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Digitizing an entire factory to Industry 4.0

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Digitizing an entire factory sounds like an unsolvable task.

You might think too many obstacles. After all, a factory exists as a heterogeneous landscape of different technologies, machines, manufacturers (OEM), robots and components. Connecting these together seems impossible at first approach. Although many production facilities in Germany are state-of-the-art, there are still old machines in operation from before the turn of the millennium that cannot simply be digitized.

The added value of converting individual lines to Industry 4.0 is now clearly recognizable by plant managers. As a result, operations have become much more efficient, simpler and easier to plan. Plants can be evaluated effectively and in real terms using the data obtained. Thus, it is obvious to digitalize a complete factory holistically.

A customer has taken up the challenge and engaged the company Quantis to develop and implement a solution.

The factory to be converted had the following specifications:

· 6 filling lines with three line types: PET, glass and carton.

· The year of manufacture of the individual machines varied from 1990 to 2020

· Integration of 36 machines from different machine suppliers (OEMs)

· Collection of approx. 1,400 KPIs from the machines

In a first step, an inventory of all lines was made together with the customer. In this list, among other things, each machine was checked to see which data points were available from the machines. For machines with controls without an existing Ethernet connection, a decision was made together with the customer as to whether an adaptation or a CP (communication processor) should be installed in order to be able to integrate the machine communicatively into the existing network.

After adapting all machines and configuring a higher-level edge solution, all 1,400 data points (KPIs) were read out.

It was not always possible to find every PLC address in the same way and, depending on the type of control, there were several ways to connect them. After reading the data into the Edge, it was processed and sent to the cloud via an intermediate Bridge. Both the Edge and the Bridge were integrated by the customer into its own virtual server landscape, which resulted in independent management. For him, the specified cyber security requirements were thus fully met. The customer had full control over the entire network and access to its data at all times via individually activated external access points.

In the cloud, all connected machines were analyzed, validated and processed according to customer requirements. With the help of KapiX, Quantis' dashboard tool, the relevant data could be displayed clearly and easily.

At the end of the project, the customer received detailed documentation on all available data, which was made available for processing by other IT systems.

The process from the inventory to the presentation of the data was accompanied every step of the way by Quantis. Not all machines were easy to integrate; individual solutions often had to be found, which were only possible thanks to decades of know-how in the beverage bottling industry.

Finally, there is the question of the time frame for the implementation of the project. Such a complex task cannot be accomplished in one day, yet it took only 4 months to make data from an entire plant available in a higher-level IoT platform. Current supply bottlenecks of certain communication components have led to long delivery times in hardware procurement, which have unintentionally extended the implementation time, otherwise such a project could also be implemented in about 6 to 8 weeks.

The conversion of the entire factory to Industry 4.0 excited the customer so much that he will modernize further factories with this process.

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