Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications holds the key to a new paradigm of industrial automation and production. Chris Evans, Mitsubishi Electric’s Marketing & Operations Group Manager, explains.
Across manufacturing sectors, requirements to develop new services, enhance productivity, boost efficiency and solve critical problems are common themes. There is also pressure to build better quality products with greater flexibility and often with unprecedented levels of customisation.
This is reliant on two vitally important things: large quantities of data and the ability to analyse and act on the information that data provides.
Previously, the amount of data available and collected was limited and tended to remain local. This placed an emphasis on operators to be local in order to make plant floor operational decisions. It also meant that higher level decisions about production were made more on intuition than on actual requirements.
The adoption of Ethernet for the backbone of industrial communications opened up data transfer between the plant floor and higher level business systems. This coupled with remote monitoring and new generations of ‘smart devices’ began providing information about status, production efficiency, energy consumption, machine availability and more.
This ‘manufacturing convergence’ has brought a new model of integrated and flexible production. The final piece of the puzzle is the GSM revolution. This is the Internet of Things (IoT), also known as, M2M communications.
The age of the Internet of Things
Individual devices capture an event and relay that data through a network (wired, wireless or hybrid) to an application (software programme) that translates the captured data into meaningful information. It’s a game changer in industrial applications and it is reckoned that the M2M era will see an estimated 50bn GSM-connected devices by the end of the decade, driving a new model of connected intelligence.
Experts predict that the ability to access, analyse and act upon the increased data that M2M solutions will provide could deliver as much as $100bn of annual savings thanks to improved material, energy, production and logistics efficiencies. Product quality and yields will improve, operational costs can be controlled more effectively and production can be optimised to best meet ever more demanding customer requirements.
Mitsubishi Electric is at the forefront of this revolution with its M2M solution, delivering affordable, global, end-to-end data connectivity in industry sectors such as environmental monitoring, SmartGrid, pipeline monitoring, machine monitoring, mining, water utilities, telecommunication, building and facilities management sectors. The solution is built on Mitsubishi’s MAPS SCADA software and PLCs, for both control and data acquisition, to and from remote sites.
M2M communications makes data the definitive management tool, enabling us to implement and operate vastly more sophisticated and complex systems, whilst maintaining a firm grip of what’s happening within those systems. As we drive towards the new manufacturing paradigm of Industry 4.0, with smart factories and products that effectively produce themselves, it is M2M that will provide the facilitator.
With newly intelligent machines and advanced software analytics, the factories and plants of the future will be able to optimise themselves to increase business performance and drive down costs.