Improve Error Proofing with IO-Link and IoT-Enabled Sensors

Though error-proofing sensors and poka yoke have been around for decades, continuing advancements related to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are making both more accessible and easier to maintain.

Balluff - The IO-Link Revolution!

Designed to eliminate product defects by preventing human errors or correcting them in real time, poka yoke has been a key to a lean manufacturing process since it was first applied to industrial applications in 1960. Today, error proofing relies far less on manual mechanisms and more on IoT-enabled error proofing sensors that connect devices and systems across the shop floor.

IoT is enabling immediate control of error-proofing devices such as sensors. This immediacy guards against error-proofing devices being bypassed, which has been a real problem for many years. Now, if a sensor needs adjustment it can be done remotely. A good example of this is with color sensors. When receiving sub-components from suppliers, colors can shift slightly. If the quality group identifies the color lot as acceptable but the sensor does not, often the color sensor is bypassed to keep production moving until someone can address it, creating a vulnerable situation. By using IoT-enabled sensors, the color sensor can be adjusted remotely at any time or from any location.

The detection of errors has been greatly improved by integrating sensors directly into the processes. This is a major trend in flexible manufacturing where poka yoke devices have to be adjusted on-the-fly based on the specific product version being manufactured. This means that buttons or potentiometers on discrete sensors are not adequate. Sensors must provide true data to the control system or offer a means to program them remotely. They must also connect into the traceability system, so they know the exact product version is being made. Connections like this are rapidly migrating to IO-Link. This technology is driving flexible manufacturing at an accelerated rate.

IO-Link enables sensors to process and produce enriched data sets. This data can then be used to optimize efficiencies in an automated process, increase productivity and minimize errors.

Additionally, the easily expandable architecture built around IO-Link allows for easy integrations of poka yoke and industrial identification devices. By keeping a few IO-Link ports open, future expansion is easy and cost effective. For poka yoke, it is important that the system can be easily expanded and that updates are cost-effective.

The Importance of Data Accessibility with IIoT

20160809_100331 (1) Typically a college student is asked two questions: “What are you studying?” and “What would you like to do with your degree?” In my case, I always answer with “Computer Science” and “I have no idea”. Lately, the field that has grabbed my interest the most is the Internet of Things (IoT). The concept of data transfer and communication between ordinary utilities is going to revolutionize the way we go about our day to day tasks. Home automation is a key example of this. We have found ways to expedite those pesky tasks that nobody enjoys doing by simply automating them.

I’ve come to realize that there is data everywhere; we just need to take the opportunity to use it. I’ve done this in a few small side projects around my apartment. Is the door locked? Are my lights on? Did the refrigerator door completely close? These are all examples of data that is useful to me at any point in time. The trick is making it available. Using a low power microcontroller and a few sensors, I’m able to host this data and view it at any point in time. IoT has the capability of effectively improving our energy efficiency, security, and productivity simply by making data readily available.

IoT screenLikewise, these same concepts apply to industrial automation. I’ve spent the last few months developing a web application to demonstrate Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  The web app simply hosts a live feed of data from a conveyor system. From any computer on the network, we can see crucial data such as conveyor accumulation, sensor status or even maintenance needs.  Once this data is made available, we can even automate the analysis. For example, on a conveyor, we can look at the number of packages that go by every day. A simple script that increments by one for every passing object can give a very accurate representation of day to day productivity. More intense algorithms could analyze trends in mass quantities of data return valuable results. All of this is done simply by making data continuously accessible.

According to Business Insider, by 2020, there will be 34 billion devices connected to the internet and that there will be $6 trillion spent on incorporating and integrating IoT.  As a student with a passion for technology, I see a lot of potential in this field.  So next time I’m asked what I plan on doing with my degree, I might say an IoT developer. It’s a fascinating subject that only has room to grow.

To learn more about IIoT visit www.balluff.us.

Mission Industry 4.0 @Balluff

Internet of Things (IoT) is the most discussed topic these days. Every organization, rather, every individual seems to have vast and varied definitions for what IoT means to them. In general all definitions revolve around connected-ness or interoperability of differing systems to make sense of plethora of data streaming from devices and machines at all levels. This grand vision attempts to connect individual consumers to the production value chain to provide the never-before-seen customized product experience.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a small subsection of the grand vision– which in itself is huge visionary concept- that foresees the next generation of industrial automation. German government termed it as Industry 4.0 initiative, while in North America various organizations started initiatives such as Smart Factory, Connected Enterprise, Machine Clouds and so on.

At Balluff it took us almost a year to really break down the vague concept of IIoT and to define what would Industry 4.0 mean to us. We decided that it is not important what we think of Industry 4.0 rather it is important to understand what our customers expect of Industry 4.0 and we must find our path and our solution to help our customers realize their expectations of the modern factory. This definition should serve as a blue-print for our future product development and also utilize existing products to realize several concepts of the Industry 4.0.

Two major themes came to light that our customers valued the most and demand industry 4.0 framework to solve: Lot size one a.k.a. individualization of products, and, efficient production. In the current generation of automation we are focusing on small batch productions- for example, along the same production line we are dealing with multiple product variations or packaging but we produce many of the same kind. In the near future, each product while flowing through the line could be customized to individual’s taste- like the Coke bottle with your name on it.  Efficient production on the other hand is broader topic. Today we deal with efficiency at the plant level or machine level- with the added complexity of product customization, we need to broaden our horizons to production levels and efficiency of the entire organization to be able to produce where it is economical without compromising on any attributes of the product.

Industry4.0With our sensor, measurement and identification systems, combined with networking and connectivity solutions, we found ourselves at the core or the foundation layer of Industry 4.0 framework. Sensors and identification systems is where the data is essentially generated and flows through the connectivity solutions to the higher level systems to be interpreted and acted up-on. The actions/orders then flow back through the networks down to the devices and actuators to tune up the system performance. We essentially are the enablers or the Heartbeat of Industry 4.0! This means our sensors and systems need to talk intelligently and convey information beyond the sensing property. At Balluff we chose IO-Link as the intelligent communication across the board. It does not matter what the higher level communication is at the controller all our intelligent devices communicate over IO-Link, the medium that offers process, configuration and event communication on the single line.

With IO-Link at the foundation, our framework of Industry 4.0 consists of seven functional areas to provide sharp focus for our development and existing solutions: Predictive Maintenance, Parameterization, Recipe Change Management, Quality Assurance, Condition Monitoring, Format Change Management, and Traceability. These are the core areas that would assist us in helping our customers achieve their objectives.

Over next months, I will discuss each of these seven areas in greater details in my blogs.