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8 min. read
Sjors de Kleijn
Last update: 13-09-2021

How Industrial IoT accelerates the creation of Smart Machines

Fasten your digital transformation process and build smart machines and equipment with innovative IIoT connectivity and tools

As a machine builder in the industry 4.0 revolution, you are challenged to innovate continuously to stay competitive. More end-users want to optimise their production, product quality and performance to provide added value beyond the machinery or equipment. Developing smart machines is essential to meet new expectations such as high productivity, secureness and more flexibility.

Simply put, machine manufacturers need to fasten their digital transformation with innovative connectivity and tools that meet contemporary challenges to support easier ways to collaborate, service and transform data into insights. In this article we’ll explain how to accelerate your digital journey.

Smart machine Smart machine

Challenges and potentials of smart machines

Most industrial companies today are investing in digitalisation for innovation machines. This can lead up to faster commissioning time, reduction of unplanned downtime and maintenance cost savings.

But the path to digital transformation and building smart machines is usually not an easy journey. Often legacy machines stand in the way of data integration and even newer systems cannot deliver the level of production information required to maximise performance.

Your customers rely on you as a machine builder for smart machines built to share digital content and better outcomes during the machine’s lifetime. Smart machines and equipment provide unprecedented access to data, better connectivity, and robust security, which position you and your customers for greater success. This requires an IIoT solution.

The challenge here is to think ahead of what the short and medium term needs are to select the most suitable industrial IoT solution. You don't want to incur unnecessary costs by having to install new hardware or software after just one year when the machine is already on site.

With technology evolving at such a rapid pace, how and where do you start?

Benefits of Industrial IoT for smart machines & equipment Benefits of Industrial IoT for smart machines & equipment

First steps in building ‘smart machines’

If you are still wondering what smart machines are: A smart machine can tell you what’s wrong with it and this technology is helping everyone – from machine operator to service engineer – to keep equipment running optimally. Smart machines are 'connected machines' that are more efficient, flexible and productive. 

In the ideal world smart machines work as autonomously as possible. This results in fewer people necessary to work around the machine, making them safer and more efficient. Smart machines are also capable of self-analysing and -diagnosing, enabling problem solving on their own or providing engineers with insights for quick problem solving.

The first step is standardisation of remote access which helps to troubleshoot faster and commission from remote which benefits in reduced service costs. Therefore you'll have to attach the machines securely to the internet.

Making industrial equipment smarter with the basics of IIoT Making industrial equipment smarter with the basics of IIoT

Make your machines smarter with industrial IoT connectivity

Smart machines call for industrial IoT connectivity for every machine. They make machines accessible in a cloud-based environment, so that the machines and data can be accessed securely from remote to deliver high-quality service and collect valuable insights. 

Smart connected machines step-up to shortage workforce challenges. Digital tools take advantage of your machine’s intelligence and connectivity to simplify training, support and maintenance – and drive higher levels of performance with limited staff on-site.

Use secure remote access to monitor machine performance – and respond to your customer’s critical situations quickly from a distance. In certain circumstances the use of augmented reality can be an advantage to share real-time guidance and instructions and help troubleshoot your customers to solve equipment problems.

Collect data to smarten machines using IIoT gateways

IIoT gateways run locally at the machine (or in the network) and monitor the parameters generated by the PLC, robot or sensors. This type of gateway is equipped with edge aggregation functionality. This simply means that data on the gateway is already converted and filtered, so that only the relevant data is transmitted, such as changed key figures, minima, maxima or average values over a certain period of time. This way, less data needs to be transmitted and stored in the central cloud storage.

How to get data from a machines' PLC How to get data from a machines' PLC

Connected machines help close the gap

Industrial IoT brings machines and knowledge closer together. Something that has been difficult to this day as machines are often located far away from the machine builder and its expertise. IIoT connectivity closes this information gap. Although IIoT gateways are simply just data collecting devices, this data is only valuable when you know how to transform it into information, alerts or new insights. 

The biggest challenge is to figure out what data you need to collect and how you can use your engineers expertise in combination with machine data. For example, data can be used to generate insights for your service team for maintenance purposes or to gain insights to the production capacity for your customers’ operators. Read this case study for more details.

Start with data acquisition

Our experience shows that data acquisition is a continuous process in building smart machines, where the most important thing is to get started. Begin with recording (logging) parameters that provide instant insight into machine status or malfunctions, such as fault codes, availability, number of operating hours, rotations, vibrations or temperature. An engineer’s knowledge is crucial in this, as they know what data is needed to reach the desired predictive insights.

Common used machine parameters for data logging Common used machine parameters for data logging

Combine machine data with knowledge

Once you’re logging the data, start interpreting and analysing it and then combine it with knowledge about the machine. The collected output, combined with the process knowledge, provides insights that can be acted upon proactively. Immediate intervention in the event of malfunctions is a must in many situations. 

Your IoT solution should provide the tools to make data easily visible for the different user roles. A prerequisite for a good platform are user roles that can be defined, so that you can build the necessary web-based dashboards for each of those roles, which can be consulted at any time from anywhere in the world.

Combine Technology, Knowledge of experts and Machine data to create Value Combine Technology, Knowledge of experts and Machine data to create Value

Learn from your machines

Making this information accessible to learn from your machines and sharing it with service engineers, partners or manufacturing customers can result in advice for operators close to the machine or provide insights that can be used to optimize a next machine series. For example, if you monitor the availability of your robots in a production line, you can advise or alert your customer on cleaning actions when a robot is underperforming.

So, start collecting data based on your people’s knowledge or get a free consultation to define a proper data strategy.

Collaborate to strengthen expertise Collaborate to strengthen expertise

The success of digital thinking

Implementing IoT is closely related to the success of your change and with a clear digital thinking you can meet short term and future goals. IoT related technologies can get you there faster and cost-effectively, not only in the design of a 'smart machine', but throughout the machine's lifetime. 

The goal is for innovation machines to perform at their best during their entire life span, to prevent stagnation at an early stage and to be continuously improved.

The result? You can achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction by capturing the power of IoT connectivity and remote tools. And build a foundation for digital service models for your smart machines – and new revenue streams for your company.

IIoT helps manage smart machines through it's lifecycle IIoT helps manage smart machines through it's lifecycle

Applications of IIoT for smarter machines

Smart machines are clearly becoming more intelligent and we see the need for machine data increase for our machine building customers. They use IoT to remotely measure and monitor the efficiency of machine productivity and installations - and with success. Centralising machine data is the start towards increasingly independent decision making based on highly structured data and context.

Big data bridges the gap between IoT and smart machines. These large amounts of data generated from the machines and sensors can be used for storage, analysis and proactive monitoring. 

Below you’ll find some great examples how IIoT helps in making machines smarter.

Proactive monitoring & alerts

Proactive alerts are given when normal values exceed certain threshold values. A good example is the collection of data from 70 sensors at a swimming pool. This data is collected to develop a model that predicts which factors, such as weather, air flow or humidity, influence the energy consumption of the building.

Smart machine using proactive alarming Smart machine using proactive alarming

Predictive monitoring of critical machine parts

Another great application is creating predictions based on historical and real-time machine data. By analysis of collected data, machine builders can proactively take measures or raise an alarm to prevent future machine component failures or malfunctions. 

A quick win is monitoring critical parts that cause 80 percent of machine failures. This predictive maintenance approach doesn't necessarily mean the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning, but just combining the knowledge of the engineer to find correlations for the cautions in the data.

Predictive monitoring of critical machine parts Predictive monitoring of critical machine parts

Other applications of smart machines

Some other example applications where machines are smartened with IIoT:

Measuring the availability of a machine Measuring the availability of a machine

Deliver more flexible machines and equipment with IIoT

With innovative and scalable IIoT technology you can deliver more flexible smart machines and equipment that help improve operating efficiencies and also:

  • Reduce your service costs;
  • Generate more revenue with new data based service models;
  • Collect data and learn from your machine to improve machines performance during lifetime;
  • Create added value with remote expert advice.

One IIoT environment for all your machines and equipment makes your asset management easier, gives your colleagues remote access from everywhere and makes data collection and analysis scalable and easier to set up.

Build Smarter Machines with Industrial IoT & IIoT edge connectivity Build Smarter Machines with Industrial IoT & IIoT edge connectivity

Meet IXON Cloud: All-in-one IIoT solution for innovation of all your smart machine equipment

IXON Cloud is the most complete Industrial IoT platform for machine builders and has a lot to offer to create smart machines, from edge to cloud:

  • Set up your own IoT portal in your own corporate identity in just a few clicks;
  • Connect quickly and securely to machines via plug & play VPN gateways;
  • Control your robots and HMIs from behind your desk;
  • Access your PLC web servers and peripherals as if you were standing next to the machine;
  • Collect machine data and build dashboards to create insights;
  • Set up alerts on your mobile phone;
  • Remotely analyse, troubleshoot machine errors, program your PLCs;
  • Integrate with 3rd party solutions (e.g. BI, ERP, CRM).

IXON offers this ready-to-go IoT platform and the hardware needed to connect machines to the Cloud. Depending on the type of gateway, the machine can be connected via the company network (via Ethernet or WiFi) or via the GSM / cellular network. In this way you can easily manage all of this remotely via a secure VPN connection, without endangering the production facility.

Collaboration is the key to success

In addition to secure access to machines, collaboration is key. IXON Cloud is the portal where the machine builder can profile his knowledge during the entire lifecycle of the machine. This is done from your own scalable IoT-portal where all your machines, data and customers come together. 

How we support machine builders in their digital transition:

  • Today: Get remote access over your install base - using the IXrouter or IXagent - and reduce service costs with VPN access to your PLC and remote control over HMI’s and robots via VNC or websockets
  • Tomorrow: Help end customers optimise machine and system operations with insights from your machine data. Log machine data with a few simple actions and easily create dashboards. Share them directly and make them accessible in your own portal.
  • In the future: Create predictive data models and new business models, derived from data captured over time. Integrate with external software platforms via the API, webhooks or custom widgets.

Would you like to know more about what IXON can do for your organisation? Schedule a call with one of our IoT specialists.

Smart machines are futureproof with an IIoT solution Smart machines are futureproof with an IIoT solution

It’s time to rethink what’s possible

The right IIoT solution and experts can help you transform your “what if” scenarios into reality. Learn more about how IXON’s powerful IIoT solution can make your machines more intelligent, productive and connected. 

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