once advised – log, measure and test everything. Store everything, store all relevant data,” suggests Vakkuri. “If you install video cameras in your factory, you don’t need to collect the data of the raw image, but more so the metadata of what is in the image, timestamps, location data, etc.”

He would like companies to forget the notion that storing and analyzing data is expensive – they really are not nowadays. “The paradigm has changed so that infrastructure costs are down, so invest in human capital and in people who can analyze the data. But if you want to conduct a comprehensive analysis, you need to combine the data sets together which has never been done before, so be provocative and think outside the box. While you’re at it, forget the box altogether.” He adds that this also depends on how open-minded and competent your employees are, and what types of ideas they propose. “In the end, it’s all about what innovations you can get to with the data.”

On Big Data and machine to machine implementation

As far as Big Data and machine-to-machine (M2M) implementation are concerned, Vakkuri has this to share with manufacturers. “M2M communication needs to be more standardized. This also means using the right tools for the right purposes. How do you know what’s right? Only by building proof of concepts and then testing,” he explains.

Vakkuri likewise recommends establishing a partnership involving the research side – such as universities and similar institutions – within the ecosystem. “Carrying out a research collaboration usually means that your costs will be lower when developing something new and quite often new innovations come from the applied research side.”

Last, data quality and information security are two other points Vakkuri would like to underline when it comes to M2M communication. “Information security needs will be more complex. The more machines and data are connected, the more challenges will arise in terms of information security.”

Matti Vakkuri works as Head of Technology, Internet of Things at ‎Tieto.

Image credit: Rawpixel.com/ Shutterstock.com

Interview w/ Matti Vakkuri

Join the conversation!

Your email address will not be published.

The problem with IIoT design

As with all trends and innovations in their infancy, there is bound to be some premature efforts deemed as groundbreaking, when in reality they fail to sustain their relevant functionality beyond initial hype. According to EE Times editor Rich Quinnell, this has been the case with IoT design. “All too often the design behind these [IoT] devices is not all that smart. It’s clever, it’s innovative, but IoT designs are also all too often piecemeal and rushed to market. What’s being created is a system of systems, without the system-level design issues getting addressed,” Quinnell writes.

The Object Management Group (OMG) is nonetheless providing a remedy for “correcting IoT’s trajectory.” For his EE Times piece, Quinnell spoke to Matthew Hause and Graham Bleakly of OMG to find make sense of the issues surrounding current approaches to IoT design. “We’re trying to get people away from building the IoT by hacking,” says Bleakley.

Read more on Hause’s and Bleakly’s thoughts at: http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=8&doc_id=1331075

Image credit: kentoh / Shutterstock.com

Join the conversation!

Your email address will not be published.