A Smart Factory integrates data from system-wide physical, operational and human assets to drive maintenance, manufacturing, digitisation of operations, inventory tracking and more with a real-time view of production operations and all the ancillary units at the plant.

Moving more of the shop floor to PACs (Programmable automation controller) and intelligent gateways may considerably simplify the installation of new hardware. The enhanced benefits of using AI/ML include a new predictive maintenance model for shop floor assets and monitoring real-time health of assets/production lines. The shop floor is provided with IoT/Sensors to analyse, monitor and record machine and operator data.

On the shop floor, access control is comprised of a multiple of professionally installed and electronically controlled components (PLCs, PACs, door readers, motion detectors and so on). Temperature, humidity, lighting levels and noise volume can be collected alongside machine data to correlate the impacts on process performance. Operator biometrics and performance may be recorded to improve operator safety and offer a work environment that is tailored to the operator's needs.

Shop floor Communication ideas

Some PLCs and sensors present on the shop floor use standard protocols like TCP/IP, Modbus, CAN or others, there are streaming protocols such as OPC, MQTT, REST and more. Automation controllers on the shop floor offer machine-to-machine (M2M) communication which enables effective process execution at the machine level. The devices interact directly with each other by using a wired or wireless communication channel and dedicated protocols. Machine to Enterprise (M2E) enables effective process execution at the management or enterprise level. In this scenario, the vendor's application software accesses shop floor data stored on the database without being included in the complex shop floor processes.

The Edge Network Gateway

The Gateway must be able to communicate on both the OT and IT sides. Collecting data would necessitate understanding the languages of various PLCs, not just from different manufacturers but also from different legacy products. Gateways can function as an edge device, gathering data, buffering it, and even grooming it before sending it to higher-level analytics software. The edge gateway allows remote industrial devices to wirelessly communicate with next-generation intelligent infrastructure. Many of the sensors used on the shop floor are wireless, connecting via protocols such as Bluetooth, Wifi, Zigbee, or Thread. This allows them to be deployed in places where cables are difficult to reach. As illustrated in Figure 1, an edge gateway consists of serial ports (RS 232, RS 485, and Ethernet). The dual-Ethernet ports allow dedication of one port for real-time industrial control network demands whilst the other is reserved for external network connections and IIoT functionality. Distinctly separate Ethernet ports offer added security, since a direct network path does not exist to the machinery itself. Gateways can communicate with a variety of existing devices and support emerging IIoT protocols such as CoAP, MQTT, and OPC UA. MQTT is one of several internet-enabled features that improves communication and data collection. Custom server/client applications enable smart device integration (Android/Apple gadgets) for machine monitoring and control, moving the touchscreen out of the panel and into the operator’s hands.

Edge Network Gateway
Figure 1: Edge network gateway

Use case: Smart Asset Monitoring

As illustrated in the figure below, IoT-enabled smart asset monitoring with IIoT Gateway and IoT Connect Platform (enterprise-ready IoT Platform) combines all processes, assets, workflows, and analytics into a single solution to have a centrally consolidated tracking, monitoring, and analytics system for asset-intensive sectors. The system coupled with seamless, secure connectivity delivers a powerful set of features to gather, analyse and provide actionable, real-time data visualisation.

IIoT Gateway connects devices on the shop floor system and permits inter-device communication and cyber-physical systems development. It also has the capability to connect multiple sensors, can collect data at high speeds and build an information model at the data source that contains the batch, serial numbers and corresponding production data, at each stage. This information model can be pushed to data storage or enterprise platform applications, either on premise or in the cloud. With accurate production data, enterprise platform applications may now allow both process engineers and data scientists to do RCA (Root Cause Analyses) and prevent similar quality concerns in the future.

IIOT Gateway
Figure 2: Block Diagram of Monitoring system using IIoT Gateway

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