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10-05-2021
6 min. read
Shelly Boom
Last update: 23-06-2021

Best practices in machine manufacturing for collaboration using an IIoT platform

The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things creates all kinds of opportunities for existing and new ways of working together. Between people and machines, between people and new technologies, but also between people themselves. Thanks to the enormous amount of data made available by IIoT, we can now get much more value from each other, our devices and existing work processes.

"Collaboration is the process by which two or more people, entities or organisations work together to complete a task or achieve a goal."

The importance of collaboration

In the machine building industry, there are huge opportunities for collaboration. We are in the midst of the Industry 4.0 era where IIoT connects teams, companies and technologies. By collaborating between different information sources, you can get more value out of the existing data set. 

Whereas machine builders used to use their knowledge and expertise only when developing, building and installing a machine, it will now be of great value throughout the entire life cycle of a machine. As a result, machines will run better and more productively, using less energy and fewer raw materials, making products available to more people worldwide. 

With the emergence of data as a new factor within existing partnerships, a unifying factor has emerged that makes collaboration more important than ever to keep up with the times. 

In fact, collaboration is the key to success. It is only by working together and making use of the available data that we can meet the greatest challenges of our time. 

 

Different types of collaboration in machine building

There are a number of different forms of collaboration that are essential today. By letting each entity focus on their core tasks and linking these forces, we achieve maximum ROI.

The different types of collaboration within the machine building industry:

What role does an IIoT platform play in each of these types of collaboration? 

We will now look at this in more detail.

 

Collaborating with colleagues and other teams

Within the organisation, several stakeholders are involved with the machine. Each stakeholder has its own needs and interests regarding access to the machine, with the shared goal of a machine that always runs optimally.

For example, the software engineer needs VPN access to program software, the service engineer wants to quickly access the HMI screen to see the current status of the machine, and the manager or CEO wants insights to organise service, operations and processes more efficiently.

To achieve this, you need at least a few different features - think VPN, VNC, data logging and storage, visualisation for data analysis, and alarming. But when different internal stakeholders require access, you will also need to set different access levels to match these needs. So, in addition to extensive feature capabilities, an advanced user management system is essential.

Examples include:

  • Service engineers can only have access to the machines within the region they are responsible for, and they can also invite customers with limited rights to the machines they have access to;
  • Software engineer gets access to all machines within the division he works for, but only rights to set up VPN to solve failures and reduce downtime;
  • Manager gets view-only rights to gain insights, but not to make changes/actions;
  • The admin has all access rights and monitors the rights structure.
This is an example of how your access rights can be arranged. User roles and access rights are completely customisable to your wishes. This is an example of how your access rights can be arranged. User roles and access rights are completely customisable to your wishes.

Collaborating with customers in one central platform

Nowadays, machine builders are increasingly aware that they provide added value throughout the entire life cycle of a machine. In addition to the task of optimising machines, the machine builder is also taking on an advisory role. 

Machine builders have different needs when it comes to data than their customers do. An IIoT platform ensures that the demands of both the machine builder and the customer can be met via one single system. The machine builder and the customer can easily collaborate via an IIoT platform, because they can see the same information at the same time. This reduces confusion and saves a lot of time. In addition, all data can be stored in one central system, both the data that is relevant for the machine builder and the production data for the end customer.

The machine builder can give the customer access to the IIoT platform so that he can view his own data and analyse production data. The machine builder can also monitor and analyse the machine data and see when maintenance is needed, when a raw material is almost finished or when the machine shows signs of wear. This enables him to advise the customer to carry out certain maintenance or to replenish a raw material in order to avoid machine downtime. The machine builder can then use the analysed data to optimise his machines. By recognising trends, he can intervene earlier next time to prevent machine downtime.

Involving external partners in management, implementation or advice

Machine builders or end customers often bring in external expertise by collaborating with partners. Via an IIoT platform, external partners can gain access to machine data. With the help of a user management system, user roles can be assigned so that the external partner has access to the information that is of interest to him. There are various ways of implementing such a collaboration. 

Service partners

External service parties, such as local service depots, often work together with the machine builder and end customer to carry out service and maintenance using machine data. This way, they know exactly when service or maintenance is required and can anticipate it. They only need limited access to a machine, and only to the machines within their region and control. By working together in one platform, alerts can be sent directly to the right party.

System integrators

Machine builders regularly work together with system integrators to solve machine malfunctions and optimise machines. Because data in an IIoT platform is easily visible and can be consulted at any time and any place, they can easily solve failures or come to new insights together for optimisation.

Data consultancies

A data consultancy firm can be hired to advise on the use of machine data, or to perform advanced data analysis. By giving the data consultancy access to the IIoT platform, they can extract the machine data they need for their analyses. With the results, the machine builder can optimise his machines when he does not have the knowledge or time in-house to perform the analyses himself.

Connecting and integrating systems and technologies

Integrate

Is not everything possible within the IIoT platform and do you want to do more with your machine data, for example? With the IIoT platform as a basis, you can expand as desired using techniques such as REST API and Webhooks. It is therefore important that you find an IIoT solution with an open infrastructure, so you are not limited by the functionalities in the platform itself - and external experts can always easily connect to your central system.

By connecting the IIoT platform to an application or web service, information can be exchanged and both can complement each other with certain functionalities. This way you can create unique opportunities and your platform is future-proof. 

Examples of connections and integrations:

  • Deploy Artificial Intelligence by linking the IIoT platform to a machine learning tool, so that the machine automatically learns from the collected data and can improve itself based on experience, without being explicitly programmed;
  • Link the IIoT platform to a HoloLens or Augmented Reality tool so you can watch the person at the machine live and provide remote support for commissioning;
  • Link with your ERP system so that new parts can be ordered automatically when a data point reaches a certain value.

Choosing the right IIoT platform for your needs

An IIoT platform can improve existing forms of collaboration, and even open the doors to new possibilities. It's important, however, that when choosing the right platform, you pay attention to a number of important issues, so that this collaboration is not restricted or unsafe. Important elements to look out for are:

  • Future-proofing: does it offer  an open system so that you are not limited by the platform’s functionalities?
  • User management: can you invite all necessary users (for free)? 
  • Security: can you limit access rights to only the necessary? 

In addition to these points, it's of course important to think about what functionalities you need and look at the platforms that offer them. Also take into account future-proofing. Does the solution offer functionalities that not only answer your current question, but also offer possibilities for further growth in the future? Think of remote access functionalities, data logging, visualisation for data analysis or the possibility to sell it to customers as your own platform through branding options. 

Need help implementing IIoT?

IXON Cloud is an all-in-one IIoT solution: from hardware to the cloud, we deliver the functionalities so you can continue running your business easily and quickly. Through the IXON Cloud platform you can easily collaborate by giving service agents and customers access to the platform using role-based user management. With access categories you manage who has access to which machine information and services. 

The platform is completely future-proof. You can start small with a simple remote access solution, and start working with data when you are ready. You also have the possibility to connect to other systems via the API or integrate with thousands of external tools for easy import and export of data. The IXON Cloud can be set up as your own service portal with the white labelling options. This way the platform gets the identity of your company and you can use it as a tool for new business models.

Do you want to know how to implement IIoT successfully and how to take the next step in the IIoT journey? In our white paper "The Road to IIoT Maturity in machine manufacturing", you'll discover in which phase of IIoT Maturity you are at the moment and how you can grow to the next phase by means of clear guidelines and concrete examples of companies in each phase. 

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