Skip to main content

Industry 4.0 Packaged Solutions: Frictionless at All Levels

Jeff Miller, Director of Smart Manufacturing and Innovation | November 7, 2018
General Blog

I speak and write frequently about Industry 4.0/Smart Manufacturing. My goal is to educate listeners and readers on how to apply the available modern technology stacks to real-life applications. Differentiating terms like IIoT and Industry 4.0 is helpful but the real outcome I am seeking is to provide solutions and architectures that solve problems.

An accepted definition of Industry 4.0 is the automation and data exchange between manufacturing technology sectors creating cyber-physical industrial environments.

These technology sectors can be classified as:

  • Cloud
  • IoT
  • MES (Horizontal and Vertical System Integration)
  • Analytics & AI
  • Robotics
  • Simulation
  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Augmented Reality
  • Cyber Security

There really is nothing special about calling these group of sectors Industry 4.0 but it does provide a way for us to demonstrate the continued evolution of our space. Industry 4.0 is nothing more than a group of technology sectors brought together to help enable the outcome of digital transformation. The most important thing an engineer or executive can do is to understand each of the underlying technologies and determine how they may or may not be applied to their processes and systems. Unfortunately, there is no Industry 4.0 easy button.

It is true that many of these technologies have been around for quite some time. For example, I worked on a team to install a vehicle assembly Production Control Monitoring System (PCMS) and Andon Reporting System (ARS) for a large automotive manufacturer in the early years of this millennia. I was again a part of a team that installed a transmission Birth History reporting system for another automotive manufacturer tying the production assets and their metrics for each part produced to an early MES and ERP. And again, I was part of another team that implemented an early MES for tracking OEE and machine utilization. All of this occurred before 2005.

My point is that the technology has been available for quite some time but the biggest challenge in many cases has been implementation friction. These systems required teams, large infrastructure and readily accessible PLCs. Friction has been one of the largest road blocks for some companies to engage in the art of data driven decisions. Don’t get me wrong, for many activities that enable digital transformation there is still the need for teams and infrastructure which creates frictional barriers of entry for some companies. However, with the technology advancements being made some of these frictional barriers can be reduced for some types of projects. On the flip-side, technology advancements have enabled outcomes previously not available but still require large capital investments.

Friction can come in the forms of:

  • Disconnected Assets (Lack of Modern Automation)
  • Lack of On-Prem IT Infrastructure (Networking, Servers)
  • Effort (Burden on plant resources)
  • Cost (Large Capital Investments)
  • Time to ROI (Schedule Length)

To reduce friction, InSource Solutions is developing a series of Industry X0 Packaged Solutions. We are identifying common use cases and creating solutions that are akin to creating an Easy Button for manufacturers and industrial producers to begin or enhance their journey of digital transformation.

Our most recent offering is our InSource X0 Package for Downtime – Hybrid Cloud. This solution focuses on reducing the friction of implementing a downtime MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and is designed for our manufacturers who have been left behind. They don’t have the necessary capital available to upgrade their automation equipment with connected manufacturing assets. Or perhaps stranded assets are just a necessary part of their business model. I have another blog that speaks to manufacturers in the predicament. However, we have also seen where some of our customers who DO have modern automation infrastructure still desire our X0 Package for Downtime. These customers simply love the frictionless nature of the X0 solution. They remember past data collection proposed projects, designed to get data from manufacturing assets, being denied because of the relatively high level of friction and intrusiveness required.

Friction from Disconnected Assets

Disconnected assets or stranded assets are automation processes/systems that have no easy accessibility to pull data. They either can’t serve up the information because of the legacy automation protocols or is too costly to invest to get these assets connected. We have solved this problem by leveraging Industrial IoT devices to bring back a running signal and/or production counts. These IIoT devices can be deployed to assets quickly and inexpensively with several options for communication networks and protocols. Our edge device is designed to connect to these devices, pre-process the data and natively move this data to AVEVA Insight Performance in the cloud.

Friction from IT Infrastructure Requirements and Cost

Because the data and the downtime solution sit in the cloud, there is no need for heavy investment in IT infrastructure. In fact, the cost to just try our solution is less than a server would cost to purchase and stand up. Also, we bring our edge device that enables the On-Prem connectivity ensuring data integrity with store and forward technology. If the outside connection is broken, the data will buffer and send when the connection is available again. Since there are no IT servers required and no software to buy, there is no large CapEx required and in most cases these solutions fit neatly into OpEx funding.

Friction from Effort and Schedule

 Our “InSource X0 Package for Downtime – Hybrid Cloud” reduces friction by leveraging a lightweight edge logic engine. Our edge device acts as a gateway communicating to the cloud and IoT transmitters. Initializing the AVEVA web-site to access the cloud solution data takes minutes. As a result, we are able to get customers up and running quickly. IIoT devices enable us to tap into run signals from the equipment and/or count units to determine run state and yield. With a web-based user interface, operators can further contextualize machine stoppages and production runs from any device capable of rendering HTML 5 making for a rapid deployment.

Because the solution is largely pre-built from top to bottom and requires light configuration, the duration of the actual project is measured in days and not weeks. With the rapid deployment capability of the solution, the time to ROI is reduced. In traditional downtime solutions, these projects tend to be executed over a few months from design to implementation. So, a company is investing large sums of money and can’t start working towards an ROI for months. With our low friction solution, we can implement in days and companies can start working towards their ROI the following week.


One final note, since our technology sits on top of the AVEVA/Wonderware branded products, our solution provides greater interoperability, security and fits well within the automation ecosystem. For more information on our latest Industry X0 Packaged Solutions, or to schedule a consultation, click here.