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.
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.
Blockchain can reduce supply chain risks
In the world of modern businesses, supply chains are becoming increasingly complex and such complexity increases as supply chains cross multiple countries and involve multiple interfaces with third parties. To address this, many are turning to blockchain.
According to Supply Chain Management Review, upstream are the suppliers who create goods and services used in a company’s own operations, such as raw components or materials. The downstream supply chain efficiently distributes a company’s products or services to its customers. Each stage, both upstream and downstream, needs to be proactively managed to minimize quality, financial, confidentiality, operational, reputational and legal risks.
Mounting supply chain challenges for businesses
The challenge faced in the modern, interconnected world is the growing complexity of supply chains. This complexity presents risks, and these include goods falling outside of required storage parameters and the risk of contamination or counterfeiting. It is incumbent upon the manufacturer to perform a risk assessment, which can involve:
- Understanding which products are transported and to where.
- Breaking the transportation chain into steps.
- Assessing each step from sender to recipient. Consider what will happen should delays arise at any stage of the transport route.
- Assessing for how long the cargo remains at each step.
- Assessing effectiveness of anti-counterfeiting measures and how these can be assessed? Such as by using anti-tamper proof locks or seals.
- Considering environmental conditions at each step (this may need to extend to seasonality).
- Understanding the impact of temperature and humidity.
- Understanding the suitability of the container.
- Understanding the impact of shock and vibration on the goods and the packaging. For example, how robust is the packaging? Have drop and rotation tests been performed?
Blockchain offers innovative solution
Many companies are now seeking to address these risks with blockchain technology. In terms of addressing supply chain risks, blockchain enables the transmission of data and information to all users of the supply chain network on a real-time basis. This means that when goods move from point A to point B, all of those in the supply chain are made aware at the same time. Should a change occur, such as a switch to a different distributor every actor is made aware and the system can be configured so that each party would need to agree such a change.
A second benefit is with the secure transmission of correct information between the users of the supply chain network. The cryptographic nature of this builds in security into the information exchange. A third example is with a bridge to the Internet of Things and devices like radio-frequency identification( RFID) transmitters. This is a technology whereby digital data encoded in RFID tags or smart labels are securely and digitally captured by a reader via radio waves. Blockchain can be especially handy in linking physical goods to serial numbers, bar codes, digital tags like RFID.
Based on these benefits, some distributors are searching for ways to leverage blockchain innovations to increase profits and strengthen relationships across the supply chain.
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