ifm’s smart factory solutions for small, medium- and large-sized factories

ifm shows that it can offer full solutions for all factory automation, 24 hours a day.

Whether a company is an OEM, a packaging or process factory, there are constant needs to produce high quality products at reduced costs, while effectively managing the high amount of workflow in a factory.

Smart factory solutions allows companies to locate bottlenecks, eliminate downtime and increase production.

ifm can help integrate current equipment, automate processes and have full transparency in the production process and remotely monitor the entire factory workflow to make informed decisions with business-critical knowledge.

Pre-packaged smarts: How to get your factory Industry 4.0 ready with a simple, modular solution

Dave Delany from ifm Australia likens the process of digitalising a factory to that of a kitchen pantry. The pantry may be filled with ingredients, but without a recipe or cooking experience, how do you go about prepping a meal? Where do you start?

According to Delany, you don’t need to have the equivalent of a chef’s expertise in IT to get your business Industry 4.0 ready. Read more on how ifm has created a simple platform and ready-to-go software package that will protect what’s important to you, and allow you to start small, and scale fast.

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Taking charge of operations

The industrial world is on the verge of entering the next revolution: Industry 4.0. This is going to change control systems architecture, systems connectivity and sensors as we know it. Tasks that had been thought of as “undoable” have become more affordable. Industry 4.0 was once a dream but is now becoming a reality
A lot of the data from devices will be analysed on the Internet and hence the Internet of Things (IoT) will be a big part of Industry 4.0. The field which relates to industrial data to the Internet is now referred to as the IIoT.
The other major aspect of Industry 4.0 is how businesses utilise the data collected and analysed from their systems. This will provide information on important aspects of machine condition, for example premature machine failure. This field is referred to as the machine analytics and forms the basis of the technology that is predictive analytics.
This article discusses Industry 4.0, the IIoT and predictive analytics in detail with recommendations on how businesses can improve their operations by adopting future forward smart solutions.
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
Simply put, the IIoT is the concept of connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from cell phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of. If a device has an on and off switch, then chances are it can be a part of the IoT. Global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney predicts the IoT will lead to a $1.9 trillion productivity increase and $177 billion in reduced costs by the end of 2020, with 26 billion connected devices.
Some of the benefits of IIoT include:

  • tracking behaviour for real-time monitoring;
  • enhanced situational awareness;
  • sensor-driven decision analytics;
  • process optimisation;
  • optimised resource consumption; and
  • instantaneous control and response in complex autonomous systems.

Using the data from machines can flow to the Internet and provide real-time information to the user about the availability of the machine or help look at the performance of the machine. The data generated from the machines can be used to do predictive analytics – for instance let the factory manager know that they have a machine that is about to fail in the next few days. This information can assist the stakeholders to be ready for failures.
Where do you start?
In this period of disruption there are a few constants:

  • the unending use of acronyms and tech-jargon; and
  • the sheer amount of information available.

Many of us experience information overload. Understandably, there is also an apprehension about investing in concepts. As well as valid  concerns about being taken for a ride by tech-experts, companies don’t want to invest a lot of money into technology or systems that they don’t actually need.
The first step is in gaining an understanding of how these concepts – such as IIoT and Industry 4.0 – and how their corresponding technologies will apply in practical terms to
a business.
There is no sure formula to success, but can you future proof your operation? Yes, but that future needs to start now.
The word innovation has become an overused buzzword in industry. The literal meaning of innovate is to invent or to come up with new and different ways of doing something. Like changing your maintenance strategy from a run-to-fail model to predictive maintenance.
Predictive analytics
In order to do predictive analytics, it is important for the sensors and field devices to create meaningful data. This data generated has to address failure modes or process information pertaining to the machine – for example, pressure, temperature and vibrations. It is also important to note that the data generated from the sensors has to be easily available
and be based on generic protocols (like https, MQTT) and cannot be vendor specific.
Once the data reaches the cloud, analytical systems act on the information and provide detailed information back to the key stakeholders in the organisation.
Visual analytics: Real time and historic views
It is important for the user of the system to be able to view real-time data and be able to make changes to the process and analyse historical data (both locally and/or remotely). Armed with all this data in an easy-to-find central location will enable the user to analyse and improve system efficiencies more effectively.
Alarm management
In today’s modern world, virtually everything is controlled and communicated to a smart device such as a phone or tablet. Therefore, the ability for the software to provide users with real-time alarm event information via SMS or emails, and/or view a history log of all previous alarms that have occurred directly to their smart device, is a must and no longer an optional feature.
Data directly into ERP system
Getting the data into an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and to the cloud in a cost-effective manner has been a challenge in the past. But with the introduction of unique software offerings, parallel communication between factory floor sensors, Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and ERP is now possible. This communication is classed as Y-Path by ifm efector, and allows for smart IO-Link sensors to communicate not only with the PLC, but directly with ERP systems such as SAP.
The perfect solution
An out-of-the-box approach that addresses the challenges mentioned in this article and aligns the user towards IIoT, is ifm’s IIoT Toolkit with SMART products, comprehensive services and intelligent software that offers energy efficiency and condition monitoring.
By understanding your process, it is possible to deploy sensors to “smart” gateways for more “qualified” data to a software platform that can not only monitor but alarm you when anything goes out of specification. This is easily done by comparing historic data with current data and alarming that your asset is about to fail.
We would typically start monitoring any energy (water, electricity, air, etc.), then the process followed by vibration of critical assets. ifm sees this as the fundamentals and basics of starting to utilise Industry 4.0. ifm can provide a solution from the shop floor to the top floor. Starting with more than 10,000 sensors to choose from with a combination of its smart software.
Businesses can begin to harness the benefits of IIoT and predictive analysis by adopting smart solutions. As we approach Industry 4.0, there is a pronounced need to implement future forward solutions. The ifm smart software and products create a communication between sensors and systems that enables condition monitoring and preventative maintenance. It is a smart bridging option for modern industrial operations.
From the individual sensor to an overall business solution – the ifm solutions are scalable so that the digitisation of your company is implemented in steps according to your wishes. Industry 4.0 is feasible – with the right partner it is easier than you might think.
Benefit from this chance to be among the pioneers of digital technology as well as from the many advantages.
Everything is running smoothly, standstills or even downtimes of a complete operation are a thing of the past. There will be more room for new projects.
ifm will accompany you on your way. Depending on your requirements ifm will support you right from the beginning – from strategic advice, the development of individual software and hardware solutions and their corresponding implementation to advanced services.

Reliable automation technology for the food industry

ifm’s process sensor portfolio is vast and has expanded to include analytical measuring sensors. This is highlighted with the newly released temperature calibration check (TCC) sensor that complies with the required standards and directives of 3A, EHEDG and FDA. This means it is suitable for hygienic installations such as those in the food and beverage industry.

Maximum process reliability and constant product quality are maxims in the food industry, whether in the manufacture of beverages, confectionary, dairy, or in meat processing. The slightest impurities cause great damage, such as the product recall of entire production runs, expensive downtime and then there is the damage to the brand’s reputation.

TCC technology is the sensor that checks itself. Temperature is one of the most important measurements used in process control. In the food and beverage industry, accurate and stable temperature measurement is vital for product quality and safety. But, what happens if the process temperature is inaccurate? What if production managers could eliminate product quality risk due to inaccurate process temperature measurement between calibration cycles?

The TCC is specifically designed to combat the challenges of typical temperature products. ifm’s “Calibration Check” technology provides real-time continuous monitoring of instrument accuracy and measurement uncertainty. Leveraging the digital communication also provides better measurement accuracy and reliability than analogue since there are no signal losses.

Smart diagnostic technology monitors accuracy with two measuring elements in the tip of the sensor to react to temperature changes, with the microprocessor monitoring them for any potential decrease in measurement accuracy. The TCC’s repeatability is less than 0.015°C so users are assured the instrument provides repeatable measurements time after time.

The new technology is designed to give users peace of mind that a product is monitored 24 hours a day. It also monitors its own health and accuracy between calibration checks.
Clean-in-place (CIP) processes are among the harshest to which instruments are exposed. The constant cycling between hot and cold temperatures can quickly cause fatigue of the electronic components and therefore lead to drift and failure. Every CIP cycle is a potential source of drift.

Each TCC sensor is “tested beyond standards” to ensure ifm manufactures the most stable, reliable and accurate temperature products. Throughout the development of this product, ifm engineers identified the primary causes of drift and failure.

The company tested these products and those of three other major manufacturers in its X-treme test lab.

They simulated CIP in its thermal shock chamber with instruments being submerged in a bath at -15°C for 10 minutes and then transferred immediately (< 10 seconds) to another bath at 140°C. Drift was tested after every 50 cycles at a measured temperature of 123°C.
ifm took results shown for manufacturers B and C at a point where each unit failed. There is no data shown for Manufacturer A, since its products failed after two thermal cycles. The TCC measurement drifted < 0.2°C and it did not fail even after 1000 cycles, at which point, ifm stopped the test.

Permanent status checking
Due to the calibration check technology, the TCC permanently checks its own drift behaviour. The sensor compares the temperature value to the simultaneously measured reference value. If the deviation is outside the tolerance range, which can be set between 0.5 and 3K, the TCC provides an optical signal and sends a message to the central controller via IO-Link and the diagnostic output. The same applies to cases of serious malfunctions.

Quality assurance due to event-related measurement
Particularly in production processes where exact temperature values are decisive for the product quality, it is important that the measured values are precise. The TCC allows plant operators to take event-related measurements in case of drifts instead of waiting for the next planned calibration interval. This reduces the risk of losing entire production batches due to faulty production temperatures.

Transparent sensor communication with visual and digital indication: The TCC provides the current status in a simple and clear way. If the LED on the sensor is green, the unit operates reliably. Blue indicates a temperature deviation outside the tolerance range. Red indicates a serious malfunction, such as a failure of the main measuring element. The TCC also automatically stores all the data required for consistent documentation via IO-Link – installation date, operating hours, temperature histogram as well as logbooks on event messages (operating hours and event number) and on the calibration check status (operating hours, temperature value, drift value, limit and status).

All of ifm’s process sensors, which include, flow, level, pressure, temperature and conductivity, are made of food-grade materials. They have a hygienic housing designed and distinguished by high ingress and temperature resistance and protection against high-pressure cleaning with aggressive agents. They have stainless steel mounting accessories especially designed for the food industry and come with protection rating IP68/69K.

ifm raises $7,000 for Starlight Children’s Foundation

ifm recently held a fundraiser for the Starlight Children’s Foundation with a Christmas in July theme, with ifm’s staff and their partners attending along with some of the company’s  customers.

The night was very entertaining, with people  bidding on holidays and various household goods – from refrigerators to weekends away and everything in between.

The Starlight Children’s Foundation is a charity that grants seriously ill children a “once in a lifetime wish”.

ifm raised more than $7,000, which will go towards giving a seriously ill children a wish, an experience for the child and their family, which is aimed at increasing a child’s happiness and wellbeing.

These wishes include going on holidays, meeting a celebrity or sport star, experience wishes (e.g. swimming with dolphins) gift wishes (e.g. cubby house, pets) and more.

“ifm is proud to be a responsible corporate citizen and give back to the community,” said ifm director Dave Delany. “We really are very proud of our efforts for the Starlight Children’s Foundation. It was a great event and everyone had a lovely time.”


ifm helps build reputable businesses that connect with others

Reputation can lead to failure or success. And in a world where many speak about negative experiences more than positive ones, a company needs to hold a good name among industry. As a part of sustaining a reputable business, PwC stated in a survey – What drives a company’s success? – that companies were more likely to succeed if they had a clear understanding of their own business.

The survey shows that companies find it harder to understand their own strengths than to understand their customers. By knowing themselves well, and leveraging their distinctive strengths to build a clear identity, companies can outperform their peers. But many companies aren’t basing their strategies on this insight, the study found. In fact, companies have widely divergent views on how to develop strategy, despite evidence that a capabilities-driven approach delivers the best returns. Additionally, companies with a clear identity –standing for something unique and consistent over time – tend to perform better than others.

The survey, which included 720 participants, identified what people recognised as key strategies for success. The most important drivers of success for the world’s 105 largest companies include having a coherent business strategy where everything the company does points in the same direction. It is also important that of products and services perfectly fit together and support a company’s value proposition.

Successful companies are also deemed to be agile, fast-moving innovators that stay one step ahead of challenges. ifm’s clear business strategy, and its commitment to putting customers’ requirements first, are among the reasons engineering solutions provider, Agito, chooses to work with the company.

ifm sells sensors, safety systems, light curtains and other products to Agito so it can fulfil its projects, which include building conveyor systems, PLC control equipment and automation systems.

Agito managing director Michael Musca said he prefers to work with ifm because the ifm team is takes time to look at a company’s needs. “They care about us and they actually care about what they do. They answer the phone, they provide good services and they are invested in what we are doing.

“They need to understand what we are doing to be able to sell the right equipment to us. They make the right suggestions for new equipment they have because they know what we are about.

“That’s important because if you don’t know what’s available, you might just do what you’ve always done. Sometimes, for example, buying new products can be more cost effective,” said Musca.

He said ifm’s service and support differentiates them from companies that offer similar products.

“They’ve got a good system in place to get the phone answered every time and the people care and are interested.”

Agito uses ifm’s AS-Interface (ASI) system, which allows devices to communicate.
“It’s simple and the installation takes is a lot less time when compared with other systems. We have halved the installation time.

“ifm supplies the network of controls to allow us to drive things. You don’t have to wire a single wire through a device. You add to it as well. That’s what I like about ASI – it’s always able to grow.

“Other systems can be more expensive,” said Musca.

Agito has used the ASI system for many applications, including in food manufacturing facilities and in airport motor control systems. The ASI system includes inductive dual sensors for position detection on valve actuators, position feedback for single and double seat valves and for diaphragm valves, and inductive sensors for use in machine tools.

Agito builds specialty machines such as robotics or PLC control equipment. The company works predominantly in the food and beverage industry on projects such as conveyor systems for bakeries and soft drinks manufacturers.

“We build new equipment. We design it and decide which products to use. ifm’s products are easy to use, provided that people have a bit of training. Nothing is simple in electronics.”

While Agito trains its staff in-house, ifm is also able to provide training to customers. The company offers internal and external seminars and presentations about individual devices or whole product groups. All documents about system documentation are also available
as a download.

Meet ifm expert: Syed Ahmad

One of the key reasons Syed Ahmad is passionate about working with ifm is that the company is always generating innovative, technologically-advanced products.

As an Internal Product Specialist, Syed sees the difference that ifm solutions can make to businesses, helping them with preventative maintenance of machinery and automation.

Hear what Syed has to say about ifm’s unique product and service offerings in the Australian market.

Meet the ifm expert: Harsh Zala

As a Systems Solutions Engineer, Harsh Zala is responsible for providing the full technical delivery of an ifm solution to a customer – from sensors to high level control systems. He is an expert in providing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that are tailor-made for clients as they become industrie 4.0-ready. He loves the family culture of ifm and is passionate about the products, seeing first-hand how these high quality products add value to customers and how they will do business in the future.

Compostable packaging and data management solutions feature at waste expo

Food industry professionals had a chance to share ideas on data management solutions and sustainable packaging at the Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo (AWRE).

The expo, held on the 29th and 30th of August, aimed to challenge thinking about current waste standards and the future of waste disposal and recovery.

Exhibitors included companies that work with the food and beverage industry, such as ifm Efector, Source Separation Systems and DB Packaging.

Joshua Riley, from Source Separation Systems, showcased the company’s composting products.

READ: App takes bite out of food waste

The Kitchen Caddy is a container that houses compostable household waste, which can then be disposed of in a compost system or suitable council bins. The company also made a range of liners derived from corn that wasn’t fit for human consumption, Riley said.

“All the liners are Australian Certified compostable,” he said.

The liners left no plastic bits in the soil, like some biodegradable products did, he said. The ink used on the liners is soy based and also not toxic to the environment.

Riley said it was difficult getting people to change the way they thought about waste.

“It’s not rocket science. It’s not hard, but the challenge we face is that people don’t like change. Once you get their mind changed, it’s easy,” said Riley.

Rachel Beaver, educator and trainer at DB Packaging, also said people needed to change their mindsets.

DB Packaging makes compostable plates and bowls, and compostable transparent bags.

Many people used cling wrap to showcase the contents of a product, but there were other materials available, said Beaver.

“We don’t need cling wrap. We need to get people to change their minds,” she said.

“We are starting to work with different bodies to change consumers’ perceptions. Everyone has to be involved,” said Beaver.

Companies behind making products such as compostable containers and machinery used to deal with waste were also at the expo.

Ifm senior sales engineer Jason Woo said ifm provided mobile controls for hydraulic systems used by companies to lift bins and used for crushers, for example.

“The target market would be the machine builders for rubbish trucks,” he said.

Ifm also has a range of sensors that help with data management.

With effective data management people can see in real-time when machines need maintenance or when they are working overtime.

“It also monitors consumption so consumers can see what they are using too much of,” said Woo.

Being able to monitor machines easily, could help businesses save energy and save on costs, he said.

Everything waste-related was covered at the expo to materials, machinery and data solutions. The expo was held at the International Convention Centre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Meet the ifm expert – Jas Singh

Meet Jas Singh, who is the Systems and Solutions Manager for ifm in Australia. Jas is an expert in Internet of Things (IoT) solutions – and tailoring solutions for customers based on their specific needs. He is passionate about ifm products – both hardware and software – and gets great satisfaction in creating the ideal solution for a customer. Hear Jas talk about why he prefers to work with ifm, the unique connection that ifm staff have with each other and to their customers, and some of the inspiring projects he has worked on to improve outcomes for his customers.

Meet the ifm expert – Aditya Kunder

Aditya Kunder (who goes by his shorter nickname Adi) is a mobile industry sales engineer at ifm – his expertise is in coming up with cost-effective solutions for customers. He loves the diversity of his role and working with customers to find ideal solutions for their business – tailored solutions that will make a difference to the way their business operates. Hear Adi explain why being ‘Close To You’ is not just a saying, but an ifm promise to every customer.