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31-01-2020
6 min. read
Patrick Smits

Data Visualisation for Machine Manufacturers

How Data Visualisation helps Machine Builders improve their service

For many manufacturers and machine builders, IoT, Industry 4.0 and Big Data are nothing more than buzzwords. Yet, at every fair you visit, every website or magazine you open, these keywords are advertised as the holy grail, and rightfully so. By analyzing machine data, it’s possible to identify bottlenecks in supply chains, predict equipment failure, successfully address overstaffing issues and optimize operational costs.

Yet realistically, most machine builders and manufacturers are at the early stages of the IoT Maturity Model. Many are even at stage 1 and don’t really understand the benefits of an industrial IoT platform like IXON Cloud could offer them. In order to better understand these benefits, we’re writing a series of articles. In previous articles we’ve already covered IoT connectivity and edge computing, security (ISO 27001), remote access, data logging and data acquisition. Now we’ll be diving into data visualisation.

Why we need Data Visualisation

For every industrial application, a machine has to operate within certain ranges to guarantee the quality and quantity of the product. However, machines generate only numbers as output, which are notoriously hard to process for humans, especially when spit out in large quantities. And without interpretation, IoT data is kind of useless. Of course, you could import your data in a simple spreadsheet, but nobody wants to manually analyse data over and over again.

To improve decision making and enable features like anomaly detection and predictive maintenance, you need some kind of automation to turn raw data into actionable insights. To get to these insights, you have to figure out what parameters or machine metrics are important for the business process and visualize them in dashboards. Without visualisation, this can be quite challenging. Sometimes you have to use additional statistical, analytical or transformational software to get the right information on display.

A good IoT platform not only needs basic visualisation options, but also tools to export the data to different tools or platforms for advanced analytics.

Data visualisation in product numbers Data visualisation in product numbers

What exactly is Data Visualisation?

To cope with large quantities of machine data (Big Data), different approaches can be used. One way is to cope with big data is to reduce the amount of data to analyse by using an edge router. This is especially useful if you’re only interested in certain values, p.e. the minimum, maximum or average weight within a batch of canned beans, or if you want to count the number of crates processed per minute.

The second approach is to use data visualisation tools, so you can use charts or graphs to depict what’s going on. Because humans are great at visual pattern recognition, this way makes it much easier to detect anomalies and verify that your production criteria are met.

Data visualization tools provide a very accessible way to see and understand trends, outliers, and patterns in data. They are essential to analyze massive amounts of information and make data-driven decisions.

Example of data visualisation in manufacturing Example of data visualisation in manufacturing

For the shop floor, you can create business dashboards or reports in which multiple visual elements are shown. These so-called Andon systems or visual management systems are very popular in lean manufacturing, because they allow machine operators to view processes on the line, and if an issue arises, quickly devote resources to fix that issue. This way bottlenecks can be swiftly resolved and the efficiency can be increased.

Data Visualisation in Manufacturing

Many production managers are still impressed when a manufacturer can troubleshoot and fix problems remotely. But this will soon change because just about every new consumer product comes with an app to control it remotely or get extra statistics from it. For example, when you buy a vacuum cleaning robot for domestic use, the accompanying app allows you to start it from your work and it will report you when it encounters problems, tell you when it is finished and what area it has cleaned.

Sooner or later industrial managers will expect equipment manufacturers to deliver them the tools to gain new production insights and statistics to enhance and optimize production sequences or machine parameters. There are many advantages to improving the operational parameters, such as

  • speed up process times for cobots, packaging machines, etc;
  • achieving a more conservative tool usage, p.e. for CNC milling, drilling or spray casting;
  • gaining better control of (granule or tablet) sizes, p.e. in animal feed production or pharmacy;
  • minimizing conveyor band maintenance;
  • condition monitoring.

By automating the data acquisition process, it’s much easier to keep the information up to date and integrate the good business practices like continuous improvement and continuous optimization into your company’s DNA.

Data Visualisation for Machine Manufacturers Data Visualisation for Machine Manufacturers

Data Visualisation for Machine Manufacturers

As machine manufacturers have more detailed knowledge about the machine and the specific application usage than the machine owner, it’s only logical to have them assist to resolve issues remotely and help streamline the production process of the customer. This way remote access, data acquisition, data visualisation and alarming features are also beneficial for the machine manufacturer. By troubleshooting issues, setting up specific dashboards or getting notifications when a machine is malfunctioning, a machine builder can optimize his own machines, processes or implementation.

There are basically three insights data visualisation can offer machine builders: 

  • Insight into the frequency and type of malfunctions that have occurred: When you have direct access to the specific error codes of the PLC, servo drive or frequency converter, it’s much easier to tell what’s wrong and keep track of your machine performance. You could even create a specific dashboard for your own use.
  • Insight into reasons a machine is not operating 100% of the time: Perhaps the supply chain stopped because there was insufficient supply of raw materials? Or there are safety issues, which forces the operator to press the emergency stop frequently.
  • Insight in machines efficiency within production series: If you notice that a type of malfunction is occurring more often, you can use this information to improve the next machine series.

New Business Models for Machine Manufacturers

One of the benefits for machine manufacturers that is often mentioned, is that it allows for new business models, such as pay-per-use. However, an important disadvantage of this business model from the point of view of the machine builder, is that he does not get his money in advance, but over time. Given the large investment a machine entails, in many cases this simply will not be feasible.

Business models that are more in line with both the machine builder and his customer are models with aftermarket services, such as an SLA support package. This could include 

  • reports and regular consultations to meet or improve production objectives
  • reports about machine downtime
  • more attractive price points

With respect to price points: remote access and data visualisation insights may make it less costly to offer support. So why not have the customer benefit from these cost savings as well and make it the cheapest option?

The most Important Data Visualisation Dashboards

IoT data visualization tools can help you meet business objectives if you use them to track important metrics and KPIs. The saying “If we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it” is still very much true. The most important metrics to track are

  • Delivery Performance
  • Downtime
  • Material Cost
  • Production Output
  • Quality
  • Reject/Scrap
  • Safety
  • Sales

Setting up dashboards that show a combination of these metrics can offer added value to your customer. To get there, you need to determine what the actual added value for the production process is and if the customer is willing to pay for it. Realize that it’s exactly this information that will help both of you stay competitive.

How does data visualisation on IXON Cloud work?

It's very easy. After you've started effortlessly logging your data with Cloud Data Logging, you can start putting together your dashboards.

With the help of Drag & Drop widgets you can simply construct your own personalised dashboard that perfectly suits your machine. Create various dashboards for different types of users, such as engineers, management and your customers. Connect the widget to the correct tag and gain insight into your data right away. Instant result without a single line of code.

Why choose IXON Cloud for Data Visualization?

There are many cloud-based IoT platforms these days, but only few offer the functionality machine builders need:

  • Built-in Security, to protect sensitive information and block access to your factory network
  • Real-time and historical dashboards
  • Short implementation time, no IoT programming skills needed
  • Fast ROI (calculator)
  • No data limit with unlimited data storage
  • Visualize multiple metrics in a single dashboard
  • User Based Access Control 
  • Unlimited & shareable dashboards
  • Create Dashboards with Drag & Drop widgets
  • Smartphone access to your dashboards
  • Open platform & API, so data can export to any platform you’d like
  • All data is yours
  • Remote access via VPN
  • White labelling is possible for platform, hardware and apps
  • Created with manufacturers for manufacturers!

Want to know more?

Then take a look at all the features IXON Cloud has to offer or just give us a call!

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or you can also explore IXON Cloud in a Free Product Tour or Request an Evaluation Kit if you're seriously considering our platform.