Smart controllers, skillful manipulation of Big Data, and people power—these are the three legs of the Industrial Internet stool as outlined by GE Intelligent Platforms. And what, pray tell, is this Industrial Internet? Since it’s a term GE apparently coined, we should provide a definition before going any further. Wikipedia defines it as “a term coined by GE [that] refers to the integration of complex physical machinery with networked sensors and software. The industrial Internet draws together fields such as machine learning, Big Data, the Internet of things, and machine-to-machine communication to ingest data from machines, analyze it (often in real-time), and use it to adjust operations.”
The Industrial Internet will be on full display this year at Pack Expo Las Vegas, since GE Intelligent Platforms is delivering six presentations on the subject at two different Pack Expo Venues: the Food Safety Summit Resource Center and the Innovation stage.
So how does Big Data figure into the Food Safety Summit Resource Center? Barry Lynch, Global Industry Manager, Consumer Packaged Goods, is one of the two GE Intelligent Platforms speakers who will be delivering the presentations at Pack Expo, and he puts it this way.
“More than anything it’s a matter of taking different elements of information from multiple sources and quickly coming to a conclusion as to what’s happening or will happen and what to do. Where we help is taking those raw critical data points from the process of manufacturing and putting some intelligence on it. The goal is to become predictive about plant conditions. So you go from ‘We’ve got a problem on this packing line and now we have to fix it’ to ‘Based on the data we have and our analytics, if we don’t take action on this packaging line, we’re going to have a problem in the near future.’”
Joining Lynch in delivering the Pack Expo presentations will be Katie Moore, Global Industry Manager for Food and Beverage. Among the things she’ll address will be how operators can consistently comply with HACCP requirements by using the latest workflow software to digitize work processes so that operators are electronically guided with step-by-step instructions for greater consistency and reliability.
Lately Moore has been focused on the Food Safety Modernization Act. Like Lynch, she believes that solutions built on automation and control technologies can play a key role in helping food companies comply with FSMA’s requirements once Washington has clarified what those requirements will be.
“FDA doesn’t just want you to tell them what your procedure is, they want data to back it up,” says Moore. “Right now the food industry is trying to figure out how best to collect that data. How do I truly validate my HACCP process with data to back it up? The data has to come from processing and packaging, but packaging is very important in all of this because that’s often where the problems occur. Not due to bad design, but just because of all the things that change on a packaging line, things like carton size, case count, date coding, allergen proofing, for example. If food manufacturers have control of their data, they can use it to prove they did the right thing, that the right product had the right label and the right bottle at the right time. And if something does go wrong, they’re more likely to capture it within the four walls of the factory before product even leaves the plant. And if it does leave the plant, the data will help them quickly pinpoint which production runs were involved.”
The challenge, of course, is that the data resides in multiple locations: in a machine PLC, in a data entry on an iPad, in a metal detector or checkweigher, in a LIM (Laboratory Information Management) system, in paper documents written by operators taking quality samples. Lynch and Moore believe that the Industrial Internet--an open global network that connects people, data, and machines--makes it possible to leverage this data to drive new levels of business performance.
Getting back to the three legs of the Industrial Internet stool—smart controllers, Big Data, and people power--GE Intelligent Platforms figures it can help with all three, beginning with a new line of smart controllers it released just recently. These controllers, including one that is a ruggedized PC, sit on the packaging line. “The idea is that we have some smarts right down at the point of control,” says Lynch. “It’s like doing some pre-intelligence down at the line and then aggregating that up into the Big Data system.”
Getting information from the packaging line into the Big Data system can be done by GE Intelligent Platform’s Proficy software, an enterprise-wide data historian that collects, archives, and distributes large volumes of production information at high speeds.
That brings us to the people power part of the Industrial Internet, which is where Proficy Mobile comes in. Launched by GE Intelligent Platform this year, it’s a single, powerful app that delivers real-time operational intelligence across an organization. The idea is to turn vast amounts of raw data into simple, actionable knowledge using current and proven mobile technologies to empower workers in real time.
“It’s essential to deliver all of this in a form factor that packaging line operators can digest easily.” “Rather than making them go to a control room every time they need information where they have to look at 20 different screens to determine what is going on or what might happen soon, give them the information they need at the point of control.”
Pack Expo Las Vegas runs September 23-25. Click here for more detailed information on the presentations from GE Intelligent Platforms.