Industrial Internet of Things – Measurement Technology Solutions for Digitization

Industrial Internet of Things: The term is becoming an emblem of innovation at trade fairs. Experiments are underway in numerous learning factories and pilot projects to show what Industrial Internet of Things can be and what it can achieve. Industrial Internet of Things today is first and foremost a vision: A vision of the networked company, of machines communicating with each other and of optimized supply chains. The divide between this vision and reality in real production shops is often enormous. With measurement technology from HBM, the vision can come closer to reality.

The Institute for Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools (PTW) at the Technical University of Darmstadt develops modern systems for production.

Small and medium-sized companies especially, but not exclusively, often have machines that have seen many years of service and do not offer modern interfaces or plug-and-play solutions. But these are the very companies that can especially profit from networking machines and people. That's because Industrial Internet of Things means more efficiency, flexibility and speed – to a great extent without any need for human interaction.

Instead humans make decisions and monitor processes. Intelligent systems report without being prompted if something has gone wrong. Humans intervene as problem solvers. That leads to improved throughput times, fewer rejects and less down time. Many processes can be optimized little by little on the way to the vision.

For example:

  • Every product in manufacturing can be identified with a chip or code. At each machine the product is scanned and also receives additional quality information which can then be accessed – at the next station and anywhere in the world by the responsible employees.
  • The energy consumption of every device in production is recorded: When combined with the data for products being processed, the energy consumption per product can be determined. Savings potentials can easily be determined with the data.
The Institute for Production Management, Technology and Machine tool (PTW) at the Technical University of Darmstadt shows how to track products in manufacturing, for example with RFID transponders.

But Industrial Internet of Things means still more: It is not just optimizing machine processes but also networking on a horizontal level.

Two scenarios:

In networked production employees receive specific items of information for assembly. (picture taken at the Institute for Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools (PTW) at the T U of Darmstadt)
  • A new employee in production works with different versions of a certain component. For each new version, the mobile screen above his workstation shows him an assembly video in which important features of the component are marked. Because the employee logged in previously, the system knows which components the employee is already familiar with and which are new for him.
  • During inspection of finished products one day numerous products suddenly fail: The dimensions are wrong. The system detects the error and transmits a message to the production manager, who is traveling on business. With a single click he stops the process. Now the employee in inspection of finished products can start a video conference at the touch of a button to discuss and solve the problem. Then further measures can be taken.

What Will the Path to Networked Production Look Like?

But what will the path to this networked production look like? Can machines from 1998 actually be adapted to make networking possible? And how much will it cost? Many companies are asking these questions. Some large companies are making great strides, while smaller companies move forward bit by bit. This much is clear: The path from industry today to Industrial Internet of Things is long, and the path will seem different for every company. The preliminary stages of Industrial Internet of Things are the first goal, and that goal is achievable.

Important steps have already been taken to involve small and medium-sized companies: Politics and science have discovered the topic for themselves, while ideas and solutions are being developed at trade fairs, conventions and conferences. Companies also benefit from the experience of learning factories, which are operated throughout Germany for research purposes. Bit by bit companies are cautiously moving towards networked processes. It is already apparent in the first phase that there is no need to reinvent production lines: Existing systems can also be upgraded with suitable sensors to take over communications tasks.

Modern measurement technology enables this step in the direction of Industrial Internet of Things.

On the Way to Industrial Internet of Things with HBM

PMX amplifier system

With the PMX industrial amplifier HBM offers an intelligent data acquisition system that is able to monitor and control the entire measurement chain. Quality management and maintenance can be sustainably improved with PMX. Employee information can be forwarded selectively using web-based data preparation. The system also "learns." The goal is self-optimization based on assigned key figures. All of this leads to gains in efficiency while quality, speed and adaptability are optimized.

Digital weighing technology

FIT7 showing benefits

Processes can also be made fit for Industrial Internet of Things with HBM weighing technology. In dynamic weighing, for example, communication and software are becoming more and more important. The PanelX software is used for example to configure FIT7A digital load cells. It has an intuitive user interface with touch control to adjust all parameters for the measurement. PanelX can also be used to adjust load cells, select the bus address and baud rate, enter the limit values with hysteresis and for graphical analysis and realization of measurement results. Web help provides support if needed.

TEDS for transducers

The electronic transducer identification co-developed by HBM with TEDS (Transducer Electronic Data Sheet) not only makes setting up measurement chains fast and easy ("Plug and Measure"), but also guarantees reliable measured values for any measurement – even with a large number of transducers. Important characteristics are stored internally in the form of an electronic data sheet in every transducer. The measuring amplifier is able to load this data and convert it to the correct settings automatically without any human interaction: an important building block for networked manufacturing.

Initial situation

The Technical University of Darmstadt described the initial situation as of 2015 in a study "Industrial Internet of Things – potentials, benefits and good practice examples for industry in Hesse," which was prepared as part of the "Efficient Factory 4.0" research project. According to the study (in German):

  • Nearly 90 per cent of German machine and plant engineering companies are small and medium-sized companies.
  • Reluctance and skepticism to the trends of Industrial Internet of Things are most common in these companies.
  • This is probably due to the limited information available with examples of good practice and a lack of specialists.

To change this TU Darmstadt opened the 4.0 Competence Center for medium-sized companies in March 2016 based on the "Efficient Factory 4.0" research project. Companies can learn more about Industrial Internet of Things there and work towards the possibilities of digitization, a preliminary stage of Industrial Internet of Things, based on real processes in seminars and learning factories at the university. The Darmstädt Competence Center is one of an initial five in all of Germany sponsored by the Federal Ministry for the Economy.