Mitsubishi Electric and IBM participated as silver sponsors at the recent ARC India Forum, which saw close to 280 delegates. Speakers from both companies pointed out that, when technology suppliers coordinate their development efforts with each other, the resulting technology convergence is more agile and can often cater to a broader customer base. Ultimately, these types of alliances benefit the customer as competence levels rise through knowledge sharing and enhanced capabilities. The joint presentation by Mitsubishi Electric and IBM highlighted the strategic customer benefits of the close collaboration between the two suppliers.
Anil Bhise, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Mitsubishi Electric India and Vineet Nayyar, Cluster Leader for Industrial Sector for North & East India and Leads Electronics Industry for IBM India, spoke about digital operations in manufacturing; stressing the importance of an open platform to support live analytics and decision making and provided statistics to substantiate this claim.
The key takeaways from their presentation:
Companies are looking for predictive asset insights
Manufacturing analytics drives improved performance
The FA-IT (Factory Automation – Information Technology) platform creates value through connectivity
Condition Monitoring Systems: The Expanding Choices
“Last year we told you the story of CMS, but the story isn’t finished,” began Mr. Bhise; because the manufacturing operations and linkages are expanding. He showed how a condition monitoring system provides an early detection system to identify excessive vibrations/noise/humidity etc. These faults are time sensitive and the earlier you analyze and take care of the faults the better the result, he said. The loss due to shutdown would lead to several problems, such as stagnation in the process line, impact to the previous and the next machine, effect on resources (manpower and raw material), and disruption in delivery schedules, resulting in financial loss.
Although CMSs have been around for many years, the rise of IIoT and Industrie 4.0 have provided new monitoring options, plus analytics to put data in context with a given situation to provide better insight for intelligent action. The decision-making matrix for equipment is extremely complex with different permutations and results, he said. Taking the right decision out of multiple possibilities for a machine equipped with only a local controller is a challenge. Therefore, an edge computing layer is needed to aid with the decisions. The FA-IT platform enables connectivity between factory shop floors and value chains via IoT systems for collecting, analyzing, and utilizing data for smart manufacturing.
Giving the example of a deceptively simple cup of coffee Mr. Bhise said that the choices are numerous – temperature, ratio of water to milk, amount of sugar, etc. There are many combinations and possibilities; this is why an intelligent cloud is required to analyze all the possibilities, dependencies, and consequences. Significantly, this implies that the automated system is an integral part of the larger picture. However, to achieve such a linked and diverse system, pulling data and compiling actions with both new and legacy systems requires a shift in thinking. A shift to a more open interface between the Factory Automation (FA) and IT world, and also between devices on the shop floor.
Further, Mr. Bhise spoke about a small sensor that was used to protect a bearing because, if it failed, it would result in loss of current production run; damage to the machine; added logistics costs; and loss of future orders. At this juncture, Mr. Nayyar of IBM joined him on stage.
Digital Operations and Cognitive Manufacturing
Mr. Nayyar said that manufacturing companies must be aware about where they are on the digital journey and the current maturity model. Industry is structured in four layers: descriptive, predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive. And each step is moving in tandem with the four Vs – veracity (data in doubt), volume (data at rest), variety (many forms of data), and velocity (data in motion). The graphic provided illustrates this concept.
Relative to cognitive manufacturing, Mr. Nayyar said that it leverages current manufacturing technologies such as the IIoT, analytics, robotics, and mobility to improve plant efficiency. It also creates new interactions between humans and machines. This leads to cognitive factories characterized by networks of smart operations and facilities across their value chain. Cognitive factories gather the data, recognize patterns, apply advanced analytics, and infuse continuous intelligence into machine learning and other functions.
According to Mr. Nayyar, manufacturing analytics focuses on driving improved performance and value to these manufacturing operations:
Intelligent assets and equipment - a global auto manufacturer decreased equipment downtime by 34 percent
Processes and operations – a major European automaker increased productivity by 25 percent
Smarter resource and optimization – IBM saved 8 percent annually in energy costs at its own facilities
Then, he discussed some benefits that a cognitive enterprise can bring:
Cognitive assets: Real-time, fact-based understanding of asset performance and usage results in reduced downtime, extended asset life, and improved production yield.
Cognitive quality: Visual inspection for quality complements prescriptive quality for manufacturing to support unstructured data analysis.
Cognitive resource optimization: Provides worker safety solutions and monitors health parameters.
Finally, cognitive processes activate smart manufacturing and facilitate complex decision making and centralized control.
Explaining the application benefits across various industry verticals, Mr. Nayyar said that the results have been positive. Citing a few examples:
Oil & gas sector: 87 percent accuracy within 48 hours regarding potential equipment failure
Electronics: 30 percent improvement in chiller efficiency
Aviation sector: 97 percent ability to predict delays and cancellations within 12 weeks
The joint presentation by Mitsubishi Electric and IBM was all about collaboration and connectivity at all levels. The speakers said that the IoT opportunity can lead to “dead ends” and “locked doors” – the key to avoid these lies in an open platform that intelligently links:
Multiple vendors, devices, and networks
Diverse IT software
Diverse data storage and formats
Various cloud environments
Their presentation made it clear that companies must align their business processes to strategy. Through the cognitive enterprise approach a digital roadmap can be charted; and this must be in sync with business requirements, such as compliance, cost reduction, revenue maximization, and competitive advantage.
ARC believes that supplier collaborations like the Mitsubishi-IBM one set new benchmarks in terms of knowledge sharing and technology implementation for industrial growth. ARC has been discussing the relative benefits and drawbacks of selecting “best-in-class” solutions from multiple vendors vs. a single-vendor, “integrated suite” solution for many years. It would appear that well-grounded supplier alliances such as Mitsubishi Electric’s e-F@ctory Alliance ecosystem in which all partners are committed to delivering appropriate solutions for customers and joint project commitment provide the best of both approaches. ARC looks forward to following the continued positive development in this area.
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Keywords: Mitsubishi Electric India, IBM India, ARC India Forum, Open Platform, FA-IT Platform, Connectivity, IoT, Industrie 4.0, ARC Advisory Group.