The data is pouring in. The flow started as a mere trickle of hand-written records on clipboards in the early days of mechanical and pneumatic automation. It grew to a steady stream with the introduction of PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems pooling data automatically. Now, with the advent of IoT and digital transformation live data is gushing through industrial systems in a mighty torrent.
As with the flow of water, this flow of live data has power. Harnessing it can mean more efficient operations, savings in labor and material costs, and overall improvements in quality. What’s needed is software to facilitate the collection, analysis, and distribution of the results in real time.
This is what a recent survey of 500 mid-level manufacturing professionals suggests. The Plutoshift report, The Challenge of Turning Data Into Action, says over three quarters of their respondents agreed that “in order to take immediate action based on collected data, they need software solutions that analyze data in real-time.”
Problem: Manual data entry
Summing up the report’s findings: despite well-known benefits of digital transformation, the adoption rate has been low. Only 12% of those surveyed have configured their systems to respond automatically to incoming data. The common feeling is that data inputs are not reliable enough for automated response. About half of the respondents are still using manual data entry. This in itself can introduce errors, and perhaps worse, the data almost immediately goes stale until the next manual entry is made. The more stale the data gets, the more likely it will be incorrect. And an automated response to stale data could be catastrophic.
For example, a machine may only be checked by an operator once per day on a plant floor walk-through. If it develops an irregular vibration, it could be hours before it is noticed. An automated system using manual data input might keep it running, possibly damaging the equipment. On the other hand, an inexpensive IoT sensor on the machine could send notification as soon as a problem is detected, and trigger an alarm or automatic speed adjustment until an operator could take remedial action.
Once the data is streaming in, there are many companies out there like Plutoshift that can help manage it. Skkynet’s focus is the data stream itself—to ensure it is secure, reliable, and up to date—to the millisecond. This will allow those who use the data to take full advantage of automated response mechanisms, to actively participate in digital transformation. Like the human nervous system relaying data from the outside world, effective digital transformation depends on harnessing live data. After all, you can only know as much about your world, or your system, as the data tells you.