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8 min. read
Patrick Smits

How Smart Machines enable Machine Builder Innovation

The machinery sector is in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, which revolves around creating added value with smart machines. The idea behind this is that 'connected machines' are more efficient and productive, require less energy and fewer raw materials, are more flexible to switch production which costs less, making products available to people worldwide.

To make this achievable, technology, knowledge and data need to be brought together to create an optimal production with as little downtime as possible. Moreover, by aligning production chains with IoT, factories can better anticipate the supply and absorption capacity of suppliers and customers. Machine data plays a key role in this. By making machine data available centrally and building smarter machines that require less maintenance, new business models can be set up to remain competitive in the future. For the machine builder, this means that there are various challenges in the short and long term. But by adapting now, their business can be futureproof.

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Technology, Knowledge and Machine data = Value Technology, Knowledge and Machine data = Value


What are ‘smart machines’?

Smart machines work as autonomously as possible. This autonomy also means that there are fewer people necessary to work around the machine, making them safer and more efficient than when people are constantly involved. 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 machine builder is (ultimately) expected to offer machines that are self-learning and, based on the production history, can proactively take measures or raise an alarm to prevent future failures or malfunctions. Hence why predictive maintenance has been a buzzword in the industry for years. However that doesn't necessarily mean the use of artificial intelligence or machine learning. As a machine builder, for example, you could also focus on parts that cause 80 percent of machine failures. Monitor and set up alarms to anticipate the failure of those parts.

We are on the verge of a transition in which the machine builder uses all their knowledge and skills. Not only in the design and construction of a 'smart machine', but throughout the machine's lifetime. The development of the IoT is closely related to the success of this change.

Machine lifecycle Machine lifecycle


The importance of Industrial IoT connectivity

Industrial IoT can bring 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. 

By deploying IIoT solutions, machine builders can focus on their core activities and their IoT transition. Together with their customers, they need to consider how the data of their machines, together with their extensive process knowledge, can lead to insights and advice. The goal is for machines to perform at their best during their entire life span, to prevent stagnation at an early stage and to be continuously improved.

The first phase is to troubleshoot faster by accessing a machine remotely. The next phase is to collect data from machines to create more insight. 

To begin with, you'll have to get the machines online. This calls for industrial IoT connectivity for every machine. Then the machines need to be connected to the internet and made accessible in a simple and user-friendly cloud environment, so that the machines and data can be accessed securely from anywhere to deliver high-quality service and valuable insights. 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.

Essentials of Industrial IoT Essentials of Industrial IoT


Applications of IIoT for smarter machines

Smart machines are clearly becoming more intelligent. In addition to the support it offers to operators, such as the automation of repetitive tasks with robots, machines are more and more capable of self-learning. It starts with the standardization of a remote service solution, but there is a trend towards increasingly independent decision making based on highly structured data and context. This leads us to the next phase, the collection of data from machines to create more insight. 

We see the need for machine data is increasingly important for several of our machine building customers. They use IoT to remotely measure and monitor the efficiency of machine productivity and installations - and with success. Examples are measuring the number of broken eggs, or the external monitoring of pumps, air and dosing installations. Proactive alerts are given when normal values exceed certain threshold values. Another 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.

Big data bridges the gap between IoT and smart machines. These are large amounts of data generated from the communication of machines and sensors and Industrial IoT gateways (or edge gateways) can be used to process this data in real time.

Build Smarter Machines with Industrial IoT connectivity Build Smarter Machines with Industrial IoT connectivity


Making smart 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 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 or minima, maxima or average values over a certain period of time. This way, less data needs to be sent and the central storage services are relieved.

But 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. By visualising data in a central cloud environment, it can be easily monitored and analysed. The biggest challenge is to figure out what data you need to collect. Start collecting data based on your own insight as adapting software can easily be done later on.

IXrouter: IIoT gateways IXrouter: IIoT gateways


Begin with data acquisition to gain insights and streamline machine production

Our experience shows that data acquisition is a continuous process, 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, 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 insights.

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.

Making this information accessible and sharing it with service engineers, system integrators or customers can result in advice for operators close to the machine or provide insights that can be used to optimize a next machine series. The 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 overviews for each of those roles, which can be consulted at any time from anywhere in the world.

Example of industrial machine parameters Example of industrial machine parameters


Use dashboards and APIs to connect data streams

Create dashboards to visualise historical data for comparison or use live monitoring to keep an eye on the real-time production progress. With most IoT solutions, setting up dashboards is fast and easy.

The next step could be the integration of machine data with other systems (such as ERP, MES, BI) or the application of techniques such as machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). In order to make smart analyses, data flows need to come together somewhere and be processed as a whole. The data must therefore be made available from a central cloud storage. Open cloud solutions therefore include APIs, connectors or widgets for extracting and integrating data from external systems and presenting it in external tools or platforms. As a result, the combined data provides everything that is needed to optimize production facilities and get the most out of machine data.

The IoT transition is a long process which requires careful deliberation. IXON promises to go along in this transition and support machine builders during every phase.

Industrial IoT grow model Industrial IoT grow model


IXON Cloud, the IIoT platform for machine builders

IXON Cloud is the most complete Industrial IoT platform for machine builders and has a lot to offer:

  • Set up your own IoT portal in your own corporate identity with 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;
  • Analyze and troubleshoot machine errors;
  • Program your PLCs and other devices 

IXON offers machine builders to do all of this remotely via a secure VPN connection, without endangering the production facility. 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.

This makes IXON Cloud versatile and easy to use. Thousands of machine builders around the world now use IXON Cloud and experience its ease of use and flexibility.

IXON Cloud: All-in-one Industrial IoT Solution IXON Cloud: All-in-one Industrial IoT Solution


Collaboration is the key to success.

In addition to safe access to machines, collaboration is central. 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 the digital transition:

  • Today: Get remote access over your install base - using the IXrouter or IXagent - and reduce costs of service with VPN access and remote control over the web, VNC or websockets over PLC, HMIs and robots.
  • Tomorrow: Help end customers optimize 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 organization? Request a free demo with one of our IoT specialists.

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