Industrial Internet of Things Technologies Are Revolutionizing the Manufacturing Workplace

Automation in the Industrial Internet of Things

Your future is looking bright: industrial companies haven’t had such excellent prospects since the Industrial Revolution. A Smart Factory with digitally connected production systems, the Internet of Things, big data, cobots, and other cyber-physical systems (CPS) all make tremendous productivity increases possible – and you already have the right technology partner.

The Industrial Internet of Things in Practice

Flexible, simple, reliable, and highly productive – the Industrial Internet of Things brings together Festo’s various areas of expertise and, as such, offers many advantages for your production. We will provide you an overview of the areas where you can get prepared for the Industrial Internet of Things and show you solutions, practical examples, and suitable products.

The Industrial Internet of Things in Production

Highly Flexible Assembly Lines

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Worker Inspects Assembly Line

In times of volatile markets and individualized products up to a batch size of one, rapid batch changes have become a crucial factor. Modular manufacturing intelligence directly at the field level provides the necessary flexibility, like in the form of valve manifolds or carrier systems with built-in controls, for example.

In the Industrial Internet of Things SmartFactory research project, Festo played a major role in making flexible, modular, and interconnected machine cells from various manufacturers a reality. Festo already achieved this at its Scharnhausen Technology Plant, where the company demonstrated, among other things, that it is possible to reduce the set-up times of networked assembly lines from several hours to 13 seconds. You can also easily implement new technologies or production methods in a single afternoon. And even relocating the entire system no longer takes three weeks, but only three days.

It’s important to note that in the Industrial Internet of Things, existing systems also remain cost-effective when retrofit with suitable components. For the time being, manufacturers or users will have to define the specifications of the machine interfaces for their own processes themselves; corresponding standards or VDMA recommendations have yet to be released.

Systems Designed for Energy Efficiency

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Production Environment

Energy costs are not going to decrease by themselves. The key to efficient production lies in one’s own resources and energy efficiency as is only possible in connected systems. The Festo production building in the Scharnhausen Technology Plant is a prime example: with excellent insulation, heat recovery, compressed air generation to meet demand, and additional features, the site meets the highest energy standards.

Above all, however, connected sensors monitor the consumption of every machine. The M2M (machine to machine) applications communicate autonomously via OPC UA with the manufacturing execution system (MES), which is configured for optimal synchronization and prevents energy peaks. Existing systems were retrofit with the necessary sensors and mini control systems, including the CPX electrical terminal and our MSE6-E2M energy efficiency module. This required an investment of approximately 3,000 to 5,000 euros per machine. On the other hand, this will save the factory about 3 kWh of energy, which means the investment will pay for itself in less than three years. In other customer projects, the support provided by our Festo Energy Saving Services has even resulted in savings of up to 60%. When it comes to new systems, the greatest potential lies in their cost-effective design.

Mobile-Connected Maintenance

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Worker Speaks with Coworkers in Production Hall

A major benefit of the Industrial Internet of Things is predictive maintenance, which minimizes unplanned downtime. iPads were an essential element of the pilot project at Festo: service personnel can not only view error messages from the system on their tablets, but also complete repair instructions, plans, and lists of components and spare parts. If necessary, they can consult with experts via chat, load past repair orders, and take an online look at the spare parts warehouse. This makes it immediately clear which error messages are still open and which employees they are assigned to with which priority.

In the future, maintenance activities could be expanded even further to include a real-time connection to the order backlog and AR support (augmented reality). The pilot project was so successful that we are currently rolling out this system at all Festo factories. The production systems’ OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) has increased significantly, employees are more motivated, and the investment has paid for itself in less than six months.

You can also use the Smartenance (smart maintenance) mobile maintenance app in your factory as a digital maintenance manager.

The Festo Technology Plant in Scharnhausen

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: The Festo Technology Plant in Scharnhausen

The Industrial Internet of Things is all about real-world applications. At our Scharnhausen Technology Plant, we produce our pneumatic valves, valve manifolds, printed circuit boards, and modules on connected assembly lines in a flexible, energy-efficient, and highly productive process.

Digital Process Optimization

Demand-Driven Ordering without Bottlenecks

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Bottleneck-Oriented Production

According to the theory of constraints (TOC) by E. M. Goldratt, every value creation process is subject to a constraint. In front of it, everything jams up, behind it, production often runs empty. The goal is to locate and eliminate this bottleneck – so that the next bottleneck appears and can also be resolved.

We have expanded this iterative TOC approach at the Scharnhausen Technology Plant and developed it into a bottleneck-oriented organization. Specifically, the focus is on lead times and delivery performance. The relevant KPIs are throughput, inventory, and operating costs. In practice, this means systematically connecting all systems to the Industrial Internet of Things so that everyone involved receives the necessary data from the online MES on their display – regardless of whether they are using a stand-alone PC, tablet, or smartphone.

This works extremely well, both for us and for our project partners – in the metalworking industry, for example, demand-based ordering with a bottleneck-oriented organization has cut throughput times by 56% across the plant, and by as much as 90% in individual performance units.

Flow Production without Extensive Buffer Stock

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Worker in a Logistics Warehouse

Compared to batch production, flow production is much more flexible. Throughput times are short, quality is excellent, and space requirements are also low. In particular, one-piece flow processes can be designed so that buffer stocks can be largely eliminated and production can be managed with much greater flexibility.

Specifically, we have implemented such Heijunka systems within the framework of the bottleneck-oriented organization via a complete process chain from sawing to deburring, drilling and milling, to fine machining, and surface treatment. On the technical side, intelligent handling solutions from Festo and M2M communication (machine to machine) via OPC UA are used in this context. This keeps the machines’ operating data and/or KPIs synchronized at all times. In the event of a malfunction, the entire line can then be down-regulated accordingly, so that it does not simply push along any material flows that then need to be processed on weekends or during expensive night shifts.

Product Key for Error-Free Orders

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Scanning Product Keys via Tablet

In the digital twin scenarios of the Industrial Internet of Things, unique, machine-readable identifiers are absolutely essential. Festo already has this: the Product Key is either a QR or Data Matrix code or an alphanumeric eleven-digit code that clearly identifies each product. This means you always have data such as the order reference, serial number, revision, etc., reliably at hand. So far, so familiar. But the Product Key can do even more – it can automatically open the correct user documentation and CAD data, for example. And it greatly simplifies the process of ordering components and spare parts. The integrated identity code allows maintenance personnel or mechanical engineers to trigger the correct order directly while working – efficiently and absolutely error-free, even in the case of complex valve manifolds and subsystems with hundreds of individual parts.

The Festo Product Key is even cloud-ready, functioning as an access code for systems that you configure (or reconfigure) using an app and manage via IIoT platforms. As a result, you can easily obtain the latest firmware, upgrades, and services from the Festo App World and always stay on the safe side.

Mobile Maintenance Based on Efficiency Criteria

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Worker Speaks with Coworker in Production Hall

Ticket systems are certainly very helpful –but intelligent solutions that are designed for flow production and bottleneck-oriented organization processes are even better.

First, this means that maintenance personnel are truly mobile and have all the necessary assignment and machine data available online in real time on their tablets while out in the field. An app directs them to the next location before it becomes a bottleneck. This means that you can save the trouble of having to travel from the central maintenance office to work on the machine – for larger companies, a savings of several hours per week. Second, the orders can then be prioritized according to efficiency criteria such as capacity utilization, job status, and the machine’s output. Third, mobile maintenance is really what empowers maintenance staff to take action: in an ideal situation, you can immediately and automatically order spare parts online via Product Key.

Smart Logistics with a Digital Twin

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Human Machine Interface with Barcode Scanner

A human-machine interface that starts with the human: the ProGlove looks like a normal work glove – only it has a barcode scanner built into the back of the hand. Logistics employees activate it via built-in thumb sensors, allowing them to automatically create a digital record of what they are handling during loading and unloading. In addition, they also have both hands free. This is faster and also works flawlessly at assembly and manual workstations.

At our Scharnhausen Technology Plant, we have already largely implemented this smart industry approach and marked and coded the assembly equipment so that employees automatically grab the right parts – simple, fast, and error-free. This is how we simultaneously create a true “digital twin” of our production processes. This, in turn, allows production volumes and material flows to be controlled in a flexible, demand-driven, and efficient manner.

Products and Solutions from Festo

Via CPX IoT Gateway Directly into the Cloud

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: CPX IoT Gateway

For machine and production data to be useful in a connected industry, it needs to be pooled, consolidated, and easy to manage. This is the job of the CPX IoT gateway. Depending on the complexity, between 10 and 31 components and modules can communicate at the shop-floor level in real time via a secure OPC UA interface. The gateway translates the data streams into AMQP (MQTT and others on request), and in doing so, makes them both secure and cloud-ready. This opens up the full range of Industrial Internet of Things and modern data-analysis options, from smart maintenance to complete digital twins.

Our IoT gateway comes with preconfigured dashboards that can be customized on-screen and include widgets with traffic-light indicators and diagrams for preventive maintenance and workload control. It can be immediately deployed, for example, in cyber-physical systems such as the MSE6-E2M energy efficiency module, the YXMx industrial robot, or our VTEM Motion Terminal.

In practical terms, this results in two things: turnkey condition monitoring with automatic alerts and reliable fault diagnosis in real time, as well as extensive options for business data analytics in the Festo Cloud, with trend analyses, early warning systems, and control options to increase overall system effectiveness on the basis of reliable KPIs.

Data Analysis from the Festo Cloud

Reliable KPIs are the basis of every expert support system, every well-founded company decision, and every effective process optimization. This is why all of the data from the IoT gateways is collected and processed in the Festo Cloud for intelligent data analysis – whether clearly presented in the form of intuitive dashboards or complex long-term analyses.

In the future, the way that industrial companies handle their own volumes of data will be a critical success factor. Extensive Industrial Internet of Things control and optimization capabilities are already available at the cloud level today. The Festo Cloud is already directly helping reduce downtime, improve capacity utilization, and increase overall productivity. Moreover, production companies and mechanical engineering firms are already working on new business and revenue models built on refining and processing cloud machine data.

Field Intelligence in the VTEM Motion Terminal

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Festo Motion Terminal

The Industrial Internet of Things is far more than just sensor technology that passes machine data to the cloud. Genuine cyber-physical systems also work the other way around, bringing control intelligence to the field level and even making pneumatics digital: our VTEM Motion Terminal easily adds features of the Industrial Internet of Things to existing systems. The individual valves are controlled via app and are user-programmable via WebConfig: pressure level, throttling, directional control valve function, leakage diagnostics, etc. The VTEM Motion Terminal gives machine and system manufacturers significantly more freedom and simplifies pneumatic circuit design. It performs functions that would have previously required more than 50 different products or positions. Above all, however, it means digitizing your compressed air: with the VTEM Motion Terminal, you simply change a valve’s functions via software – instead of modifying the hardware.

Parallel Engine Block Assembly

Thanks to decentralized intelligence on the CPX/VTSA valve manifold, the pneumatic grippers mount the seal, piston, and cylinder simultaneously instead one after the other – with the OPC UA interface instead of a control cabinet.

Engine Block Assembly (PDF)

Engineering for the Smart Factory

Automation Markup Language (AML)

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: AutomationML Logo

Automation Markup Language (AML) has established itself as a data exchange format designed specifically for heterogeneous development environments and vendor-neutral engineering. Although the XML-based language historically originated in the automotive industry, the development consortium has described it as a general “digital enabler.” Festo is itself an active member of the AutomationML association’s executive board and, together with other renowned specialists and research institutes, is involved in the development, standardization, and further distribution of the standard, notably within the scope of implementing smart tools in the ENTOC project (Engineering Tool Chain for Efficient and Iterative Development of Smart Factories).

AutomationML is not a proprietary format, but is instead designed to be neutral and extensible. In fact, AML makes the situation for designers in mechanical engineering even better than in home automation, for example, where developers have to struggle with a large number of interface issues and a variety of different, incompatible systems. AML makes it possible to exchange system planning data and reliable documentation, but also covers, for example, the implementation of system simulations in live systems.

Administration Shell for M2M Collaboration

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: Administration Shell

An open consortium led by the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association has already presented a reference architecture model for the Industrial Internet of Things (RAMI 4.0) within the framework of the Industrial Internet of Things platform, with support from Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and defined the essential characteristics of an Industrial Internet of Things component. Specifically, the collaborative open source project openAAS (open Asset Administration Shell) focuses on an “open administration shell” for such components. In this context, the protocol is based on OPC UA (unified architecture), which is already used in all of Festo’s products compatible with the Industrial Internet of Things.

In real-world terms, the objective is to describe an Industrial Internet of Things component as an encapsulated system with interfaces, and thereby create a digital copy – the basis of all digital twin concepts and the basis of every M2M (machine to machine) collaboration. Festo plays a key role in this development process, and the first pilot implementations have already been successful.

BigDieMo: Data-Based Business Models

Industrial Internet of Things Technologies: BigDieMo Logo

Big data is the focus of a collaborative research project funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research that will be carried out until mid-2019. The objective is to develop methods that enable companies to build new business models based on the volumes of data generated by the Industrial Internet of Things.

Within the scope of BigDieMo, Festo is specifically responsible for developing a modular system with methods and tools that can be used to create data-based services in a structured manner. In the process, we can draw on our own experience at the Scharnhausen Technology Plant as well as on the results from pilot systems at customers’ facilities. Maintenance has always been a central engineering factor for every industrial component from Festo, which is why it has been a top priority long before the opportunities offered by predictive maintenance.

Interfaces and Open Standards

A connected, collaborative industry requires two things: that systems, machines, components, and software are able to communicate (connectivity), and that they speak a common language. This requires protocols, interfaces, and standards. Festo has always relied on neutral, vendor-independent solutions in these respects. This is because universal and open standard architectures provide medium-sized machine and system manufacturers as well as end users significantly more benefits than proprietary concepts.

This is why we are active in all of the relevant standards committees for the Industrial Internet of Things and, via the Industrial Internet of Things platform, also advocate for open standards within the German government. We promptly adopt current protocols into our products, from fieldbus systems to IO-Link® and CoDeSys. The majority of Festo solutions have already implemented OPC UA – we also use this M2M protocol in our own Scharnhausen Technology Plant. We adhere to the RAMI 4.0 reference architecture model with the administration shell concept from the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association, Bitkom, and the VDMA and, for example, actively participate in the development of the engineering data exchange format AML and in the collaborative research project ENTOC.

Industrial Internet of Things Brochure

Those who bear responsibility for a company can gain a compact overview of where the Industrial Internet of Things current stands: we explain sensor technology and connectivity, IoT, and cloud services with respect to their productivity.

Download Brochure (PDF)