Internet of Things Driven Manufacturing

  • June 28, 2016
  • Cisco Systems
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

The adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) concepts and technology is providing the basis for dramatic manufacturing industry improvements. The core concept of Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things is to use IoT technologies to link business enterprises and manufacturing to improve results with the application of communications and computing, including analytics, optimization, and production coordination.  The broader scope view predicts that the digitization and integration of all aspects of production and commerce, across company boundaries, will eventually lead to even greater productivity and efficiency.

The application of IoT creates a holistic system, enabling manufacturing companies to be more efficient and responsive to changes including customer orders, work-in-process flow, raw material cost, and energy prices.  The resulting productivity and efficiency boosts then result in higher return on investment returns.  There are number of other possible benefits as well, including:

  • Lower Work-In-Process (WIP) Time
  • Faster time to market
  • Improved Supply Chain Efficiency
  • Greater Asset Utilization
  • Minimizes Unplanned Downtime

Smart Machines

Data accumulates at multiple levels within a manufacturing enterprise and that data can be used to perform advanced analysis and system-level optimization. Today’s smart machines have the ability to collect information locally, analyze that information, and optimize the local machine while passing that information on to other systems.  Connected machines and network infrastructure equipment are incorporating computing and communications capabilities in order to achieve these functions.


There is an extremely large installed base of manufacturing machines and equipment that will be productive assets for years. Owners and operators of this equipment have the ability to take advantage of new technologies, in the form of IoT computing and networking appliances, and make their machines and equipment intelligent.  A good example is Mazak Corporation’s SmartBox. Part of the Mazak iSMART initiative to improve manufacturing, the unit captures machine information and performs analytics, integrating with the user’s manufacturing cells and overall systems to improve production performance. Mazak Corporation is a leading machine tool supplier providing a wide range of machines, including 5-axis, milling, turning, CNC controls, and automation.

The Mazak SmartBox is built with a Cisco hardware and software solution to connect machines.  This solution collects sensor data, synthesizes information within a local fog application, and performs real-time analysis for process optimization and predictive maintenance.  The unit communicates data to other equipment and systems including enterprise systems to accomplish plant level analytics using the MTConnect open standard.  The open MTConnect standard enables manufacturing equipment to provide data in structured XML (rather than proprietary formats) which can be used by any controllers and systems.  This uniform information from production equipment, sensors, and other hardware, provides a foundation for a trove of applications that can actively increase efficiency of production. 

Mazak actively supports the MTConnect standard as a way to provide complete manufacturing solutions. This support includes having more than 200 of its machine models prepared to accept the MTConnect adapter before they leave the factory, as well as offering moderately priced MTConnect adapters for existing Mazak equipment in the field.  The Mazak SmartBox works with any machine regardless of make, model or age and Mazak will offer it in various configurations/kits based on the scenarios and challenges in which the units will be used. The device physically mounts to the side of machines, without having to integrate into a machine’s electrical cabinet. With several standard input/output connecting ports, Mazak SmartBox lets users quickly and easily connect any standard off-the-shelf sensors to the system for machine data gathering and condition monitoring. One Mazak SmartBox can potentially service several machine tools, along with other associated manufacturing equipment, depending on the application.  

At the heart of Mazak’s SmartBox is Cisco’s Connected Machines solution, using the IOx enabled fog application. Fog extends computing to the network edge, in order to perform local control, data transformation, and communications with other systems. The MT Connect fog application runs directly on the ruggedized Cisco Industrial Ethernet (IE) 4000 switch, equipped with the IOx application framework.  Analytics are performed to optimize machine performance, within the manufacturing cell, providing real time visibility and insights into data right on the factory floor. The unit communicates data, in the MTConnect open format, to enterprise systems thereby optimizing overall operations and business decisions.

The underlying Cisco networking platform helps ensure that IT technicians will be familiar with Mazak SmartBox’s operation and can easily control and manage network security. Further, the hardware allows manufacturers to accomplish reliable machine communications through secure access and identity policy mechanisms. Third parties, such as equipment suppliers, can then gain secure remote access when necessary for service procedures.

Make to Order

Industry 4.0 is highly focused on leveraging IoT to achieve make-to-order manufacturing and build association between parts and processes.  Applied to machined parts, for example, the part carries with it associated cutting tool paths and control points, which are then matched to a manufacturing process.  The information, carried with the part, controls the machine tools and the production process making it, rather than the other way around.

Predictive Maintenance

Unplanned machine and equipment failures are highly disruptive to manufacturing enterprises, and creates significant downtime that directly impacts productivity upstream and downstream in the production process.  Capturing detailed machine data provides the basis for the application of analytics software to perform predictive maintenance.  Predictive maintenance eliminates potential surprises and allows for orderly maintenance, prior to any projected failure, and keeps production running smoothly. This also increases the efficiency of maintenance workers and avoids disruptive repair emergencies.

New Business Models

These new technologies are enabling suppliers to provide more value-added services, improving manufacturing uptime and efficiency.   Subject-matter experts are becoming increasingly hard to find. Today’s machines, enabled with processing and communications, can allow these experts to analyze problems and abnormal situations and find the ways to improve and optimize operations, without having to travel to the site.  This capability can deliver significant results, by avoiding the economically-infeasible need for users to employ high level subject-matter experts for all functions. Experts and analytics software continuously monitor controllers and/or systems for abnormal situations and identify current problems or predict future problems.

Cyber Security

These technological advancements do bring a new set of issues to the table. Cyber security has become an important issue with the installation of new and existing plant networks.  Cyber security concerns are prevalent throughout the industry, but it cannot be a reason to avoid taking advantage of the new technology and it’s potential to greatly improve operations.  The systems and solutions can be deployed using sound protective methods, to enhance overall security while still gaining the operational benefits.  The International Electrotechnical Commission IEC 62443: INDUSTRIAL NETWORK AND SYSTEM SECURITY standard provides a basis for a cyber security program built from the International Society of Automation ISA99 standard. The International Society of Automation provides multiple resources and training opportunities for industrial companies looking to leverage the new technologies.  Another excellent cybersecurity resource is the ISC-CERT - Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team. Fortunately, while cybersecurity resources are prevalent, products in the industry are already being built that incorporate solid cyber security.  For example, the ruggedized Cisco Industrial Security Appliance 3000 appliance provides specific access control, threat detection, and application visibility, for the harsh and demanding of environments, with four high-performance Ethernet data links in a DIN rail or rack-mount form factor.  This appliance has visibility and control of industrial protocols including CIP (EtherNet/IP), DNP3, Modbus, IEC 61850, and PROFINET.

Network Foundation

In order to achieve the greatest value from these new technologies, manufacturing plants must ensure a cyber secure and high performance network infrastructure.  Certainly a great deal can be done using existing installed networks, but to completely leverage these technologies as they grow, strong consideration needs to be made to improve network bandwidth, performance, cyber security, and resiliency when retrofitting and upgrading manufacturing plant networks.   This also includes the need for infrastructure to manage the growing number of wireless applications within a plant, including traditional 802.11 and sensor networks based on 802.15.4 standards

IPv6 Network

The move to an IPv6 network infrastructure is important for a number reasons, most importantly as a way to ‘future proof’ your investments.  IPv6 increases the number of unique TCP/IP address identifiers to accommodate the rapid expansion of connected devices throughout the world. Further, IPv6 provides greater security, scalability, and seamless connectivity. Implementing IPv6 should be strongly considered for any upgrades, additions, and new network installations, because it provides the infrastructure necessary to fully take advantage of Internet of Things manufacturing technologies.

Competitive Investment

In a global economy, the need to remain competitive is of utmost importance for manufacturers, which is a large reason why we’ve seen such a rise in adoption of Industry 4.0 and IIoT technologies. Manufacturers who are able to productively digitize data and information, from machines, personnel, and enterprise systems, set themselves up to improve productivity, efficiency, and business results. Investment in new technologies, and ensuring an optimized, secure operating environment for the new technologies, is extremely important to maintain manufacturing competitiveness, and in this digital age, may be necessary for operation survival.

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