The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) takes time. Unlike a light switch, the IIoT has no toggle button to turn it on and off. Each company has its own needs and requirements to optimize a business model or perhaps even create a new one. Some companies build IIoT systems and strategies and then leverage the success of those implementations to go further. Such is the case at MacLean-Fogg, a Mundelein, Illinois-based manufacturer founded in 1925.
“Through 2014, we had controls engineers and automated processes,” explained Chris Misztur, software architect and IIoT evangelist, MacLean-Fogg Component Solutions, who presented at the 2016 Smart Industry conference in Chicago about the progress of MacLean-Fogg’s IIoT journey. MacLean-Fogg Component Solutions makes fastener components and engineered plastics. The company has evaluated and implemented various IIoT technologies that have made a major difference in its decision-making.
Misztur and co-worker Scott Masker, business systems engineer, discussed how an ongoing enterprise-resourceplanning (ERP) implementation across 40 divisions drove the need for better business practices and insights into the shop floor.
Lean improvement relies on data
“We do lean training in-house for all of our 3,000-plus employees,” explained Misztur. “In 2015, IT got involved in IIoT because a lot of legacy hardware needed to be replaced. As I was doing lean-professional-training homework, I couldn’t find any of the data. And, when I could, it was just noise and didn’t make sense. So we started giving operations more and more data to look at. And finally in 2016 business units started to see the advantages of the data.”
MacLean-Fogg, like other organizations employing continuous-improvement strategies, would often hold weeklong meetings, but then nothing would get done. Misztur and Masker saw the opportunity for IIoT to change that.
“At the company level, we set objectives,” said Misztur. “First, we had to eliminate noise. Symptoms are not problems. We had to capture the data closest to the process, remove human intervention and be sure to capture only the data that was needed—no more and no less.”
MacLean-Fogg decided not to go with an off-the-shelf IIoT platform. “The data center contains ERP, integration and messaging, so the analysis is separate,” explained Misztur. “There was a concern for latency and security. We had to build strong vendor relationships, and we had to support existing data collection initiatives.”
The solution was to push standardization across the organization and develop employee partnerships through an approach called 5C. “By connecting, collecting, combining, computing and conveying data, we turn it into information, which then becomes knowledge,” said Misztur.
On the data side, MacLean-Fogg employs solutions from a multitude of vendor partners. With so many diverse implementations, MacLean-Fogg has seen many hits and overcome a few misses. Some of the first-year big hits were in sorting/packaging, torque testing and fact-finding, while a counting application missed and needed adjustment.
For sorting and packaging, MacLean-Fogg uses RFSmart software, which sends data to the Kepware Proxy and stores it in the database. “As the boxes come down the line, a sensor throws information to the proxy server,” explained Masker. “There’s centralized data collection for the entire department. Everything’s automatic, and operation is autonomous. The box triggers the label printing, but the user has the ability to intervene, if needed.” There’s also remote machine status, not to mention performance indicators. “The dashboard is a monitoring tool for the entire department,” said Masker. “The dashboard was the first time the manufacturing group came to us and requested something. Now that the business has seen the value in it, it’s starting to gain steam.”
Much of MacLean-Fogg’s documentation of what’s worked also can be found here, where interested parties can also download and contribute to the now open source solution.