Reposted from sme.org/MEmagazine…. by Bruce Morey originally on January 4, 2016
There seems to be much promise in the Industrial Internet of Things for manufacturers. Other industries, like financial services and retail stores who already have access to such Big Data in the normal course of their affairs are taking advantage of it. That was the conclusion of a Lux Research report titled Information Meets Matter: Devising Big Data Strategies for Real-World Industries published in April. In a discussion with the author I previously reported on back in June, Mark Bünger, Research Director for Lux, cautioned that physical based industries – especially manufacturing – have a disadvantage in exploiting Big Data. They do not have the physical infrastructure yet to collect and use the data. Sensors must be deployed. Communications channels built. Money must be invested to get the data in the first place. The upshot of this was Bünger’s cautions to industrial organizations to make a solid business case and move carefully when making an investment in creating a Big Data project. A reasonable approach if the approach is to bolt on an out-of-the-box collection system to existing machines.
However, there might be another way – partner with machine suppliers to build that infrastructure organically if slowly.
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An organic build-out is what I view what Hexagon Metrology is doing with its MMS series of machine monitoring products. For example, their entry level MMS Pulse is a small device that ships with Hexagon’s CMMs. It measures vibration, temperature, humidity, and notifies of crashes – data critical to CMM operations. “It is a first mile provider of data,” explained Milan Kocic, Business Development Manager of UX and Innovation from Hexagon Metrology. “We connect the machine [through MMS Pulse] to something that can store and use that data, whether that’s internal servers or to the Cloud,” he said. While there are many measurements that could affect the performance of a CMM, Hexagon deemed these as the first ‘vital few’. “MMS Pulse is the first product from Hexagon whose sole intent is to gather some environmental data and pass it on either to the customer or back to us. So in essence it’s the first Internet of Things device and platform that we’re using to get into this field,” explained Kocic.
Why this and why now? “We have done a lot of user research over the last six months,” he said. “The number one thing people ask for is better productivity and speed. Machines we make are good enough. Accuracy we provide is good enough. But people want to do things faster and better.” Not faster measurements necessarily, but ways to program easier, streamline operations, and above all increase uptime and reliability. “We want to reduce zero unplanned downtime,” he said. Any number of things can cause this, from parts wearing prematurely, poor programming causing crashes, or temperature and humidity too high in the room. As he relates it, someone simply leaving a door open to the CMM lab can cause problems on some of their more sensitive and accurate machines.
Data Transport and Utility –Leveraging What is There
Equally important to getting the data off the machine is transporting it somewhere. For consumers, the internet is a SmartPhone away. Not so in the manufacturing world, according to Kocic, where the fear of losing control of proprietary data is well founded. But their research also found some manufacturing companies using the cloud, like Amazon Web Services, where those services inherently guarantee security of the data. This led to another inventive approach from Hexagon that stands out to me – partnering with the company Salesforce and its CRM software. Hexagon is now part of the Salesforce IoT Cloud Early Access Program, allowing users to navigate and use the environmental statistics available from MMS Pulse in Salesforce.
“We are all about connecting businesses of any size to their customers in any way that they see a benefit,” explained, Dylan Steele, Senior Director Product Marketing, App Cloud & IoT Cloud from Salesforce. “We have built out a platform that is much more than managing contact information, we have a full suite of custom app development and business process development tools [in IoT Cloud], aimed at injecting into that platform the vast amount of data available from the Internet of Things, what I call IoT scale data.” Hexagon Metrology was already a customer and it made sense to them to broaden the relationship to include a pilot (the Early Access Program) with an industrial company that had specific data requirements in mind. “They were already using some of our cloud data apps to manage laboratory equipment,” said Steele. “We are in pilot mode right now, turning on select components of the IoT Cloud app, working with different customers who have unique problems,” he explained. “We expect that pilot to be completed and have a full product by the end of 2016.” Hexagon is the only manufacturing company in the pilot phase.
How does this work for Hexagon? “Imagine a breach in temperature where someone left the door open and the CMM shuts down. If it is connected to the Cloud, it will appear within that account profile in Salesforce,” he said. Afterwards, when service personnel go to that company to service the equipment on a regular call, they can look up the data and determine the actual history over the last six months. They can see when crashes happened and temps ran too high. Rather than guessing what might have happened, the actual historical data allows the service guy to determine maintenance, find root causes, and eliminate “unplanned” service interruptions. “Our customers are telling us that this simple concept is exactly what they need,” said Kocic.
“We are at the beginning of tapping into this capability,” he predicted. “We are connecting machines, but right now Hexagon has an installed base of tens of thousands machines in the field and we will sell [many] more this year. MMS Pulse is on every Hexagon CMM machine as we ship them out, but that is not enough right now to fulfill much of the promise” of Big Data and predictive analytics. That is also why partnering with companies like Salesforce and exploiting existing data services like Amazon Web Services is so important to Kocic. Lowering the cost and time to build that infrastructure is enhanced by leveraging existing infrastructure.
Kocic sees another obstacle in these early days – standards. Not lack of them, but too many competing standards in different manufacturing ecosystems. “There’s not one single standard we can develop for communication and then plug it into any ecosystem we want,” explained Kocic. “We literally have to have ten plug-ins that allows us to [tap into 10 different communication protocols.] He believes to get wide acceptance across manufacturing and metrology, there is going to be a need for further standardization on a few protocol standards that will do the trick. “The biggest obstacle to IoT and Industrial Internet in general is too many competing standards,” he said.