IoT 101: What can you learn from your Edge devices?

by Seth Green – Market Leader, Manufacturing Vertical at N3N

“The Edge” as defined by Webster dictionary is “the line where an object or area begins or ends.”  We hear about the Edge commonly in the manufacturing world. It’s a buzzword that can’t be avoided. But, like most IBWs (Industry Buzz Words), there is a lot of information out there. Some good, some bad, and everything in between. As a plant manager on the journey to a Smart Factory, your job is to decide what that means to you and more importantly, what you can do with what you find there.

What is the Edge in the world of manufacturing?

Edge devices are everywhere. They’re the amp meter on your sanders, the vibration sensors on your motors, the cameras in your warehouse or the indicators on your refrigerator doors. They are some of the most powerful, inexpensive assets at your disposal and many times, they are left under-utilized.

What is the value add of connected intelligence?

I was at a door plant earlier this week.  It was a massive facility that was well managed with very modern equipment. This plant was experiencing a choke point issue with a sander that was used to smooth out blanks as they came out of another machine that bonded edges to the blanks. Motors and belts were being blown out, and there were excessive unplanned downs. The sander only had an amp meter and a camera above it for safety purposes. To solve the issue, we added connected intelligence to the camera and amp device and set up a quick set of rules through our Command and Control System. The connection and ruleset marked a time stamp on the video feed and an alert to the plant manager if the sander’s motor peaked over X amount of amps. The second shift of operations started later that day, and sure enough, they got several alerts that night.

A quick review of the tape stamped over the amp draw showed that the line guys were using the sander at 10x it’s intended cycles to help level the blanks. A machine that was designed to take out 0.2 mils of material was routinely being used to take out 2 mils.

I’m sure you can guess what transpired as a result – the operators had to undergo training on the impacts of downtime and how to handle reworks. Taking a $5 blank down as often as they were with a machine that wasn’t designed to do it, destroyed its $7000 motor once a month.  The massive amounts of downtime and the substantial cost of the motor was not worth a few $5 blanks. Connecting the devices through the command and control gave the plant manager the results and data needed to ask his Vice President for the Planer he’s been wanting to install and more importantly, gave him information to leverage for a QA discussion with his blank supplier.

Data is critical when asking for line changes, we all know that. The plant manager was able to show that his request would pay for itself in half the projected time once he identified this issue to management, eliminating the choke point on the line and reducing maintenance costs on the machine in question in the process.

How can you leverage the power of the Edge?

It’s a simple story, but it’s also one we can all relate to. That’s the power of the Edge and what you can learn there. The devices are almost always already there. Your job is to find someone like myself to take a plant walk with you and show you ways to get them to talk to one another. Doing so will solve these costly yet straightforward problems in new ways, driving productivity up and costs down with assets you already have. It doesn’t have to be an amp meter and a camera. Think about what you can learn when you tie a few systems together that are intertwined but don’t talk to each other now. That’s what you can learn from the Edge, and that’s how you empower your assets in a Smart Factory.

About the Author

With almost 20 years in both Manufacturing and Technology, Seth Green brings a unique perspective to the ever-evolving Smart Factory world. His first job out of the Navy in 2000 had Seth traveling all over the world, visiting factories and sourcing product for multiple verticals in the US. Several years later, his passion for the Automotive industry led his career to one of the largest manufacturers of Aftermarket and OE parts in Australia, where he eventually landed as Director of National Sales and Operations for the US. And for the past 5 years, he has taken all those years of experience working within the Operations realm and used it to stand up several different M2M and IoT projects at some of the biggest production facilities in the world.

About N3N

Organizations and smart cities across the globe trust N3N to deliver innovative digital transformation and IoT solutions to achieve powerful business and operational outcomes. Our dynamic operations visualization platform seamlessly converges data from sensors, connected devices, video feeds and more in a single view for real-time actionable insights that drive real-world decisions. Founded in 2012, N3N is a Cisco venture-backed company headquartered in Foster City, California with global offices in South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.