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5 min. read
Sjors de Kleijn
Last update: 12-11-2021

How to transform your field-level machine data into management-level information

IXON Cloud helps you turn data into information and added value

The Industrial Internet of Things opens the door to a world of instant data collection and analysis, communication gathering via hardware, software, networks and standards, and technological innovations. All made possible by connecting your devices to the internet.

Data is generated by machines without any human involvement. The most common types of data come from sensors or meters, interactions by machine or user input (e.g. switches), algorithms calculated using other data, and data from automation tasks.

However, data without interpretation has no meaning or value. It's when you interpret the data and turn it into information, that it becomes valuable.

But why should you even be concerned with machine data? What value can it offer you, or your customers? And how can you get useful information out of the data?

Tip! Read how Water IQ uses machine data to strengthens their market position.

Why you should care about machine data

IXON believes IIoT unleashes a wealth of opportunities for machine builders and system integrators. Opportunities that help create added value to your products and services for happier customers. Opportunities to improve machines, provide better service and increase customer satisfaction, and maximise sales with new business models.

Added value using IIoT Added value using IIoT

1) Create an improved next generation of your machine series...

...or apply what you’ve learned when you’re building or programming your next custom machine.

Analysing machine data helps you build even better-performing custom machines to get all the more satisfied customers, or improve your machine series so that you can stay ahead of the competition. You can even offer continuous improvements for existing installations, to optimise the machine’s productivity levels and overall performance. Leading to happier customers.

2) Provide faster and better service to your customers

Solve software bugs faster with generated error codes from field devices. Save costs and prevent unplanned downtime by predicting service demands based on calculated rotations or sensor data.

With instant access and the collected machine data, you can solve issues faster or prevent unplanned downtime with alarms and historical data for predictive maintenance. Better service leads to a happier customer, which makes for more profit.

3) Use machine data to introduce new business opportunities

Lease or rental constructions are common practice in various sectors, such as the automotive industry. It’s also one of the many different (service-based) business models you can implement to make the most of Industry 4.0.

Setting up leasing or pay-per-use models is not rocket science. But it does require insight into your machine’s production data, like its operating hours or the number of produced items.

Another opportunity is to give customers access to their machine dashboards or HMI interface using a subscription model. The recurring revenue stream can help during an economic downturn, keeping your revenue from dropping too low when you’re selling fewer machines than usual.

IXON Cloud Machine Data Visualisation IXON Cloud Machine Data Visualisation

Getting data from field level to management level

Before you can take full advantage of the benefits from your machine data, you need to get the right data to the right people. And then you need to turn the data into information, before it can be used to create added value.

To get this data to the right level in your (or your customer’s) organisation, we first need to understand the different levels of automation. The Automation Pyramid from RealPars provides a very clear overview of the technology and data that drives industrial automation in factories:

  • Field level: The devices, actuators, motors, and sensors in the field or on the production floor that make the facility run.
  • Control level: PLCs and PIDs that control and “run” the devices at the field level.
  • Supervisory level: SCADA controls and automates multiple machines or over long distances, and HMIs as a graphical user interface to control functions of a single machine remotely.
  • Planning level: A manufacturing execution system (MES) allows management to monitor a single manufacturing plant or factory.
  • Management level: An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system utilizes all of the previous levels’ technology - plus some more - to see and control an entire company’s operations, inside and out.
Automation Pyramid Automation Pyramid

Making use of your machine’s data requires you to collect data from the three lower levels and make it available to the top two levels of the pyramid. The top two management levels apply to both you, as the machine’s manufacturer or software engineer, and your customer.

How can you transfer the field, control and supervisory level data to the management levels? That’s where cloud connectivity comes in handy.

How to implement your data collection process with the cloud

There are two methods to transfer data from the field level to the top level: “level-wise implementation” and the cloud.

Level-wise implementation means dedicated servers, local installation, dedicated databases and different systems for each level. All connected and integrated using additional software to transfer the data to the management levels. This type of implementation:

  • Is difficult to set up
  • Requires a huge investment of time and money
  • Needs frequent monitoring and maintenance

Cloud implementation means a central cloud environment, easy implementation, distributed worldwide storage, and guaranteed accessibility of all your data in the cloud. A cloud-based implementation:

  • Is completely scalable to your needs
  • Costs less time and money for setup and maintenance
  • Is always up-to-date, maintained and monitored 24/7 by experts

Using IXON Cloud, you benefit from a ready-to-go IIoT solution. IXON’s Industrial IoT platform provides you, your partners and your customers with access and insights into all connected machines. It is the only complete IIoT solution in the market, including features for industrial remote access (VPN), machine data logging, data visualisation and alarming for (support & service) engineers, production and management.

The IXON solution combines powerful edge hardware, which collects the machine data, with the reliable IXON Cloud, where data is stored for analysis and alarming.

With a cloud-based solution like IXON Cloud, you won’t have to worry about monitoring and maintenance. IXON keeps your platform secure with 24/7 monitoring by experts and a dedicated security officer, and ensures a futureproof and scalable solution - so you’re always ready for whatever innovations the future has in store for you.

Data preprocessing on the edge

Some field devices generate thousands of data points per second. The IXON edge gateway, called IXrouter, provides a place to preprocess that data locally (at the edge) before sending it to the IXON Cloud. When data is aggregated, summarized and formatted at the edge, it minimises the volume of data that needs to be transferred to the cloud.

IXrouter connected to Wago PLC IXrouter connected to Wago PLC

Using an IoT edge gateway to transfer data to the IXON Cloud

An IoT gateway is “a physical device or software program that serves as the connection point between the cloud and controllers, sensors and intelligent devices” (Source: TechTarget). All data moving to the cloud is transferred through the gateway.

Edge computing is the combination of edge and cloud: a distributed system that collects and processes data from the machine’s devices and sends the results to the cloud. IXON’s edge device is able to perform smart analyses on the machine’s data, and only sends required data to the cloud.

How IXON’s IoT edge gateway sends field-level data to the cloud

Fieldbus communication (Modbus TCP, Ethernet IP, Bacnet, OPC-UA, Siemens S7) makes the generated data available via the PLC. The edge gateway is connected to the PLC and, once the data variables and interval are configured in the IXON Cloud, gathers and stores the machine’s data automatically on the IXON Cloud. The data is aggregated, preprocessed and securely sent to the cloud using MQTT connection and real-time available for insights.

Tip! Find out how IXON keeps your data secure in our Security Whitepaper

From edge to the cloud From edge to the cloud

Discover the endless possibilities. Get started today.

Now that your field-level machine data has been made available on IXON Cloud, it’s time to turn it into management-level information. With Drag & Drop widget-based dashboards, your data is visualised in no time. Looking for even more in-depth analysis? Use webhooks or the API to integrate IXON Cloud with your other analysis, service, planning or management tools.

Transform your machine data into valuable information with IXON, so you can:

  • Search, find and solve problems remotely by accessing and controlling the PLC and HMI
  • Track and monitor machine status, production capacity or specific field device info in visual dashboards (live or historical)
  • Send an alarm in case of production line breakdown or upcoming maintenance
  • Share the machine data with external applications to take advantage of the opportunities that the internet offers you. Or build your custom application on top of IXON Cloud.

Discover how IXON’s IIoT solution creates added value for your company.

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