Industrial IoT starts to make real-world progress

Industrial IoT starts to make real-world progress

Technology News |
By Jean-Pierre Joosting

Heavy industries such as manufacturing and mining tend to be conservative in their outlook and slow to adopt new technologies. But the promises of increased efficiency and cost savings that form the siren’s call for industrial IoT can be compelling, leading the bold to try things out. One such trial was announced by Fujitsu last year. Working with Intel, the company aimed to conduct a proof of business trial at its Shimane Fujitsu factory.

The planned project built on both company’s technologies. Fujitsu applied its sensor technology and distributed service platform along with Intel’s IoT Gateway with the aim of showing how the IoT can provide measurable value in an industrial setting. The factory, which primarily produces laptop PCs, sought to reduce cost by using the IoT to explore a specific pain point – unexplained repair/rework problems.

One of the final steps in manufacturing PCs is a final test of the unit’s functionality. As this is a complex task it requires a skilled worker to perform tests and evaluate results, making a go/no-go decision. If the unit fails during this final test, it goes into a rework department for repair. One problem the factory had, however, was that all too often the rework department was unable to replicate the reported failure and thus was unable to identify if the root cause was a manufacturing error or a testing error. With the root cause unknown, it was impossible to reduce the amount of repair rework.

There was another problem, as well. The factory had no real-time system for tracking an individual unit’s progress though the repair cycle. This lack of real-time information made it difficult for management to prioritize rework in light of delivery deadlines, resulting in missed shipments and the added cost of expedited delivery.

The system that Intel and Fujitsu implemented addressed both problems in a two-part approach. In the first part, video cameras watched device screens during final testing, while the gateway aggregated the video streams and sent them to the cloud for processing using text recognition technology to detect and recognize any error codes displayed on screen. When the system detected patterns in the reported errors, that analysis and the relevant video moved to a human operator for study. This operator then worked to determine the root cause of the problem by analyzing the circumstances that lead to the fault.

For the second part, the factory attached beacons to any devices sent to the rework department, enabling the real-time tracking of device movement by every worker in the department. The system annotated the location of each device with information on its shipping deadline, allowing workers to independently prioritize their work and to help out in processes that were causing delays.

Fujitsu recently announced the results of this trial. The analysis of error reports allowed the company to identify the misdetection of faults, which helped reduce the incidence of rework. The ability to prioritize rework in real-time resulted in a 30% reduction shipping costs by minimizing missed deadlines.

This kind of trial helps take the hype out of the IoT and grounds the benefits in hard numbers. With solid examples as a guideline, potential industrial IoT users gain the ability to perform cost/benefit analysis with confidence in the results. As the IoT proves its benefit, even the risk-adverse will start to adopt the technology, fueling growth in the industrial IoT market.

Source: Fujitsu.


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