By: Frank Antonysamy
One of the more negative iconic images of the Industrial Revolution was of child workers being sent into coal mines. Thankfully, that’s an age long behind us.
Our own era promises a different revolution: one in which miners no longer need to descend into the mine shaft, wield a pick, endure suffocating temperatures or constant jarring vibration, or risk their lives for underground goods like coal, gold or diamonds.
Tomorrow’s mines will increasingly rely on sensor-equipped, software-driven machinery, a complex technology evolution enabled by the movement toward the Internet of Things (IoT). And it’s not just mining that’s benefiting from the IoT.
While the technology sector conjures an image of silicon chips and clean rooms, processors and analytics, sensors and the cloud, manufacturers across sectors are moving toward a world of IoT-enabled intelligent products and systems.
Intelligent Solutions: There’s Gold in Them Hills
Ordering dinner through an app, calling Lyft to get to a restaurant or paying bills through a smartphone are the accepted conventions of today’s digital world. Now a new technology wave is transforming remote-operated or software-driven equipment into IoT-enabled, autonomous, self-learning machinery that reacts to changing circumstances in real time.
Driverless heavy machinery is already functioning at multinational metals and mining company Rio Tinto’s massive open-pit iron mining operations at Pilbara in Western Australia, with 400-plus-ton trucks larger than two-story houses hauling massive loads of ore and waste material. Operated from a control room hundreds of miles away, the trucks work alongside other vehicles and heavy machinery, adjusting in real time to a mine’s changing layout as ore and waste are removed.
Soon, most new mines will use pilot-less drilling machines at the coalface, equipped with sensors that allow them to follow seams of ore, monitor temperature and air quality, detect vibrations that may signal danger, and make sensor-informed decisions based on complex risk-driven algorithms.
Trucks, drilling machines, even transportation systems will be interoperable automated systems — in effect, an amalgamation of specialized systems in a single, highly complex machine. The result: more efficient operations, fewer workers exposed to risk, better performance and an improved bottom line.
The Changing Face of Manufacturing
Today’s manufacturers are actively leveraging IoT initiatives to realize internal process efficiencies. Many are changing how they design their production facilities to transform their business – streamlining production and improving productivity.
Consider a renowned heavy equipment manufacturer that has leveraged IoT in its production lines, slashing the time it takes to produce customized equipment at its U.S. facility from 42 minutes to 22 minutes. It did so by automating factory line processes and equipping them with beacons and Intel’s Retail Sensor Platform integrated with Microsoft’s Azure IoT platform. The company has doubled production times, improved quality compliance at the workstation level and boosted employee utilization by 20%.
Increasingly, the definition of a product is evolving to a broader, customer-centric construct, in which sensors gather data on customers’ use of products and their performance, enabling predictive maintenance, insight into future product enhancements, even customer-focused features and improvements, along with better customer service. All are based on deeper insights into users’ behavior, collected and aggregated from the products’ sensors. By outfitting products with smart sensors and connecting them to key systems and networks – and even to each other – manufacturers are replacing transaction-oriented relationships with whole-lifecycle engagement.
An Expanding IoT Influence
With its proven efficiency and productivity gains, it’s no wonder the demand for IoT devices is exploding. According to IDC, 60% of global manufacturers are using analytics to sense and analyze data from connected products and manufacturing. By 2018, IDC says, the proliferation of advanced, purpose-built, analytic applications aligned with IoT will result in 15% productivity improvements for manufacturers regarding innovation delivery and supply chain performance.
Mining? Yes. Oil and gas drilling? Sure. Manufacturing? Certainly. But IoT is not limited to these sectors. Many companies in consumer-facing sectors will also experience change from IoT, from banking to retail to airlines. Connected products and smart manufacturing are here to stay, and they’ll be all around us.
This article originally appeared on the Digitally Cognizant Blog
Cognizant (Nasdaq: CTSH) is dedicated to helping the world’s leading companies build stronger businesses — helping them go from doing digital to being digital.
Improving working conditions with blockchain
Blockchain is more often spoken about as an external tool for businesses to help secure supply chain. In a new pilot, blockchain is to be used to help improve health and safety within the workplace – at a Levi Strauss factory.
The testing out of blockchain as an internal health and safety auditing tool is being run as a collaboration between Harvard University’s public health graduate school, U.S. think-tank New America and the U.S. denim jeans company Levi Strauss & Co. The three have declared a project to design, build and operate a blockhain-based system for health and safety at work.
The new technology will be designed to augment outside auditors of factory health and safety with a system that will allow factory workers to self-report issues of concern. The factories that will test out the technology are based in Mexico, where three manufacturing sites in total employ 5,000 workers.
Mexico’s regulations for health and safety laws are exclusively federal in content. Under this legislation employers must obey standards, maintain safety programs, maintain compliance systems, ensure proper equipment and hazardous substance control. However, the level of safety is often subject to criticism (as with the International Labor Organization), such as in terms of accident rates and occupational illnesses like respiratory diseases.
The new project is designed to provide an alternate avenue for worker health and safety to be addressed, outside of periodic audit, and the mechanism enables a U.S. based company to ensure that clothes manufactured for the U.S. market are produced under conditions that are safe for workers.
The aim of the scheme is to input an annual worker survey on the blockchain. Once inputted the company’s site-based managers will be unable to alter it, and the findings will be made available to the workforce. The findings will be available for Mexican authorities to review as well as U.S.-based Levi Strauss managers. The blockchain will be provided by ConsenSys, the blockchain company founded by Joseph Lubin, once of Ethereum.
Tesla wants its factory workers to wear futuristic augmented reality glasses on the assembly line
- Tesla patent filings reveal plans for augmented reality glasses to assist with manufacturing.
- Factory employees has previously used Google Glass in its factory as recently as 2016.
To cut down on the number of fit and finish issues — like the “significant inconsistencies” found by UBS— Tesla employees on the assembly line could soon use augmented reality glasses similar to Google Glass to help with car production, according to new patent filings.
Last week, Tesla filed two augmented reality patents that outline a futuristic vision for the relationship between humans and robots when it comes to manufacturing. The “smart glasses” would double as safety glasses, and would help workers identify places for joints, spot welds, and more, the filings say.
Here’s how it works:
And here’s the specific technical jargon outlining the invention (emphasis ours):
The AR device captures a live view of an object of interest, for example, a view of one or more automotive parts. The AR device determines the location of the device as well as the location and type of the object of interest. For example, the AR device identifies that the object of interest is a right hand front shock tower of a vehicle. The AR device then overlays data corresponding to features of the object of interest, such as mechanical joints, interfaces with other parts, thickness of e-coating, etc. on top of the view of the object of interest. Examples of the joint features include spot welds, self-pierced rivets, laser welds, structural adhesive, and sealers, among others. As the user moves around the object, the view of the object from the perspective of the AR device and the overlaid data of the detected features adjust accordingly.
As Electrek points out, Tesla has previously been employing Google Glass Enterprise as early as 2016, though it’s not clear how long it was in use.
Tesla has a tricky relationship with robotics in its factory. In April, CEO Elon Musk admitted its Fremont, California factory had relied too heavily on automated processes. Those comments, to CBS This Morning, came after criticism from a Bernstein analyst who said “We believe Tesla has been too ambitious with automation on the Model 3 line.”
Still, the company seems to be hoping for a more harmonious relationship between human and machine this time around.
“Applying computer vision and augmented reality tools to the manufacturing process can significantly increase the speed and efficiency related to manufacturing and in particular to the manufacturing of automobile parts and vehicles,” the patent application reads.
This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2018.
Dow Chemical envisions the future of manufacturing
Dow Chemical, one of the world’s biggest chemical producers, is taking a leadership role in the digital transformation of its industry.
Despite its foundation in the pure science of chemistry, the chemicals manufacturing industry doesn’t exactly conjure high-tech images when people think of what goes into making chemical products.
And yet, the chemicals industry is poised to be the poster child for the very high-tech Industry 4.0 revolution, which takes existing manufacturing processes, and infuses them with digital DNA, thanks to the IIoT.
Dow Chemical, one of the world’s biggest chemical producers, is already taking a leadership role in the digital transformation of its industry. “We have significant amounts of data from our instrumentation and process sensors to use with the new analytics and deep-learning technologies,” Billy Bardin, Dow’s Global Operations Technology Center director, told Chemical Engineering.
Dow, like many other chemical companies, has been using sensor tech for decades, but the IIoT represents an entirely new model for how data from these sensors becomes part of the company’s end-to-end process. Not only does the IIoT offer optimization of the production process, it can improve efficiency, while reducing both energy consumption, and operational cost.
Safety — a key consideration given the stakes — can also be improved. Many chemical producers, including Dow, are still manufacturing at facilities that date back 50 years or more. Modernizing these plants is a constant effort, but with the advent of the IIoT, gains in situational awareness accompany the gains in efficiency and productivity.
Recently, the company enlisted the help of Schneider Electric to digitize its Carrollton, KY processing plant, giving teams better data visibility for pumps, valves and motors. The roadmap also includes the addition of Schneider’s HART devices to enable operations and maintenance teams to remotely view equipment health or thresholds for valves in order to manage them better, according to Automation World. The improvements in preventative maintenance this data enables are key to better employee safety, as well as protecting the environment.
Better efficiency, cost savings, and greater safety? Strong arguments for better chemistry through digitization.
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