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Automotive parts supplier launches IIoT initiative


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For more than 50 years, vehicle producers such as General Motors and Mazda have used industrial manufacturing concepts and systems from Hirotec America in Auburn Hills, Michigan (Figure 1). Hirotec Group, a $1.6 billion corporation with more than 60 years of engineering and mass production experience and 26 facilities in nine countries around the world, is a global automation manufacturing equipment and parts supplier.

“Hirotec is a Tier-One component and tooling supplier for the automotive industry, giving us a very unique perspective on how both sides of the industry operate,” says Justin Hester, senior researcher, Hirotec. “We’ve used this insight to benefit both our business and our customers by designing and building a wide array of state-of-the-art solutions that are based on proven concepts. In our dedication to our customers’ success, we pride ourselves on our ability to supply the highest-quality automotive equipment and services to customers around the world.”

Operational downtime is a significant issue facing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). In most cases, the machinery involved runs without condition-based monitoring—essentially operating until a failure occurs. At that time, appropriate personnel are contacted to assess the situation and make the repairs as expeditiously as possible to prevent dramatically delaying production schedules. Outside factors such as weather or traffic patterns might also add to possible downtime scenarios and lead to organizational inefficiencies or misallocation of resources.

Hirotec sought to eliminate this trend of reactive maintenance and lost opportunities by utilizing the information and systems it had on hand to gain deeper insight into its operations and processes. The automotive supplier had long collected industrial data from sensors and machines across customer production facilities and its own systems to support its decisions and track business progress. However, volumes of this data were manually separated and stored across multiple sources, making it inaccessible to collective and systematic analysis. In order to improve quality, reduce downtime and optimize production schedules, Hirotec needed to implement a modern, automated solution that could gather maintenance and operational information into one source and offer actionable recommendations to its quality professionals .

“A lack of data was never an issue for us,” says Hester. “As one of the largest automotive manufacturing suppliers in the world, we collect volumes of data sets on a daily basis. The problem we were faced with was transitioning from a data-heavy organization to a data-smart organization. We realized that in order to bolster profits from untapped machine-generated information, we needed to look toward modern solutions that automated the process and enabled timely, data-driven decisions.”

How do you leverage IIoT?

Recognizing the need for connectivity, data access and scalability, executives at Hirotec worked to develop a competitive strategy to capitalize on the potential benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The initiative began with identifying the fundamental technologies that would fuel the IIoT effort. After evaluating several traditional offerings from traditional industrial automation vendors, Hirotec found that many solutions were restricted to a single business aspect, protocol or standard.

“Hirotec did extensive research and met with many of the large factory automation solution providers to discuss IoT tools and solutions before selecting PTC ThingWorx and Kepware,” says Hester. “This decision was based on PTC’s clear vision for IoT in manufacturing, the comprehensive solution ecosystem that PTC provides and its universality in being able to connect with any automation control system or data stream across the enterprise.”

Not wanting to waste time and effort integrating multiple solutions across several business functions, Hirotec finally turned to Kepware’s KEPServerEX and the ThingWorx IoT Platform—both solutions from PTC—to enable company-wide device-to-cloud connectivity through one overarching toolset. Working together to deploy a single source of smart solutions for the IIoT, the ThingWorx platform would be able to provide analytical insight into Hirotec’s data through industrial data streamed from the IoT gateway for KEPServerEX, a plug-in capable of pushing information from KEPServerEX into big-data and analytic software applications. To support the company’s long-term IIoT vision, Hirotec collaborated with representatives at PTC to build an IoT framework supported by short, six -week Agile sprints.

“A growing trend in the industrial sector is the desire to take an agile approach to the implementation of software,” explains Hester. “With an agile approach, you define a very specific problem or user story you want to solve, and then you take a short period of time—two to six weeks, a sprint—to implement the hardware and software to solve the use case.”

This approach is in contrast to the typical manufacturing execution system (MES) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation where you take many months or years to perform plant or corporate-wide technology rollouts. “IIoT technologies are allowing this to happen at this fast pace at a reasonable price point and allowing the solution to scale as more user stories are implemented in a factory,” says Hester.

“Scrum is a subset of agile and is useful for the rapid delivery of high-quality software,” explains Hester. “It is an agile software development process based on multiple small teams working in an intensive and interdependent manner. Hirotec leveraged the scrum model in its North American shop in Detroit, the test bed for the first small sprint.”

Scrum is distinguished from other agile processes because of its particular concepts and practices. These small, collaborative and goal-oriented teams, enable organizations to adjust smoothly to rapidly-changing requirements and produce a product that meets evolving business goals.

Source : controldesign.com