How Industry 4.0 is finally getting to grips with big data

With everyone and everything connected, the problem with big data has been that there’s simply too much to organise or process. But that could all be about to change…

Big data analytics is an essential part of Industry 4.0. Manufacturing machines and systems have been churning out vast amounts of data for years, but a lack of storage, analysis and ability to send and share the information has left much of it unused.

Now smart-connected Industry 4.0 machines with data-delivery sensors have the ability to change the status quo and use the information on a real-time basis to improve performance.

It can help optimise production quality, improve efficiencies, save energy, improve services and boost predictive maintenance.

This data can be shared across manufacturing sites, locations and the supply chain via the cloud and the use of encryption and authorised access to maintain security. Integration of data sources across systems is also an important factor.

Mark Bottomley, UK director at Rockwell Automation, says: “Every piece of smart technology will be connected to a database and that data will be available real-time on employees’ phones and devices so they can improve production and save on waste. That’s compared to the past when data was not properly looked after and production information – such as bottlenecks in a factory – were plastered over the walls on pieces of paper.”

He explains that big data can be used to improve the production of all products – and uses bread as an example. “You can analyse the speed of the oven, the humidity and temperature, and the weight of the dough to produce data to help you bake the best loaf,” he states. “If you want it to be a different colour you can use the data to adjust the ingredients in real time.”

Data can also be used to improve traceability and trackability of products. “We are seeing this in the pharmaceutical and food industries. Data on who made a product, what was tested, where the raw material came from and which farm it came from is growing in importance with concerns over health and safety. You will have to source this data and keep it for the lifespan of the product throughout the supply chain,” he explains. “Smart technology can help us contextualise, source and share this data.”

“Every piece of smart technology will be connected to a database and that data will be available real-time on employees’ phones and devices so they can improve production and save on waste.” – Mark Bottomley, Rockwell Automation

Alex Hill, chief operating officer of Senseye, which provides machine learning technology to perform real-time machinery prognostics, says that, in Industry 4.0, the days of data silos are over.

“Businesses want open, interoperable systems and be able to benefit from the best of each,” he says. “Common data-sharing platforms allows businesses to have a greater knowledge of how to use their assets safely and effectively while increasing customer engagement and satisfaction and improving future products.”

He says Industry 4.0 allows operational data such as production number and quantity to be captured alongside usage and machine status data as well as condition monitoring data such as current, torque and vibration.

“This allows for things like more effective product quality monitoring as well as exciting things such as predictive maintenance which can help to reduce unplanned downtime by up to 50 per cent,” he adds. “You save money and potentially extend the lifetime of assets. If machine OEMs share condition monitoring and usage monitoring information with their customers you have increased trust and satisfaction.”

He says the right data doesn’t need to be high-volume raw data. “A five-minute average usually means just as much and is much easier to send to the cloud,” he says. “Getting the organisational culture to accept that not every piece of data is important to silo and that sharing can bring benefits must be understood. By far and away this is the greatest challenge. The technology is all there, it’s the people and organisations that stop it from working.”

This article was published in our Business Reporter Online: The 4th Industrial Revolution.
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