Posts

Food Processing Plants Look to IIoT to Stay Competitive

A recent article in Food Engineering collected insights and opinions from executives at a number of industrial automation and control companies regarding how IIoT, Industrie 4.0 and digitization of the plant floor will play out in the area of food and beverage manufacturing.

The shared view was that these new initiatives are worth pursuing in food processing, as long as they are balanced with caution and good judgement. The article said, “While no one interviewed would suggest that a food or beverage manufacturer convert all its manufacturing software systems to an industrial internet of things (IIoT) platform in one fell swoop, many would suggest that to remain competitive in a fast-changing consumer product environment, it wouldn’t be a bad idea—for those that haven’t already done so—to embark on the ‘digitalization journey’ now.”

Skkynet’s contribution to the conversation focused on the value of connecting real-time production data to management, and what that might look like in the context of food processing. We also shared our thoughts on a number of other topics, such as the value of secure-by-design data communications, but these were outside the scope of the final published article.

Industrial Product Servitization Via the IIoT

Now there’s a ten-dollar word for you: “servitization.” It has emerged from the trend of industrialized societies to move away from manufacturing-based economies towards service-based economies. Applying this trend to products, the term “servitization” was popularized by Tim Baines at Aston Business School, who sees a “product as a platform for delivering services.” IBM shifts its focus from selling computers to selling business services. Rolls Royce sells propulsion instead of jet engines. Alstom ties its railroad maintenance contracts not to reduced equipment failures, but to fewer “lost customer hours.” These are just a few examples of servitization—a transition from selling products to selling services.

In a recent article, Servitization for Industrial Products, Ralph Rio at ARC Advisory Group shows how the trend of servitization is now impacting the factory floor itself. As production machinery grows increasingly sophisticated, plant managers find their staff less able to maintain and repair it by themselves. They need more services from vendors. Machine builders and OEMs are providing more training, more extensive maintenance contracts, and better condition monitoring of the equipment they supply. “Services have become an inseparable component of the product,” Rio says.

Benefits

The benefits are significant. Predictive maintenance offered as a service means reduced stoppages due to equipment failure, and fewer but more efficient service calls when problems do arise. A growing trend is to provide condition monitoring services, which guide operators to run their machinery more effectively, increasing the lifespan of the equipment and improving output and product quality.

To be most effective, condition monitoring needs to run 24/7 in real time, ideally via a connection to the equipment vendor or supplier. Thus, the Industrial IoT is the logical choice for data communication. “To implement servitization, suppliers will need to adopt Industrial IoT for condition monitoring,” Rio predicts.

Two-way street

As we see it, this level of service works best as a two-way street. Data related to the condition of the machine flows to the supplier, while guidance and adjustments coming from the supplier can flow back the plant staff and equipment. This kind of feedback is invaluable for optimizing machine performance. A one-way IoT model that simply collects data for off-line analysis may not be adequate for many use cases. Technically more sophisticated, bidirectional data flow is useful in many condition monitoring scenarios, and thus has always been an option for Skkynet customers.

If the lessons of the past few decades are any indicator, the servitization trend will continue to grow, both among industrialized and emerging nations. And the Industrial IoT will almost certainly play an important role in providing data communications. As long as those communications are robust and secure, we can expect to see more and more IoT-based industrial product servitization, even though that term itself may never become a household word.

Some Notable Industrial IoT Applications

After years of riding high on the Gartner Hype Cycle, Industrial IoT (IIoT) is beginning to take shape in various ways.  Early adopters tend to be large companies who have identified specific applications in which IoT connectivity provides an immediate advantage.  The Internet of Things Institute recently named Top 20 Industrial IoT Applications, giving an overview of the best of what is happening.  All of these are interesting, and we’d like share our thoughts on a few that you may not have heard of elsewhere.

Compressed Air as a Service

The Kaeser Kompressoren company in Germany has been manufacturing and selling air compressors for almost 100 years.  Lately they have adopted an IIoT perspective, and have changed their business model.  Now they provide compressed air as a service.  Instead of selling their equipment, they install it at a customer site and sell its ability to compress air.

Among other things, this requires a mental shift when calculating where their revenues come from.  Previously, when the customer owned the machinery, Kaeser could make money on repair services.  Now that Kaeser owns the equipment, repairs have become a cost center, and it is in their interest to keep those costs as low as possible.  Since they they started working under this business model, the company has been using IIoT technologies to sustain a healthy predictive maintenance (PdM) program.  The cost savings revert directly to Kaeser.

This ability to adapt, to transform business models and capitalize on the Industrial IoT applications will set the leaders apart from the followers in the next few years as the IIoT moves from hype to reality.

Keeping Track of Tools

How many screws does it take to build a commercial airliner?  How tightly must each one be turned?  What’s the right tool for the job, and how should it be calibrated?  A joint IIoT project between Bosch, Cisco, National Instruments, and Tech Mahindra coordinated through the Industrial Internet Consortium is demonstrating the value of the IIoT in answering those questions.

At a testbed location that simulates aircraft assembly, Bosch cordless screwdrivers are connected wirelessly via National Instruments technology and send identification data about themselves, as well as torque data about the screw they are tightening, to a central database.  Their exact physical location is calculated using a triangulation technology from Cisco.  An integration program from a Tech Mahindra program uses the screwdriver’s location data to look up the amount of torque specified for that screw at that location, and configures the screwdriver accordingly.  When the operator moves to a different location on the aircraft body to drive other types of screws, the screwdriver gets reconfigured automatically and precisely.

These four companies working together highlight the value of cooperation in developing Industrial IoT applications, especially at the beginning stages.  Many successful early adopters have emphasized the value of partnerships and collaboration.  Those who take a do-it-yourself approach often find the IoT more complicated to implement than expected.

Automated Mining and Haulage Systems

The largest private railroad in Australia with over 1,700 kilometres of track is owned and operated by the Rio Tinto mining company.  Using IIoT technologies, the company is now running unmanned, autonomous trains along this line, hauling iron ore from mines in the Pilbara region to ports along the north coast.  The pilot project will be expanded to full service next year, as the world’s first fully-autonomous heavy haul, long distance railway system.

This initiative is just one of several IIoT-related initiatives that Rio Tinto is developing.  They are also pioneering in the operation of autonomous trucks and drilling systems for their mines, and are even looking at self-navigating ships to cut the cost of delivering their products worldwide.

Not every company is in Rio Tinto’s position, but their broad vision, wide range of IoT applications, and obvious success can be an inspiration for all of us.  The message is clear: Industrial IoT is not only possible, it is profitable.  Learning from these examples, anyone venturing into this space needs to consider the opportunities and challenges unique to their industry and company, learn how and when to work with others, and then start taking action to gain the maximum benefit from Industrial IoT.

Skkynet Participates in Wavefront European Trade Mission

Market linkage trip with Wavefront to Germany and the Netherlands puts Skkynet in touch with manufacturing industry leaders.

Mississauga, Ontario, September 26, 2017 – Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc. (“Skkynet” or “the Company”) (OTCQB: SKKY), a global leader in real-time cloud information systems, is pleased to announce that Skkynet was part of a trade mission to Europe led by Canada’s Wavefront Wireless Commercialization Centre Society (Wavefront) from September 17-22.  With focus on smart manufacturing and IoT, the trip included several days at the Industry of Things World event in Berlin and visits to manufacturing centers in Germany and the Netherlands for meetings with potential customers and partners.

“Thanks to Wavefront, we were able to connect to the right people at the appropriate level of each company we visited,” said Xavier Mesrobian, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Skkynet.  “As Industrie 4.0 is a German initiative, they are very knowledgeable about Industrial IoT, and keen to learn about our secure-by-design approach.”

Skkynet’s software-based solutions allow industrial and embedded systems to securely network live data in real time from any location. They enable bidirectional supervisory control, integration and sharing of data with multiple users, and real-time access to selected data sets in a web browser, either on-site or remotely over insecure networks such as the Internet.

“We met a wide range of people in a short period of time, and got a glimpse into how these industry leaders are implementing smart manufacturing solutions,” said Mesrobian.  “They are willing to consider new methods for high-speed data integration and secure remote access, given the expanded requirements of Industrie 4.0 and Industrial IoT applications.”

Skkynet’s DataHub software and SkkyHub service are capable of handling over 50,000 data changes per second, at speeds of just microseconds over network latency. Secure by design, SkkyHub requires no VPN, no open firewall ports, no special programming, and no additional hardware.  Seamless integration with Skkynet’s Embedded Toolkit (ETK) provides embedded devices with secure, end-to-end Industrial IoT and Industrie 4.0 connectivity for real-time, bidirectional data flow.

About Wavefront

Wavefront is Canada’s leader in transforming business through mobile and IoT innovation. It is a centre for commercialization for companies in the wireless and IoT technologies space. Wavefront’s vision is to build a globally relevant, nationally connected ecosystem that delivers digital capacity, competitiveness and prosperity for Canadians.

About Skkynet

Skkynet Cloud Systems, Inc. (OTCQB: SKKY) is a global leader in real-time cloud information systems. The Skkynet Connected Systems platform includes the award-winning SkkyHub™ service, DataHub®, WebView™, and Embedded Toolkit (ETK) software. The platform enables real-time data connectivity for industrial, embedded, and financial systems, with no programming required. Skkynet’s platform is uniquely positioned for the “Internet of Things” and “Industry 4.0” because unlike the traditional approach for networked systems, SkkyHub is secure-by-design.  For more information, see https://skkynet.com.

Safe Harbor

This news release contains “forward-looking statements” as that term is defined in the United States Securities Act of 1933, as amended and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. Statements in this press release that are not purely historical are forward-looking statements, including beliefs, plans, expectations or intentions regarding the future, and results of new business opportunities. Actual results could differ from those projected in any forward-looking statements due to numerous factors, such as the inherent uncertainties associated with new business opportunities and development stage companies. Skkynet assumes no obligation to update the forward-looking statements. Although Skkynet believes that any beliefs, plans, expectations and intentions contained in this press release are reasonable, there can be no assurance that they will prove to be accurate. Investors should refer to the risk factors disclosure outlined in Skkynet’s annual report on Form 10-K for the most recent fiscal year, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and other periodic reports filed from time-to-time with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

Skkynet at Automate Show in Chicago

There will be live demonstrations of DataHub, SkkyHub, and the ETK in two different areas of the Automate show at the McCormick Place in Chicago next week.  The Automate show is one of the largest industrial automation shows in North America, with displays of robotics, vision and motion control, and other cutting-edge technologies that attract automation and control engineers, managers, and researchers from across the world.

A Renesas demo at the Renesas pavilion, Booth #866, is being powered by Skkynet’s SkkyHub service and ETK.  The demo lets show attendees monitor the movement of a Festo linear piston from their mobile phones.  The base-level control of the piston is through a PLC that is connected to a Renesas Synergy S7 chip running on a development board.  The S7 chip has the Skkynet ETK loaded on it, which makes a connection to SkkyHub to provide the data and a user interface. Anyone can call up a URL on their smartphone and then view the data in a seamless connection.

“This demo makes the Industrial IoT come alive,” said Paul Thomas, President of Skkynet.  “Everyone attending the Automate show has probably heard about the IIoT, and now they will have a chance to experience a secure-by-design implementation of it, first-hand.”

The Cogent demo will be shown at the OPC Foundation pavilion, Booth #2265.  We will be demonstrating the latest features of the DataHub, in addition to an integrated solution using Red Lion’s mobile gateway and an embedded demo using Renesas Synergy S7 running Cogent’s beta implementation of OPC UA.  Attendees will be able to control LEDs on the S7 demo board itself, as well as control a bank of lights on the booth.  Additionally, they will be able to see output from the board’s light and motion sensors in their mobile displays.

Backing up the demo with insight, Xavier Mesrobian, Cogent’s VP of Sales and Marketing will be presenting a talk, Share your Data Not your Network, at the Future of Automation Theater on Tuesday afternoon. “Both of our demos at this show rely on our secure-by-design technology,” said Mesrobian, “but few realize how revolutionary it is. When you are talking about security for the IIoT, most people think ‘VPN’. But that’s the wrong technology, by far. We want people to know that there is a better, safer, and more affordable alternative.”

Come and meet us, hear the talk, and see the demos.  Members of the Skkynet and Cogent team will be at the Cogent area in the OPC Foundation pavilion, Booth #2265.  Don’t forget to bring your smartphone!

2017: Predictions for Smart Manufacturers

The start of the new year brings new hope, new resolutions, and new predictions from the pundits. For the year 2017 and beyond, IDC FutureScape has published their vision, 10 Predictions for the Manufacturing Industry.

“It’s important to note that technology continues to reshape the relationship between business and IT for innovation and digital transformation,” says the document summary.  “Manufacturers want to work smarter using digital technologies in their products and processes and throughout the value chain.”

Of the ten predictions given, at least five of them involve or imply Industrial IoT and Industrie 4.0.  Three of these five promise to be beneficial, while the other two represent stumbling blocks that any alert C-level executive would do well to heed.

Benefits

The proponents and early adopters of smart manufacturing have seen and expect to see more evidence of its benefits.  Among these benefits, here are three related to the IIoT that the IDC report predicts:

1. IT and OT integration will continue to provide advantages in efficiency and responsiveness within the organization.  By 2019, about 35% of large multinationals will be integrating their IT and OT systems at a significant level, and deriving those benefits.

2. Increased use of IIoT among as many as 75% of the world’s major manufacturers by 2019 will power real-time analytics, which in turn will drive predictive maintenance and similar initiatives.  As a result, these companies will reduce risk and bring their products to market more quickly.

3. Integration of supply chain, plant operations, and life-cycle management will offer gains in the overall value of their businesses for the 50% or so of manufacturers who are expected to be pursuing this goal by the end of 2020.  This integration will be made possible, to a greater or lesser extent, by the IIoT.

Stumbling Blocks

Offsetting these benefits, the IDC report foresees a few potential obstacles to unfettered growth and success through implementing the IIoT.  Understanding these predictions can be a first step towards addressing them:

1. An imbalanced approach will reduce ROI. Despite wide-scale adoption of smart manufacturing and IIoT initiatives, by the end of 2018 only as few as 30% of those investing in these technologies will be able to reap the full benefits.  Those few will be in this favorable position because while investing in IIoT, they were also actively keeping their related business models and technology up to date.  Rather than tacking on IIoT technologies at a superficial level, these are the ones who will grasp the deeper implications, and incorporate truly smart manufacturing.

2. Increased connectivity will demand a redesign of security architectures.  Most implementers of the IoT in the industrial space continue to pay lip service to security, while relying on architectures that are not secure by design.  The IDC predicts that by 2018 the number of interconnected devices, communication layers, and cloud ecosystems will have grown so large and complex that it will be painfully obvious that they simply cannot function in a robust and secure way, using traditional architectures.  We say, “Why wait?”  Using a secure-by-design approach now will pay off handsomely right away, as well as in the foreseeable future.