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.
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.
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.
How IoT is helping companies take advantage of new revenue streams
In this Q&A, Gartner analyst Eric Goodness explains how manufacturers create impact with connected devices
Connected products create new opportunities for manufacturing companies to bond themselves with their customers, says Gartner analyst, Eric Goodness.
In a recent interview with DXJournal.co, Goodness talked about how the combination of IoT and manufacturing is helping manufacturing companies transform their processes and take advantage of new revenue streams.
DXJ: What are three digital transformation trends you’ve seen in manufacturing?
EG: The three digital trends that we’re seeing in manufacturing [include]:
- Looking at applying IoT to operations to drive out inefficiencies and to improve asset performance
- Applying IoT to the supply chain, again, to drive out cost inefficiencies and to gain more visibility there
- the biggest trend, without a doubt, and where most of the revenue that we’re seeing being spent — rather than languishing in cycles of indecision — is the creation of connected products.
If you look at how manufacturers are looking at bringing connected white goods, connected industrial infrastructure, connected commercial infrastructure, connected consumer products that is by far the biggest use of IoT as an extension of the digital business technology platform that’s happening out in the marketplace.
DX Journal: Is the use of connected products where IoT technologies are creating the most impact within larger manufacturing companies?
EG: Today, it is creating the largest impact as it provides [large manufacturing companies] a new way to bond themselves with their customers, to help those customers better monitor and manage those big industrial assets that they’re acquiring from the manufacturer.
And it also helps the manufacturers create a premium revenue stream from their ability to remotely monitor, manage and create performance-based service-level agreement (SLAs) with their industrial customer base that are buying those assets.
Service-based revenue is going to be far more profitable than actually selling the capital asset. It’s the creation of these connected products where we’re seeing manufacturers actually sell some industrial assets at cost or at a slight loss in favour of these performance-based long term contracts, with the maintenance and support of those assets that they’re selling.
DX Journal: Are there any areas within manufacturing companies that are easier than others to implement IoT?
EG: The real bifurcation that we’ve seen in the marketplace is simply those environments behind the four walls of the factory that are security instrumented and where there is significant safety of life concerns, or where there is significant intellectual property at risk from external breaches. An environment where those concerns are less so, we are seeing IoT slowly make it to the factory floor.
There are initiatives such as analytics of production lines or plants where they analyze cold data in the cloud or within the corporate data lake to find inefficiencies in production or applying an optical-visual inspection on a production line to drive out errors. But in process manufacturing where there’s hazardous chemicals or other safety of life issues it’s going to take a long time before IoT makes it within the four walls of [those] factories.
DX Journal: What are some ways that large manufacturing companies have been keeping up with emerging technologies?
EG: We’re finally starting to have the conversations where the operational technology (OT) side and the IT side of the manufacturer are coming together. We’re seeing more investments in centres of excellence that have representatives from operations and engineering as well as the CIO part of organization, and sometimes even from the product side that reports within the CTO of a manufacturer.
Inside of organizations, we’re starting to see these multi-business unit, multi-stakeholder centres of excellence work to identify short lists of relevant vendors. It’s a slow slog for these organizations to come to agreement, but it’s very encouraging to see these organizations work together.
DX Journal: Is it possible to predict what the next five years will look like in the manufacturing industry?
EG: Over the next five years, we’re going to see a lot of IoT manufacturing convection currents. IoT is going to be subsumed into other recognizable services that vendors offer to their manufacturing clients. For example, vendors are going to be increasingly introducing their own platforms to provide manufacturers with fully-formed OT and IoT solutions. Traditional OT players, like GE, ABB, Honeywell, and Rockwell, are looking to present their own IoT platforms, alongside their legacy conjunction control and automation capabilities. While players like SAP, Microsoft, and Oracle are leveraging their IoT platforms with their manufacturing execution systems, asset performance management systems, or enterprise performance management applications.
We believe that IoT is going to become an embedded capability of all legacy platforms in platform-as-a-service and integration capabilities. There is going to still be a sector of the market where you see smaller niche IoT specific companies, but if you consider yourself an SAP, Microsoft or GE, why wouldn’t you at least consider participating in a closed ecosystem of value that has a natural and virtuous integration path to make it easier to deploy IoT to your business problem.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.
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