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‘Huge’ potential for IIoT in packaging machinery

A recent newsletter from ARC Advisory Group included a nice analysis by Ralph Rio on how the Industrial Internet of Things has become a practical tool that packaging machinery OEMs should learn how to leverage.


Rio observes that OEMs too often conduct product development in an “open loop” manner. Once the machine they build gets installed, there is no customer feedback. That’s why he recommends OEMs look closely at how Cummins—whose engines power vehicles, equipment, and generators around the world—takes a “closed loop” approach to product development and to optimized engine performance by capitalizing on IIoT.

“The Cummins engines already have intelligence in the form of the engine control module (ECM), which has access to all the engine data via sensors that are part of the engine design,” writes Rio. “By adding communications, [the ECM] transfers data to IBM CloudOne with analytics. That gives product developers access to performance data that they can use to improve the engine’s design. In addition, configuration changes can be sent to engines already out in the field to improve their operating performance and reliability.”

Rio believes that packaging machinery OEMs, by taking a similar approach, could improve product development and optimize machine performance in the field. Just as the ECM on the Cummins engine accesses local I/O and makes real-time decisions about how to best operate that piece of equipment, the local controller on a packaging machine can receive data from the machine’s servo motors and make similar use of that data by sending it to a cloud application with analytics.

“Many of today’s packaging machines have this capability already,” Rio told me in a recent phone conversation. “But the primary hurdle to capitalizing on it has been the unwillingness of the IT departments at the end-user CPG companies to allow that kind of information to move from the plant floor through their firewall and up into the cloud application. Soon, however, I think this will change.”

A key benefit to the users of packaging machinery would be a reduction in microstops, says Rio, which are especially difficult for end users to assess. They only last a second or less, but they add up and are widely recognized as key contributors to reduced throughput. Rio believes that by leveraging the cloud-based approach that Cummins takes with the engines it builds, packaging machinery OEMs could boost machine utilization from typical 50% to 80%. He also sees opportunities in predictive maintenance.

“There’s huge potential for IIoT in the packaging machinery space,” says Rio. “But first the internal IT departments at the end users will have to become less of an impediment. One way might be to get the financial people more involved and show them how this kind of thing can conserve cash and improve the balance sheet.”

Be sure to attend The Automation Conference May 19-20 in Chicago, where IIoT will be a recurring theme and topic of discussion. Seeherefor more information.

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