The pages of trade magazines are full of articles exalting the possibilities offered by digital transformation, but all too often, these are theoretical and lack real-world grounding. So in last week's PTC Talk, it was rewarding to hear Wojciech Damięcki, senior project manager at Transition Technologies PSC, discuss how they guided Denmark-based Haarslev on their digital transformation journey.
Transition Technologies PSC are expert in digital transformation and has completed 1200 projects across the globe. The company takes partners to the next level through comprehensive action and professional advice. At the heart of this success is understanding the technologies and using their potential to deliver business value and accelerate growth.
Because of a lack of unified reporting, Haarslev decided to develop customer-oriented digital solutions based on a new reporting platform that addressed its key performance indicators concerning quality, energy consumption, and processing. This strategic decision led Haarslev to cooperate with Transition Technologies PSC, responsible for implementing the Smart Connected Product Accelerator (SCPA) solution launched on PTC's ThingWorx platform.
ThingWorx is software to visualize data coming from smart, connected products. For example, many devices are used in manufacturing processes: conveyor belts, chemical reactors, vessels, robot arms, sensors, and more. Nearly all of the devices on the shop floor can be set up to generate data. Connecting these devices and collecting their data in a centralized place results in an Internet of Things (IoT). The ThingWorx platform provides a way to organize and visualize the data that's being generated. For example, ThingWorx can be used to create dashboards that display things like performance statistics.
To meet its requirements, Haarslev's needed a dedicated space through which any of its clients could check the current status of production lines with live and historical data. The solution needed to allow Haarslev's customers to monitor production processes and efficiencies worldwide. Achieving this required a reporting dashboard to enable customer stakeholders across organizational levels to interpret the data and take appropriate actions rapidly. This needed to be built on a scalable Industrial IoT platform to support further development while ensuring the highest IT security and data protection for customers utilizing the solution.
This was a difficult challenge in any environment but made it even more complicated because Haarslev has sophisticated and unique manufacturing processes in which different types of machines with different types of PLC controllers and communication protocols had to be connected to one platform. Therefore, it was vital that data processed from machines and lines be accessible from other parts of the world, stored on a single platform for easy access by authorized customers, and presented clearly and understandably. The data also had to be standardized to create software templates and ensure quick and easy configuration in case any new machines or customers needed to be added to the system.
The complexity did not stop there. To further complicate the requirements, each customer works with a different configuration of production shift and in different time zones. Therefore, the solution was required to ensure that the correct data was displayed, considering the time zone of the production plants.
After assessing these complex requirements, Transition Technologies PSC opted for a reporting system based on PTC's ThingWorx platform hosted in PTC Cloud with a built-in SCPA add-on. In addition, to ensure trouble-free communication between the system and the various assets connected to it, PTC's Kepware solution was employed.
Thousands of manufacturing companies use Kepware to manage hundreds of thousands of industrial automation machines deployed in the factory and the field worldwide. Companies rely on Kepware to gather and communicate equipment status, readiness, and performance to ensure smooth and efficient operations. Given process control's increasing importance and complexity in optimizing sustainable operational output in manufacturing settings, factory managers need tools that enable secure, scalable device connectivity and remote management.
With Kepware, manufacturers can centralize and standardize remote configuration activities for IT/OT data across the enterprise. As a result, Kepware represents a sea change in the way controls engineers manage industrial automation environments and, specifically, how they interact with Kepware Server, which is heavily deployed in those environments. Whereas today, much of the configuration and management is done locally and manually, Kepware provides visibility into installations across the enterprise from a single pane of glass, saving substantial work hours, reducing security risks, and improving operational efficiency.
The new reporting platform now provides real-time and historical information from production processes, making the data analysis process more efficient. All data available on a single platform provides easy access for authorized employees and minimizes the time needed to search for the information required. The platform is also easily scalable, so adding new machines and customers is possible. The security of the data is critical, as each customer has access only to their own data.
The first pilot of the new IIoT platform has been delivered and released with very satisfactory results and will be upgraded with new features in the future. The project's next step is gathering feedback from the shop floor/operators and customers on the already developed solution. Based on this feedback, a new product roadmap will be built.
The advantage of having all data on one platform is that it reduces the time needed to search and check information. In addition, this makes it easier for both parties to access the most important KPIs, monitor them in real time, and compare them with historical data. This – in turn- helps simplify the complexity of existing production processes and saves time and money.
As we enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, manufacturing companies—which traditionally deal with physical things—must undergo a full-scale digital transformation from the ground up. This transformation is partially to keep up with competitors quicker off the mark, meet digitized consumer demand, and help overcome demographic obstacles. But challenges are made to be completed, and pathways are already emerging.
Starting on a digital transformation journey can be daunting, but the technology is available; it has been deployed successfully across thousands of use cases in multiple sectors. Remember, it is about business outcomes and delivering value from data, not the technology itself. Working with the correct partners ensures that the digital transformation is planned thoroughly, implemented efficiently, and provides the promised business benefits.
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