4 ways IoT tech is revolutionising production lines
The Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t a new topic of discussion. Connected “things” are everywhere – from refrigerators to watches and cars – changing our interactions with friends, family and co-workers. While IoT discussions often centre on consumer use, there is great potential for adoption on the manufacturing shop floor.
Today’s factory bears little resemblance to the stereotypical image of manufacturing. Long gone are the days of repetitious assembly lines where workers create part after identical part. Today’s modern shop floor is a hub of technology, full of sensors, electronic controls and automated equipment. These interconnected devices drive efficiency, quality and flexibility. Here’s where I see the biggest impact of these new connections.
Factory productivity continues to rise, as plants produce more and more with ever increasing efficiency and quality. Connected tools and machines are a key aspect of these gains. Take the IP (Internet Protocol) torque wrench in the assembly of a complex part, for example. When connected to the cloud, the IP torque wrench captures the torque applied to a specific part, the specific wrench that was used, when that wrench was last calibrated and the employee who used it. Faults can be detected in real time, and even when they’re missed the cloud can trace every part affected back to the root cause. Quality and speed are improved.
More customizable products
As customer demands for products change, manufacturers adjust. Automation and the connected factory produce a wider variety of products and product variations in smaller quantities more quickly, answering the market’s increasing demand for near-custom and highly configured products. Fast, efficient and flexible computerized machines are provided instructions for the exact requirements for each product at each moment of production. This is a full-scale transformation of the old-style “economies of scale” approach that drove mass-produced consumer goods.
Safer shop floors
Wearable technologies have the potential to further connect people with plant information, delivering real time machine and production data to operators and managers on the shop floor. As importantly, smart devices connected through a cloud ERP system can improve safety by enabling people and equipment to literally see around corners. For instance, a smart safety vest or a Bluetooth ‘beacon’ will help forklifts and their operators “see” employees and obstacles and provide both alerts or even automatically apply brakes to ensure safety.
Beyond the four walls of the production facility, the shift to cloud-based software systems allows employees, suppliers and customers worldwide to view the status of an order, work-in-progress, inventory, equipment availability, and much more. Visibility won’t stop when the product leaves the plant. Smart products will not only interact with the customer in new ways but will also be able to stay in contact with the producer for better long-term performance, maintenance and support. Quality issues not only get service attention, but can influence future product design. Connected smart technology and the Internet of Things brings the processes and the products together into a new ecosystem for added customer value.
Siemens: Providing the First Industrial 5G Router
Across a number of industry sectors, there’s a growing need for both local wireless connectivity and remote access to machines and plants. In both of these cases, communication is, more often than not, over a long distance. Public wireless data networks can be used to enable this connectivity, both nationally and internationally, which makes the new 5G network mainframe an absolutely vital element of remote access and remote servicing solutions as we move into the interconnected age.
Siemens Enables 5G IIoT
The eagerly awaited Scalance MUM856-1, Siemens’ very first industrial 5G router, is officially available to organisations. The device has the ability to connect all local industrial applications to the public 5G, 4G (LTE), and 3G (UMTS) mobile wireless networks ─ allowing companies to embrace the long-awaited Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
The router can be used to remotely monitor and service plants, machines, as well as control elements and other industrial devices via a public 5G network ─ flexibly and with high data rates. Something that has been in incredibly high demand after being teased by the leading network providers for years.
Scalance MUM856-1 at a Glance
- Scalance MUM856-1 connects local industrial applications to public 5G, 4G, and 3G mobile wireless networks
- The router supports future-oriented applications such as remote access via public 5G networks or the connection of mobile devices such as automated guided vehicles in industry
- A robust version in IP65 housing for use outside the control cabinet
- Prototypes of Siemens 5G infrastructure for private networks already in use at several sites
“To ensure the powerful connection of Ethernet-based subnetworks and automation devices, the Scalance MUM856-1 supports Release 15 of the 5G standard. The device offers high bandwidths of up to 1000 Mbps for the downlink and up to 500 Mbps for the uplink – providing high data rates for data-intensive applications such as the remote implementation of firmware updates. Thanks to IPv6 support, the devices can also be implemented in modern communication networks.
Various security functions are included to monitor data traffic and protect against unauthorised access: for example, an integrated firewall and authentication of communication devices and encryption of data transmission via VPN. If there is no available 5G network, the device switches automatically to 4G or 3G networks. The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and autoconfiguration of the devices,” Siemens said.
Preparing for a 5G-oriented Future
Siemens has announced that the new router can also be integrated into private 5G networks. This means that the Scalance MUM856-1 is, essentially, future-proofed when it comes to 5G adaptability; it supports future-oriented applications, including ‘mobile robots in manufacturing, autonomous vehicles in logistics or augmented reality applications for service technicians.’
And, for use on sites where conditions are a little harsher, Siemens has given the router robust IP65 housing ─ it’s “dust tight”, waterproof, and immersion-proofed.
The first release version of the router has an EU radio license; other versions with different licenses are in preparation. “With the Sinema Remote Connect management platform for VPN connections, users can access remote plants or machines easily and securely – even if they are integrated in other networks. The software also offers easy management and auto-configuration of the devices,” Siemens added.