Industrial Internet of Things: The smart way to transform food

Australian consumers live in a world of abundant choices, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the food and beverage industry. You need only look down a supermarket aisle to see the plethora of brands and product lines, and the variety of the product sizing. While choice increases, so are consumer expectations.

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Neousys’ IGT-30 Series ARM-based Industrial IoT gateway

Backplane Systems Technology has released Neousys’ IGT-30 series, TI Sitara AM3352 ARM-based Industrial IoT gateway with dual LAN and pre-installed Debian.

Neousys’ IGT-30 series, equipped with the AM3352 from Texas Instrument’s Sitara AM335x family, is an ARM-based Box PC designed for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) gateways and Industry 4.0 applications. The IGT-30 series is supplied as a ready system preinstalled with Debian and in compliance with common industrial certifications such as CE/FCC, shock and vibration. It has a power input range of 10 to 25 V DC and an operating temperature from -25°C to 70°C to ensure the IGT-30 continues to function under harsh industrial conditions.

The IGT-30 series supports PoE Powered Device (PD) mode meaning it can be powered by a LAN cable from a PoE Power Sourcing Equipment (PSE), and at the same time transfer data via this cable. It has I/Os that are applicable to a range of industrial grade sensors. It features one USB2.0 port, two 10/100M LAN ports, one configurable COM port (RS-232/422/485) and an optional CAN bus port.

In addition to the ports mentioned, there are 8 built-in isolated digital input channels that accept discrete signals from various sensors or buttons/ switches. There are also two built-in isolated digital output channels to control actuators and indicators.

Communication wise, the IGT-30 series has a mini PCIe slot and a USIM holder allowing it to transmit acquired data and system status via 3G, 4G or WiFi (mini PCIe WiFi module). There is an opening on top of IGT-30 Series for users to mount the SMA connector of the wireless module. In terms of storage, the IGT-30 Series has dual microSDHC slots, one internal and one external.

This design allows users to separate the system and user data which can expedite in OS deployment for mass production. The IGT-30 Series provides six LED indicators and two function buttons that can be programmed by users. The function buttons can act as controls for the IGT-30 Series and exclude the need for external input devices, such as keyboard or mouse.

Features are:

  • Industrial grade ARM-based system with pre-installed Debian.
  • AWS Device Qualification Program (DQP) certified.
  • Field-ready isolated DI/O and RS-232/422/485.
  • 10 to 25V wide-range DC input and 802.3at PoE+ PD.
  • -25°C to 70°C wide temperature operation.

ICP DAS’ new IIoT cloud UA-series products

ICP Electronics Australia has introduced ICP DAS’ New IIoT Cloud UA series UA-5231M-4GE and UA-5231M-4GC Industrial Internet of things (IIoT) servers.

The UA-5200 is a series of IIoT communications servers, now with the latest UA-5231M-4GE and UA-5231M-4GC, which have metal cases and can support 4G LTE in a multitude of countries including Australia. The built-in OPC UA Server, MQTT Broker and Client functions meet the requirements of connecting MES, ERP, SCADA, and Cloud services. The UA series can access I/O modules and controllers in the field via communication interfaces such as Ethernet, RS-232, and RS-485, or through protocols like Modbus TCP/RTU/ASCII. UA-5200 series products support the Cloud service platform “IFTTT”, and is able to connect with over 500 web apps.

The logic control “If This Then That” allows users to receive firsthand notification messages through the most commonly used mobile apps when an event is triggered. The UA series also connects IT to OT and integrates all the devices, as well as web-based apps into the cloud, allowing managers to improve production performance and enhance their factory competitiveness for Industrial IoT. Key features are:

• Built-in OPC UA server, the new industrial communication standard: the ability to connect IT to OT for integrating devices to the cloud to achieve cross-platform monitoring.
• Built-In MQTT Service: active IIoT transmission technology that is able to accelerate data exchange and make efficient use of network resources.
• Supports Logic Control IFTTT for devices connecting to over 500 web-based apps and transmitting alarm notifications to LINE, Facebook, Twitter, Calendar, Mail, and Sina Weibo, etc.
• Provides Function Wizard Web UI for easy step-by-step setup. The “step-box” function helps users to create new projects and can upload or execute these right away.
• Supports IIoT cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, and IBM Bluemix. By real-time uploading I/O data information, it can get full analyses and reports in order to complete big data.

Challenges and opportunities of Industry 4.0 the focus of AUSPACK conference second day

Expert insights on how companies can get on board the fourth industrial revolution were among the highlights of the second day of the AUSPACK 2019 conference being held in Melbourne this week.

According to John Broadbent, founder of Realise Potential, businesses which are slow to adopt Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology will risk being left behind.

Broadbent told the audience that early adopters of this technology will find themselves at a significant advantage once the rest of the industry catches up, while those who delay their uptake will struggle to keep with the pack.

“The longer you kick the can down the road, the bigger the gap becomes,” he said.

According to Broadbent, the nine main use cases for Industry 4.0 and IIoT technology are asset tracking, automation, predictive maintenance, safety and security, smart buildings, customer engagement, data intelligence, product-as-a-service, and agile design processes.

The utility of properly gathering and analysing business data is huge, says Broadbent, and can save businesses time and money,

“How would you feel about sitting in your car with no dashboard, windscreen blacked out, rear view is where you were thirty days ago, and the managing director is in the passenger seat asking are we there yet? You wouldn’t drive like that, but people run their businesses like that all the time,” he said.

Broadbent later facilitated a panel comprising Paul Barber of Lighthouse Systems, Michael Parrington of Pact Group, Richard Roberts of the Open IIoT industry group, and Alan Spreckley from ABB, to discuss practical implementation of Industry 4.0 systems.

Spreckley said one major barrier to adoption of Industry 4.0 is change-aversion in businesses.

“People in general have a resistance to change. They feel too comfortable with where they are and what they have,” said Spreckley.

Broadbent argued that there is never a “right” or “wrong” time to invest, and that businesses need to get on board and constantly update themselves.

“The right time for continuous improvement is always,” said Broadbent. “It doesn’t matter when you’re doing well or not doing well.”

According to Roberts, one crucial early step in embarking on an Industry 4.0 project is forming partnerships, either internal or external, to ensure your business has the skills needed to operate the new technology.

“If you don’t have that expertise, you can look to bring it in, or you can seek out other experts in the area,” said Roberts.

Parrington agreed, saying seeking external help is one way Pact has tried to overcome the skills gap.

“We try to understand what we don’t know, and where we’re not skilled we bring people in,” said Parrington.

According to the next speaker, Peter Hern from Universal Robots, while Industry 4.0 is connecting machines through the utilisation of data and internet connectivity, Industry 5.0 will involve humans and machines working collaboratively.

Hern pointed towards the “cobots”, or collaborative robots, which are produced by his company, as emerging examples of Industry 5.0 practices. Hern emphasised that the developments in automation and robotics shouldn’t lead to fears that human workers employed in manufacturing will be replaced. On the contrary, providing robotic helpers can make existing jobs more productive, safe and efficient.

“What we find is that the human-robot collaboration is actually 85 per cent more productive than humans or robots alone,” he said. “It’s not about replacing human employees – it’s about helping them to do their jobs and stay involved in the process.”

Cobots that are specifically designed to work alongside humans, and according to Hern, can offer benefits such as increased productivity, lower costs, improving quality, boosting innovation, competitive advantage, and reshoring of manufacturing. They also free up human workers from repetitive, dull, dangerous or mundane tasks to focus on jobs that can bring more value to the company.

“Those who are slow to respond risk losing business to others who will embrace the future of manufacturing,” warned Hern.

Why the biggest dairy exporter in the world had to embrace the IoT

Let’s look at the impressive stats – 10,000 farmers, 1600 tanker drivers, around 500 milk tankers, 22,000 global staff, , 22 billion litres of milk processed every year, $17 billion in revenue. This is what it means to be the biggest dairy exporter in the world, according to Fonterra’s Infrastructure and Global IS engagement manager, Dave McPherson.

New Zealand-based Fonterra is a dairy co-operative born in 2001 when the country’s two biggest co-ops – Kiwi Co-operative Dairies and New Zealand Dairy Group – merged with the statutory body, the New Zealand Dairy Board.

It is the largest company in New Zealand in terms of economic impact, and produces about 20 per cent or the world’s dairy exports. It’s size gives it many benefits – economies of scale, employment, high turnover, and an avenue to solidify New Zealand’s place as a country that produces high-quality products for local and overseas consumption.

But being as big as it is also introduces a few issues. Not least of which are trying to find better ways to streamline production processes, save on power, and one of the biggest costs – maintenance of the company’s plant, infrastructure and tanker fleet. A mere three years ago, McPherson attended the first Industrial Internet 4.0 Summit in Sydney knowing very little about the Internet of Things (IoT) or Industry 4.0. Now, 36 months later, not only did he give a 40-minute speech on the subject at the latest summit, but the company has embraced the concept at so many different levels – it is a walking advertisement for digitising a business.

“When I attended the first conference back in 2017, I was trying to get a handle on all the hype around IIoT and Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing – all these buzz words that were relatively new to us and we were trying to get a handle on where we could drive some value from the stuff,” he said. “In particular, what we were really trying to find were people that were doing stuff in this space currently and how we can leverage their learnings to speed up our journey.”

When he came to the first summit, he knew almost straight away that Fonterra could embrace the concepts and save itself a lot of money. It was a matter of trying to find out what they could do and how they could implement processes into what they were doing. It didn’t take long.

“I have plenty of examples across our supply chain where we are using new IoT.,” he said. “What I call new IoT is gear supplied by third-party vendors, who are providing us low-cost, battery-powered solutions, which are connected by proprietary networks like SigFox or LoRa, rather than traditional wireless networks. Alternatively, we are dealing with new vendors who are traditionally not in our supply chain.”

Being a co-operative, the company’s shareholders are the dairy farmers themselves. And it hasn’t taken long for those earning their living off the land to take on board some of the technologies brought about by the IoT. It does not cost farmers an arm and leg to do so, according to McPherson.

“There is a huge increase in availability of these low-cost devices, with new vendors coming to market all the time. It has given us a lot of opportunities to grow in this area,” he said. “On the farm we are seeing a rapid growth in the adoption of IoT sensors. Most of this is to do with compliance and sustainability as well as productivity and animal health and welfare. It all starts at the farms. Farmers, like a lot of industries today, are having to be a lot more compliant from a sustainability perspective – wastewater, effluent – everything we manage or farm needs to be measured or monitored. All water usage on farms has to be measured, which is increasingly being measured by IoT sensors and sent directly to councils.”

A big issue on all farms is the treatment of the aforementioned wastewater and effluent. Cow herds produce a lot of both and New Zealand has a lot of regulations when it comes to how these by-products are monitored and treated. IoT-enabled devices offer the perfect solution on the ground.

“One of the more interesting projects we have done recently is wastewater management,” said McPherson. “We own the farms around most of our factories and that is for the purpose of getting rid of our wastewater. We’re monitored by councils about how we manage wastewater and keep it out of the waterways. We set up a project whereby we used irrigators that were pulled out manually across the field. When [the irrigators] are pulled out we have to be sure that they are not getting too close to waterways to make sure the wastewater doesn’t go where it is not supposed to go. It got to a point where one of our plants nearly got shut down because we weren’t doing a good enough job of it.

“We deployed GPS tracking on the irrigators, and, coupled with weather information, wind speed and wind direction, the pumps that control the irrigators would be automatically shut down quickly if there was a possibility the wastewater could spray into the waterways.

“We came up with a very cost-effective solution by using new IoT sensors from a company we had never dealt with before. They came up with a real robust solution, which we implemented very quickly”

Then there is the milk itself. The temperature of milk is regulated by the New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries for the dairy industry. Farmers need to get the milk down to Ten degrees Celsius within four hours of starting to milk the cows and Six degrees within two hours of completion of milking. The longer the milking takes, the longer it takes to cool, which then shortens the window Fonterra has to pick it up from the farm gate. With some new sensors, it is possible to measure the temperature in real time in the farm-based vats where the milk is initially stored.

“That information along with the volume and the fact that the agitators are stirring that milk will come back to us in real time,” said McPherson. “[This is] a lot of data pinging off 10,500 vats every five minutes, but it gives us a real-time picture that may even potentially stop us picking up milk that we otherwise wouldn’t want, and provides huge efficiency gains in optimising the loading of our tankers knowing exactly how much milk is at each farm – prior to collection”

But it still needs to be kept cool when it is being transported. Fonterra put some sensors on the tankers that came back with results that they didn’t expect.

“Our tankers are not refrigerated and our storage silos at factories are not refrigerated. It is critical that we try and get that milk temperature down on the farm as soon as possible and keep it there before it gets processed. Where we measured the temperature in transit we used these little sensors which were very cheap,” he said. “We measured all different points of the tankers. The top, where we thought there would be the most impact from a heating perspective with regards to the sun. It turned out it was the heat coming up from the road – it was the bottom of the barrels that were getting the most heat between the pipework and the cab and the barrel and the truck.

“Once we found these hots spots, we worked with a couple of companies on coatings we could put on the tankers to eliminate the heat. We’ve had about six different coats sprayed onto a number of tankers and using sensors we are starting to see some great benefits, which has led to zero increases in temperatures,” said McPherson.

Some farmers are even going one step further by monitoring the cows with wearable sensors. “[Farmers] can tell when [the cows] are drinking or eating, how long they are spending standing up eating,” he said. “It also tracks their temperature, which will give warning signs of when the cows are getting sick – all of these things affect productivity for the farmers.”

One of the biggest expenses of Fonterra is running its tanker fleet. Maintenance of the fleet is a cost that affects the bottom line, but is something that can be addressed thanks to IoT devices.

“Simple telematics will tell you how to reduce your maintenance costs of your fleet – monitoring things like engine temperature, revs and brake wear,” said McPherson. “But we can also monitor the drivers and the wear and tear caused by their driving. When the system was first installed, we had 1500 drivers in the fleet and they start out with 100 per cent score at the beginning of the day. Depending on how they drive the trucks, they would lose points. Initially they were getting scores around the 92 per cent mark, but we are now at 99.7 percent. With a 500-odd fleet of tankers, you can understand there are some big savings in our fleet maintenance costs.”

And how did the drivers feel about being monitored. Doesn’t it have a tinge of Big Brother about it?

We had a few challenges in that area, but generally they got it. They got why we were doing it, and have got on board as they take a lot of pride in their job and are driving professionals.”

One thing the company has found – as is a common theme among those taking on board IoT devices – is the amount of data that is created. At the device layer in their NZ Manufacturing plants alone, the company pulls about 430,000 time series data tags into its PLCs in real time. Once that data is combined with set points and other values of the PLC, that accounts for about 40-million-time series data tags. It uses around 250,000 of them, but, going forward, it is expecting that will grow to four million data points that it will be tracking and storing.

A lot of companies are also looking at automated condition monitoring, otherwise known as predictive maintenance, as it relates to the IoT. Fonterra spends millions of dollars a year on maintenance of its manufacturing plants. Given the seasonal nature of its business it has a 100 per cent of the company’s assets running at 100 per cent of the time for a couple of months a year at peak. Then it becomes less intensive.

“Our maintenance programme is usually done in winter and we pull every pump, motor and valve and replace bearings just because we’ve done it for years,” said McPherson. “With the IoT sensors, we should be able to save a lot of money by finding out if we actually need to do it in the first place. For us, to be able to predict the failure and then allow downtime in our plants to do the maintenance means we don’t have the overhead of a huge number of people working across our manufacturing facilities in the off-season.”

Other areas where the IoT is making an impact is in the supply chain and dry storage. Again, temperatures have to be measured in the storage areas, and with New Zealand summers becoming hotter, it is increasingly becoming an issue. The company also has small magnetic devices that are fitted in the hinge of containers. When it is closed and turned on it is sending out GPS coordinates of the location of the container, temperature inside the container, humidity and whether there is light getting into the containers.

“You get real-time alerts when these containers are being opened somewhere along the supply chain,” said McPherson. “Sometimes along the customs borders. Sometimes when we don’t really want them to be by someone who has stolen a container. Sometimes, we’ll get a customer complaint when it turns up damaged. These sorts of devices are allowing us to track issues in the supply chain where these things might happen.”

The company recently did 200 trials of a random number of containers going to various places around the world. The containers were pinging out data giving locations and other information that was captured at the same time. It’s helped Fonterra identify issues that were going on that it otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

“For example, we’ve had containers sitting in Chicago in the winter time in -9 degrees and customers have complained about what that has done to the product,” said McPherson. “Other scenarios where we’ve had damage to containers or pallets where they have opened it up and bags have burst or the pallets are damaged and customer complaints have come through quite regularly. That is a great little device that gave us a head’s up when there was a problem.”

Fonterra is an example of a company that less than three years ago, had hardly heard about the IoT, or what it would mean for its business. Now, the IoT has become part of its everyday life of doing business. And what of the future?

“Increasingly the challenge for us now, and a lot of companies, will be across the supply chain where you are pulling data through these IoT sensors to these third-party cloud solutions,” said McPherson. “The real challenge will be how we integrate it back into our systems.”

And what is McPherson’s final word on the IoT and what it means for doing business?

“A lot of this is around changing business processes, taking people on the journey, getting them to understand the reason why traceability is important,” he said. “A lot of people think it is a Big Brother thing. In reality, it is just the future of what we have to do with this traceability across our food chain and that, in the long run, is a good thing.”


How IIoT revolutionises processes throughout the supply chain

With new technology revolutionising manufacturing and retailing processes at every point in the supply chain, we are now looking to take a dive into the world of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). IIoT is a central technology for Industry 4.0 and is linked to other core concepts, including system integration, big data, and cloud computing. As such, it is important to see IIoT as a crucial part of an overall, larger picture.

The IIoT at its most basic level is an expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects devices via an online network – enabling devices to collaboratively work with each other to exchange data.

The IIoT takes the premise of IoT and supersizes it. IIoT is a network of networks that connects people, devices, process, and assets at all stages of the supply chain, allowing us to operate and optimise factories in innovative new ways.

However, many manufacturing plants across the globe are formed around disconnected physical systems with different ends of the production process operating in silos. This lack of interconnectivity increases the risk of production errors and, therefore, also unplanned downtime. It is now time for factories to move onwards to a more connected and synergistic system.

IIoT provides a platform for manufacturers to analyse data at every stage of production and extend automated processes to unite previously disparate systems. Greater insight into factory processes enables manufacturers to increase overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and by reducing human intervention, minimise downtime – and thus maximise profitability.

A key example of IIoT innovation is the cloud, which is a central connection point between devices. Connecting factory equipment to the cloud gives manufacturers 24/7 access to information on production line efficiencies, printer statuses and so much more. The cloud differs from traditional wide area networks (WAN), in that computing power and storage can flex in real time to the needs of the consumer, allowing for spikes in production and resource-intensive operations to be managed effectively.

It is in the areas of IIoT and cloud computing that Domino is shaping Industry 4.0. Through new technologies such as their i-Techx platform and the Domino Cloud, operators can use coding equipment and systems as part of a singular intelligent factory operation.

Domino’s i-Techx platform collects a vast array of data on printer operation – from ink and makeup usage, to running performance, and wear and tear on components. The data is sent to the Domino Cloud where it can be accessed by customers and the insignia Helpdesk team to monitor printers remotely, diagnose faults, and flag potential issues early – before any downtime occurs.

IIoT innovations like i-Techx and Domino Cloud ensure maximum efficiency of Ax-Series CIJ coders, and combined with our SafeGuard warranty support package plans, provide the highest level of aftercare and total peace of mind for our customers. Contact the team at insignia on 1300 467 446 to find out how the Domino Cloud can increase visibility and device connectivity throughout your supply chain.