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    Dave Westrom
    Dave Westrom MachineMetrics / September 29, 2020 Heavy Machinery Manufacturing / September 29, 2020

    Heavy Machinery Manufacturing in the Age of Industry 4.0

    Successfully implementing Industry 4.0 solutions within the factory floor is expected to bring huge benefits for heavy machinery manufacturing enterprises. These advantages include a data-driven manufacturing process to optimize machine utilization, predictive maintenance, and the inclusion of regulatory standards into manufacturing operations. But to reap these substantial “wins”, enterprises within the heavy equipment manufacturing industry must first execute a successful industry 4.0 implementation phase.


    Overcoming the Burden of Legacy Heavy Machinery

    For many heavy machinery manufacturers, a successful implementation is easier said than done. There are a variety of challenges for heavy machinery manufacturers and OEMs, including:

    • The wide-spread use of legacy equipment
    • Challenges with capturing plant floor data from complex processes
    • The use of systems or machines with diverse communication protocols.

    In the industrial space, approximately 90% of factories still make use of legacy assets to accomplish specific operations. The heavy equipment industry is an example of a sector where 40 or 50-year old equipment still plays an important role. In most cases, these legacy assets come with analog features and proprietary communication protocols which limit the ability to include these equipment options into enterprise networks or cyber-physical environments.

    The age of the input/output features on legacy systems limit inclusion when implementing Industry 4.0 models. Although unifying solutions and standards such as the OPC Unified Architecture have been developed to ease data capture and transfer, the challenges with plugging in legacy equipment must first be solved.


    How IIoT Helps with Industry 4.0 Implementation

    The industrial internet of things consists of IIoT hardware and software that enables data capture and processing for industrial automation. To ease the communication challenges with legacy systems in heavy equipment manufacturing plant floors, the use of smart devices such as human-machine interfaces and Edge hardware makes data capture possible.

    IIoT also brings computing up close to heavy equipment manufacturing on shop floors which makes specific data processing tasks achievable. It is also important to note that with successful IIoT implementation, the connectivity gap between legacy system and industrial IoT platforms or Cloud platforms can be bridged. IIoT devices can either provide low latency data processing when plugged in to legacy heavy equipment or transfer data captured from these systems to the Cloud, ideally both.

    The use of IIoT to successfully execute industry 4.0 implementations is a preferred option when compared with other alternatives. For example, the alternative of replacing existing legacy systems with brownfield equipment is a capital-intensive venture many enterprises in the heavy equipment manufacturing industry can't easily pursue. Replacements are generally expensive and come with recurrent expenditure. In an industry with thin profit margins already, replacing legacy assets is difficult.

    ‘Plug and play’ IIoT solutions built for heavy equipment manufacturers eliminate the immediate need to replace manufacturing equipment until the enterprise is ready to do so. IIoT solutions—including the hardware and software— are affordable options for implementing industry 4.0. If the best IIoT solution is chosen, the process of implementation is also simplified and enterprises can get the important data needed to optimize specific manufacturing operations.


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