Making IIoT and Smart Technology happen

Applying new technology to a physical process or manufacturing system is an essential part of progress, however the practical side of implementing the latest Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Smart Technology solutions is bringing its own unique challenges. That in turn is leading to new automation solutions.

Chris Evans – Marketing and Operations Group Manager of Mitsubishi Electric UK looks at the latest challenges and solutions.

When looking to develop and install new smart manufacturing systems at an existing location one of the most important pieces of groundwork that needs to be carried out is to fully understand what the organisation is trying to achieve and what are their immediate “pinch points?” In addition for an existing location, what is the level of automation and infrastructure that already exists and what needs to be added to create a bridge between the operational technology (OT) & the information technology (IT) levels in the organisation. This vertical integration of a factory or plant has machines with automation on one side and the enterprise level on the other and it is the ability to gather information and bridge this OT/IT gap which will ultimately create the opportunity to become a smart manufacturing operation.

Communication Standards

As already mentioned, to enable IT and OT integration there must also be horizontal connectivity at the shop floor level, i.e. between machines from different suppliers with disparate automation vendor’s equipment and different elements of plant control. Therefore, the openness of the automation technologies being used plays a key role; communication standards need to be used that will “speak” to all machines, sensors, actuators and other components. Evaluating the current level of automation and network infrastructure is critical in understanding what will be possible in the short, medium and long term and how easy or difficult it will be to match the goals of the organisation in becoming a smart operation. The good news is that whatever level an organisation is currently at, with good project planning and communication the journey towards digitalisation and smart manufacturing can be achieved to the appropriate level for the organisation in question.

Adoption of standards for machine control and network connectivity has further aided the process, for example in the food & beverage and packaging industry, organisations are frequently operating in a multi-vendor automation machine environment and are now using developments in the OMAC PackML and OPC UA standards to achieve better integration.

Talking heads

In the past the IT and OT worlds have not been natural bed fellows with the OT world operating in real time with process speeds of milliseconds or below and the IT world operating at much longer sampling times, such minutes, hours or more. There has been a natural divide between these two worlds but the advent of Edge computing technology to sit in the “space” between the two has made the integration of these seemingly diverse worlds much more straight forward and allowed a greater level of choice about where data analysis takes place.

It is easy to assume that if the necessary levels of automation and network infrastructure on plant either already exists or now exists as phase one of our plan to become smart, the natural extension of this is to collect every byte of data that it is possible to collect and sit back and admire what has been achieved.

Of course it needs to be more scientific than that. Inevitably, increased communication in recording those machine ‘conversations’ will create the need to manage a far higher volume of data. This requires the creation of a platform for efficient data analytics and data transfer between the OT and IT levels. The challenge is to handle all that data in a structured way, filtering out unnecessary “noise” and turning “Data” into “Information”. 

Performing Analysis on Data

Not losing sight of our goal to become a smart manufacturing plant, performing analysis on this data will allow us to visualise the important aspects of production: Overall Equipment Effectiveness, productivity, quality control, use of raw materials, waste and predictive and preventative maintenance, all of which are familiar to production directors tasked with making the operation more efficient. The question is often “where best to implement our data analytics?” Is it best to move everything to enterprise level servers or even the cloud, or is there an alternative? 

Edge Computing

Of course the new smart technology appearing at the “Edge” not only gives an alternative but greater flexibility and efficiency of data management. Edge computing offers industrialised solutions designed to live in the plant environment like all other automation equipment and to be at the “sharp end” of the data collection process. As previously discussed, the IT and OT worlds are often divided by the frequency at which data is sampled but Edge solutions offer the chance to perform sophisticated data analysis incorporating recognised AI algorithms in real time and therefore interface with the plant automation systems at high speed, making machine learning and improved production efficiencies a reality.

The next major benefit to carrying out data analytics at the Edge layer, is that the data can be filtered and only the necessary and relevant data passed to the enterprise or cloud based servers. This can considerably reduce the cost of data processing at this level, where cost is often attributed to the number of data points processed. It is clear that by linking the IT and OT world, the Edge classification of technology is playing a key role.

MELIPC Edge-Computing Solution

Into this space, Mitsubishi Electric has launched the MELIPC Edge-Computing solution: The MELIPC solution takes care of all connectivity issues “downstream” to the plant level, supporting all of the major open networks and removing the problem of interfacing to machines or plant assets controlled by disparate automation vendors. It provides a real time data logging and processing environment in a ruggedized industrial form factor. From a data processing perspective, it incorporates a suite of analytical tools such as; multiple regression analysis, the Mahalanobis-Taguchi system and Statistical Process Control (SPC) and AI functionality such as Similar Waveform Recognition, giving responses to process analysis in real time. 

Mitsubishi Electric’s MELIPC Edge solution provides open connectivity, a suite of analytical tools and AI functionality, giving responses to process analysis in real time.

MELIPC has a dual operating system of Windows and VxWorks RTOS which gives the user the flexibility of embedding third party applications into either of these environments. The VxWorks RTOS environment has a proven track record of running critical embedded applications where high availability is a mandatory requirement. The internal structure of MELIPC follows the Edgecross framework as defined by the Edgecross Consortium which is an independent organisation of over 200 members whose goal put simply is to standardise the interface between the OT and IT layers.

In the final analysis

One of the biggest challenges faced by manufacturing industry is to ensure that final product quality remains consistent, independently of variable environmental conditions, raw products and in-feed ingredients.

Many plants have “optimised” their operations but what digitalisation and the road to smart manufacturing offers in addition to this, is the ability to move to a predictive model based on a continuous improvement strategy and if this is followed to its ultimate conclusion then the whole plant eco system including energy supply and the supply of raw materials can be completely integrated and made operationally efficient. The seamless vertical connectivity between OT and IT also opens up manufacturing industry to newer business models – like ‘batch size one’ or the rapid changeover of one product line to another to keep pace with fast moving consumer trends. 

One of the key takeaways from this march of change, in systems, technology and networking is that it can be applied equally to existing production lines and equipment as it can for new factories. Manufacturing by its nature is now a mature industry, so upgrades and progress inevitably involve managing change, not just for physical plant and software layers but for people too. 

All manufacturing plants have the capability to become smart operations, the journey to that goal may be short or long but can be achieved step by step with the right planning, required investment and partnering with the right automation vendor to help plot and navigate the course.

It is Far from Business As Usual, But We’re Still Open and Upping Our Game!

Everyone will agree that these are dark times and we are a long way from business as usual (in fact, it’s hard to remember what normal actually is). But manufacturers still need to produce food and medicines, utility companies need to supply fresh water and others are trying to keep their business open for as long as possible.

We get that, so as an essential part of that supply chain, LC Automation isn’t relying on business as usual. We are upping our game and making sure that everything is in place to keep our customers working.

Don’t Feel Isolated – We Are Here When You Need Us

Following the latest government guidelines, all non-essential staff are now working from home and those that remain are following strict social distancing measures. But, whether our team are home or office based, you can still get in touch in the usual way. To make it as easy as possible for you, everything stays the same. The same people, on the same phone numbers, with the same e-mail addresses. We are here for you.

Working with Our Suppliers to Keep You Working

We have plenty of stock and our key suppliers are not currently experiencing major supply issues. The spares and products you need to keep production running are still available, and we have a great team who continue to despatch your orders straight away. Delays may occur at some point in the future, but we will keep you updated if and when things change.

Working with You

Our team of Field Sales Engineers continue to provide local support to our customers and are a great point of contact if you have any questions. Although face to face meetings aren’t appropriate, they can still keep in touch by telephone, e-mail and online.

Our Technical Support Engineers can provide all the help and support you need from their homes. To get in touch, just call the usual number; 01254 685900 and choose the Technical Support option.

Of course, our website is available 24/7 if you want to check stock and current prices, place orders, create a quote or track your deliveries. Register today or talk to our Sales Department if you need any help.

Pulling Together

We have put together a vigorous response to dealing with the current situation, but we continue to review and will adapt to whatever challenges come along. I would like to finish by saying how proud I am of the whole LC Automation team who are pulling together to deliver a first-class response in very trying circumstances. It is great to see.

Stay safe and take care of yourself,

LC Automation.

Clever folding with Pilz PSENslock and PNOZmulti 2

Wächter Packautomatik develops and builds customised packaging solutions. One of them is the powerful case erector Tablomat LE, which efficiently produces up to 30 boxes per minute. The electrosensitive safety gate sensor PSENslock and the safe controller PNOZmulti 2 from Pilz have made the operating concept more flexible & fast format changes can easily be implemented. Flexibility & efficiency are indispensable in the packaging industry, particularly in end-of-line processes.

More flexibility for control and operation!

So when developing the case erector Tablomat LE a new, sustainable automation and safety concept was included. The requirement was for diagnostic data from the sensors to be available to the machine controller in real-time so that the plant operator can retain a complete overview of the machine status.

There are four safety gates on the machine and each use the non-contact safety gate system PSENslock. It performs the safe position monitoring and process guarding. The safety controller PNOZmulti 2 monitors the safety gates and the installed E-STOP pushbutton and guarantees the exchange of diagnostic data via fieldbus module with the PLC.

With this efficient solution, fast format changes and fast, simple adaptation of sensor and actuator technology can easily be implemented.

“Together with Pilz we have achieved all the stated objectives on the Tablomat LE: The case erector is impressive with its clear, streamlined wiring and it can be reconfigured for new tasks in the shortest possible time. The plant is enjoying virtually trouble-free operation, the operator has a comprehensive overview of the current machine status at all times”. – Jürgen Schulte, Production Manager at Wächter Packautomatik GmbH & Co. KG

Advantages and Benefits of the solution

  • More efficient diagnostics reduces downtimes: The plant operator has a complete overview of the machine status at any time
  • The needs-based, transparent automation concept increases safety
  • Higher plant availability through more flexibility: Machine can be reconfigured for new tasks in the shortest possible time

For more info about our range of Pilz Machinery Safety Solutions check out our website or call LC Automation on 01254 685900, our experts will be happy to help!

TOSIBOX® Helped Transform Water Distribution System Into 2020’s.

Electro Beyco, the local government-run water distribution system in Costa Rica needed a connectivity solution for real-time data acquisition. Previously, personnel was going to the pressure points distributed around the city to collect the data manually. All this travelling was costing them more than $10K per year.

No visibility into data and trends

With no visibility into the data and trends, asset failure was not predictable, there was no information about critical points with too high or too low pressure, and most importantly the behaviour and trends of water consumption were not taken into analysis. Consumption or increases in leakage in the water network could therefore not be predicted and system efficiencies could not be maximised.

The measurement points had no internet connection and based on geography, there was no possibility for radio communications.

The measurement points had no internet connection and based on geography, there was no possibility for radio communications. The solution needed to be easily installed and they didn’t want to involve complicated or expensive 4G cellphone chips or Telecom APNs. But more important was the security of the network in case of cyber-attacks.

The project comprised 14 sites monitoring pressure, two sites monitoring tank levels, and one point monitoring chlorine. Five users were connecting to the system by workstations and cellphones.

From pen and paper to smart analytics

Technicians no longer need to go out to the field and take measurements on paper – instead they use their time in other tasks, saving around $10K a year. The estimated ROI for commissioning TOSIBOX® is less than a year.

A TOSIBOX® Lock 500 was installed at each site, creating secure infrastructure to enable the local water ecosystem including an AVEVA Intouch Edge SCADA system that enables AVEVA Insight cloud services and artificial intelligence for the analysis of the data.

TOSIBOX® Lock 500 is the next-generation connectivity device that was chosen for its high-temperature enclosure since it is exposed to direct sunlight. The Lock 500 also provided a 4G network connection. For service and maintenance, remote user access is established using TOSIBOX® Key.

TOSIBOX® technology was easy to set up and has worked well. The local distributor, NV Tecnologías is always available and attentive to Electro Beyco’s doubts.

Adopting TOSIBOX® technology has increased the speed of development and implementation time of technicians, because they no longer need extra support from other departments. The information obtained using TOSIBOX® infrastructure has already helped solve problems in two pressure regulating valves, where the average expenses from damage to the water network without one valve are estimated to be around $25K.

Technicians no longer need to go out to the field and take measurements on paper – instead they use their time in other tasks, saving around $10K a year. The estimated ROI for commissioning TOSIBOX® is less than a year.

Benefits

  • Ensuring secure infrastructure for a critical water distribution ecosystem.
  • Real-time data and alarms made available with the 4G network without any failures in communications in the past 10 months.
  • Layer 2 remote user connections to the field equipment for programming/troubleshooting.
  • Remote access has enabled technicians to save their work and travel time.

For further information about Tosibox Remote Access Solutions check out our website or call LC Automation on 01254 685900, our experts will be happy to help!

Leitner-Poma Maintains Over 99% Uptime with TOSIBOX® Connectivity Solution

Ski lift manufacturer Leitner-Poma standardises on TOSIBOX® technology developed by Tosibox Oy to secure global network of transportation systems.

Leitner-Poma has installed more than ten thousand transportation systems in sixty-one countries, and safely transport eight million passengers each hour. Reliable operation of transportation equipment is essential, but as with all machines, issues are expected to arise from time to time. If a lift at a remote location has issues, Tosibox provides secure remote access to diagnose what is wrong.

The Problem

Previously there was no consistent way to get to the machines around the world. Leitner-Poma found that using hand-made, traditional Cisco-based IT-networking was not scalable per their needs or operationally feasible. Remote access became difficult to set up, use and maintain. Moreover, connection reliability was an ongoing challenge. The old system was constantly requiring Leitner-Poma to thinker with it to keep it connected.

”The way we used to do it was just painful. Then we went to Tosibox. You plug in the Key, click, click, and BANG. You are connected,” said AJ Egli, IT Network Admin at Leitner-Poma of America.

Tosibox Starter Pack Offers at LC Automation.

The Solution

Leitner-Poma discovered the patented TOSIBOX® technology that provides a consistent and standardized VPN access anywhere in the world in 5 minutes and without special IT skills. TOSIBOX® solution has been a game changer for Leitner-Poma’s team, making their job easier and less time consuming. By using TOSIBOX®, they have been able to save time and have more time fixing their ski lifts, gondolas, trams, and so on. TOSIBOX® is also used to maintain secure access to Leitner-Poma’s global network of systems.

Leitner-Poma now enjoys more reliable connectivity than before, and there is no longer the concern about whether it will connect or stay connected. The company is standardizing on TOSIBOX® as the connection solution for securing its global network and has been able to maintain over 99% uptime. Instead of spending time on IT, they can now simply fix issues and get the customer’s lift back to making money, which even makes for happier customers.

“Thanks to the accelerating development of technology, human life will change more over the next 30 years than in the previous 300 years. In this era of the Internet of Everything, the ubiquitous technology changes customer expectations – even for the uptime of ski lifts. Our mission is to change the world by simplifying secure digital connections, and the disruptive TOSIBOX® technology offers ways to ease the work of technicians around the world,” says Jarno Limnéll, CEO at Tosibox.

TOSIBOX® Lock and Key create a secure point-to-point connection between the machine and user that allows effortless troubleshooting. Remote access is established simply by plugging in the Key to a computer’s USB port and logging in to the TOSIBOX® Key software to connect. To learn more about the solution, call our remote access experts on 01254 685900, they will be happy to help!

Tosibox Provides Secure Solution For Ski Resort’s Multiple Connectivity Needs.

Sweden is the destination of many popular ski resorts in remote locations. Thanks to its reliability and security, SALTO is the selected access control option for over 3 million doors worldwide. ToP’s is a SALTO partner, who provides the SALTO access control solution for mountain lodges’ doors’ online readers at two customers’ ski resorts in Tänndalen and Funäsdalen

The Challenge

All the resorts’ accommodation bookings are made and transferred using Bookvisit, an online booking and administration system, which is also used to create a physical key card or a key in a mobile app for accommodating guests. To be able to run the system as a key as a service (KaaS) for the ski resorts’ reception, the SALTO BLE readers required connectivity with a SALTO server in Stockholm and the reception. However, building a VPN to connect three sites would be extremely expensive. They needed to be in the same, secure network with same IP range, without exposing the units to the Internet.

ToP’s wanted to find a secure network solution to combine SALTO system with spread out locations transporting data through several different telecom operator networks. However, operators can only provide a solution where their network is, requiring APN and entailing also dark fiber. An alternative to APN wouldn’t be viable.

The Solution

ToP’s was referred to Tosibox by SALTO. ToP’s set up a network to remotely connect access systems by SALTO using the TOSIBOX® solution that was worked out together with the Tosibox technical support team. ToP’s was able to build a local network between the sites and set up a VPN that would be the alternative to APN by operators. This has made them operator independent, superseding the offer of APN and dark fiber by operators. Not using dynamic host configuration protocol makes the solution secure, since only fixed IP is used, and no IP addresses are delivered.

The experts at ToP’s set up TOSIBOX® Lock 200’s in Client Mode, and sent them over to the remote sites, where they were taken out of the box and set up as sketched, instantly working like a charm.

In Client Mode, the Lock does not act as a router/firewall in the network, but as a client. This means the Lock will provide a secure remote access to the network but cannot protect the devices connected to the same LAN, as the default gateway to the Internet is another device on the network.

ToP’s did also connect camera surveillance communication and building management system to the same network with TOSIBOX®. All communication from buildings will then be performed through the secure and reliable TOSIBOX® connectivity solution to the server room in Stockholm.

Audi Plant Acts as Testbed for Cabinet Cooling Systems

Tests at an Audi factory have shown that an alternative form of cabinet wiring can cut internal temperatures, extending the life of critical components inside the cabinets. As Lütze’s cabinets product manager, Michael Bautz, reports, the reduction was greatest at hotspots that are critical for many components.

While the components used in control cabinets are generally becoming smaller, their heat dissipation is increasing and cabinets are getting hotter. More efficient cooling systems obviously help, but the way the cabinets are wired can also have an effect.

One approach to cutting heat levels is to separate the heat-emitting components from the cabling using a wiring frame rather than using conventional mounting plates and trunking. This directs cold air downwards to the rear of the cabinet and then to the front and up again, creating a cool zone to the rear, where most of the cabling is located. A permanent circulation of air is generated between the warmer wiring at the front and the cooler wiring at the back.

A look inside the control cabinet test setup at Audi Hungaria in Györ: with an
AirSTREAM wiring frame (left) and conventional mounting plate (right).
Traditional v’s Alternative Cabinet Cabling Technologies

An Audi engine factory in Hungary was recently used as a testbed to compare the traditional and alternative cabinet cabling technologies. The plant, in Györ, includes automated production lines that press valve seat rings and valve guides into the cylinder heads of V6 Otto engines. The test involved two of the site’s production systems, each using four control cabinets with the same construction.

The cabinets are 2000mm high and 600mm deep. Three cabinets in each system were 1200mm wide, while the fourth was 600mm. For the test, one of the four cabinets in each system was monitored. The first cabinet was equipped with a conventional mounting plate and was cooled using an air-conditioning system with a 1.5kW heat loss. In the second cabinet, the mounted components were separated from the wiring using a wiring frame – Lütze’s AirStream system.

The AirStream cabinets don’t use trunking that might impair airflows and were cooled using 1.45kW heat exchangers. The relative power losses of the two cooling systems was a minor factor because the cold air came from the roof. Instead, the study focused on verifying the effect of guided air inside the control cabinet.

In the alternative system, the air circulates freely, unlike in cabinets with conventional mounting plates. Measurements were carried out over two days and taken for six hours at a time with ten sensors recording ambient and internal temperatures. The power consumption of the two systems was not examined because it was assumed that the clocking was identical.

Measuring Temperatures at Critical Points

Temperatures were measured at critical points in the cabinets – e.g. components with high heat losses. After the air-conditioning system was started in the cabinet using the mounting plate (about 40 minutes after the production start-up), the temperatures fluctuated between 29°C and 43°C. The temperature measured between a contactor and the trunking was 38.5°C – 42.5°C, indicating an air blockage, while the temperature between a Siemens Simatic ET200S I/O system and a cable duct was 36.5°C – 38.5°C. At the air intake of the air-conditioning system, the temperature was 33.5°C.

The trunking hotspot remained just within the tolerances because the system is designed for an external temperature of 38°C and a maximum internal temperature of 42°C. In the cabinet with the new wiring frame, temperatures were measured after the heat exchanger had started to operate (a maximum of 37 minutes after the production start-up). The temperatures fluctuated between 30°C and 34°C. The temperature between a contactor and the ET200S in this cabinet was measured as 31°C – 33.5°C, while between the ET200S and the terminals it was 32°C – 33.5°C. At the air intake of the heat exchanger, the temperature was 29.5°C.

If the temperature of the air at the outlet of the heat exchanger was identical to the temperature of the air-conditioner, the curves would rise linearly. Despite this, the air is not layered as happens when a mounting plate is used. Hotspots in the new wiring frame system were barely detectable. When the cabinet incorporating the wiring frame was tested, the ambient temperature was 23.9°C – some 1.9°C higher than when the cabinet with the mounting plate was tested. If the external temperature had been the same, the cabinet with the wiring frame would have been 1.9K cooler and the curves would have been even lower.

The Conclusion

The tests demonstrated that using a wiring frame can achieve noticeable cooling and a consistent climate inside control cabinets, protecting installed components from the heat & increasing their life expectancy. Further improvements could be achieved by routing cool air to minimise hotspots around components with particularly high heat losses. Further analysis using Lütze’s online AirTemp application also reveals that air-conditioning wouldn’t be needed using the wiring frame. Assuming an ambient temperature of 25°C and that 70% of the components would be operating at the same time, fan-based cooling would be sufficient.

Looking for More Information? LC Automation Can Help With That…

For more information download the Lutze AirStream Wiring System Catalogue or Lutze Airstream Compact – For Compact Control Panels.

Lutze also have an excellent white-paper which looks at the background information and theories you need to consider when thinking about the temperatures in your control panels. You can download Thermodynamic Considerations for Control Panels here.

If you have a specific question or would like to discuss cooling in your control panels, please call LC Automation on 01254 685900. Our Technical Support Engineers will be able to help you select the best solution for your application.