In the current industrial environment, connectivity stands as a fundamental column to enhance efficiency and competitiveness in factories. As we acquire “smart” machinery, a question appears: how to connect still functional, but older analog facilities? In this article, we will share our experience in developing our own connectivity solutions in our industrial facilities.
In the manufacturing world, connectivity has become essential to achieve greater visibility and control over operations. By connecting machinery, sensors and management systems, we obtain real-time information on production performance, machinery status and other key data that allows us to make informed decisions.
Connectivity, Smart factories, Big data, Artificial Intelligence, at Ecrimesa Group we are aware of their value and we have made a significant investment in that way, to apply these technologies to our production plants.
The new machinery we acquired is already “intelligent” and provide from factory with the necessary technology for almost automatic connectivity. But we find installations or machinery in the plant, which is analog and, yet, works perfectly. The challenge we have faced is: how do we connect analog installations, those that are older, but that work perfectly and still have a useful life?
Throughout the process, we also discovered opportunities to optimize our operations and improve our ability to capture real-time plant data.
What are considered old machines?
One of the main challenges we faced was the existence of old infrastructure in some of our processes. These facilities were not originally designed to be compatible with modern connectivity technologies. In the same way, the lack of standardized systems and outdated communication protocols made it difficult to integrate new solutions.
In most new machines, the manufacturer has set up the facility for sending data, allowing for easy information capture and management. But in the case of older machines, the task of capturing data is not so simple.
But what is considered ancient in this context? For us, “old” installations are those that do not have an Internet connection or IP address. In our production process, for example, the treatment ovens and blasting machines with pushbuttons can be considered old. However, technology on which they are based has been valid for decades and has not changed significantly in all that time. That is, there is no real need to replace these machines with new ones, since there is no substantial improvement in technology or a significant impact on process improvement.
How do we connect “old” machines?
Our internal Projects and Industry 4.0 team investigated and evaluated various emerging technologies in industrial connectivity. We are especially interested in the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and smart sensors that could be adapted to our existing facilities.
Finally we opted for Raspberry Pi technology.
Raspberry Pi devices are small board computers used for a wide variety of applications. In this case, they are used to capture data from analog and older machines that do not have network technology. The Raspberry Pi connects to the machine and reads start and stop signals, allowing you to capture important information about the machine’s operation.
How does our system work?
With Raspberry Pi installed on the machines that we want to control, we obtain data that we want to control: stops, starts, etc. Once the data has been captured, it is possible to analyze it to determine machine stops and their typology (breakdown, maintenance, etc.). This provides operators and managers with valuable information for making decisions and improving plant efficiency. In addition, interesting KPIs can be generated at all levels.
In our company, we have set up a network that allows us to obtain the data captured by the Raspberry Pi and save it in a database. Next, we have developed a reporting system in Power BI to effectively analyze and visualize the data. The data is cross-referenced with our ERP system, allowing us to fully track work equipment for those machines that are not connectable.
The data capture in plants in facilities provides valuable information for the improvement of productivity and quality. Thanks to Raspberry Pi technology and real-time data analysis, we obtain variables on which production must act to improve the efficiency and quality of the manufactured products.
Capturing plant data in older facilities can be a complicated task, but thanks to Raspberry Pi technology and other technological advances, it has become easier and more efficient. By capturing data and analyzing it effectively, we can make informed decisions that allow us to improve productivity, quality and efficiency on the plant floor.
The future of connectivity at Ecrimesa Group facilities
By capturing data at our legacy facilities, we have experienced significant benefits such as improved production efficiency, reduced operating costs, and increased ability to make informed decisions. However, we also recognize that each factory is unique and there are factors to consider when addressing connectivity in obsolete facilities, such as cost-benefit analysis, implementation time and collaboration between multidisciplinary teams.
Looking to the future, we believe that the evolution of connectivity in factories will continue. We plan to stay updated with the latest trends and emerging technologies to further improve our data capture capabilities and optimize our operations in a sustainable manner.
Our experience in developing our own connectivities has taught us the importance of adapting solutions to the specific reality of each factory. With the right combination of technology, strategy and incremental approach, it is possible to improve connectivity in older facilities and achieve significant business benefits. With efficient connectivity, our factories are prepared to face the challenges of modern industry and remain leaders in a competitive and constantly evolving market.