Hugh Tran

The importance of data integration in an Industry 4.0 Context

In the era of Industry 4.0, integration potential is a top priority for organisations looking to make the most of their data and technology stack. In this article, we briefly discuss what integration means in the industry 4.0 context and how manufacturers can become most efficient.

Integration and the flow of data in an organisation

At its core, the aim of integration in this context is to combine data from different sources into one unified view. As this data is collected, it needs to be processed so that tools can produce actionable insights for the business.

It’s this data flow, and openness of systems, that accelerates the ability of an organisation to garner those key insights readily. In an ideal world all-in-one solutions would handle all an organisation’s data in one place, work for multiple purposes and operate without issue. Unfortunately, we live in the real world; with technology continuing to evolve at breakneck speed, even the best all-in-one solutions lose out to a best-of-breed approach. That means a high likelihood of implementing varying systems and platforms that will need to communicate with each other. Different departments want to utilise different tools and therefore data is required to flow smoothly between systems so that operational activities are aligned and the same information is visible to all stakeholders. It’s not only departments that require unique tools either – different processes, like monitoring a machine’s condition and scheduling maintenance, often require unique software with their own idiosyncrasies.

To ensure that frontline teams, management and executive stakeholders can collaborate, share the same view and make the most of data, we need data points to work in synergy.  Most important for us at MOVUS, and for our clients, is keeping plant equipment in good condition and at its most efficient. To do this we need to proliferate data, integrate seamlessly with other systems, and leverage machine learning to crunch all the data into usable information. It’s this focus on which digital transformation projects for manufacturers is predicated.

Aligning Operations and Maintenance 

We often find misalignment between operations, maintenance and engineering teams. This often comes down to each team working on different data. Each team is working to optimise and work efficiently however differing systems are constraining a unified view. Through passing the continuous machine health data, into their teams systems, customers are able to have a consensus on what’s needed. This reduces friction, rework and improves overall productivity.

Data integration and Industry 4.0

Completion of digital transformation projects is still a top priority for manufacturers – and capitalising on consistently advancing AI (and machine learning) is a key focus. It has, however, become obvious that industry has entered what Gartner Research calls the ‘trough of disillusionment’ with IIoT. The effects of seamless integration, universal interconnectedness and actionable data have yet to be widely felt. Much of this can be put down to the fact that true transformation often requires significant change management (and cost) for an organisation. So organisations seek to find solutions that can connect to their existing systems, and this is where data flows can break down. Many of these systems have not kept in step with the advancement of industry technology and equipment. So we’ve ended up with incumbent software vendors aiming to keep users on their systems, gating data so it can only be utilised by more of their own (or chosen partner’s) software. That’s why we advocate for proliferation of data through APIs and our commitment to integrate with any existing system our clients use. We want to take some of the burden of digital transformation off of them, and rapidly prove the value of IIoT for equipment monitoring, maintenance, and efficiency.

The continuous, real-time equipment monitoring we unlock through FitMachine & MachineCloud’s integration allows plant leaders and their teams to focus on priority tasks, and minimise non-essential maintenance . No more unplanned downtime, increase in production, and no more unnecessary costs from routine maintenance or inefficient machines using more energy.

More than anyone, we understand the requirement of integration between multiple systems. That’s why we prioritised open data architecture that supports customers in pushing their asset health data into their core enterprise systems. We’ve been a part of impactful digital transformation projects alongside XMPRO and RIZING that have shifted data ownership to the user, unlocked 1000s of tonnes of production, and reduced monthly downtime by factors of 10 (sometimes more).

Speaking of data ownership…

Data ownership

An important question that often gets overlooked when selecting technology is, “do you have full control and ownership over your data?”. You’d be surprised how often it is the vendor, not the user, who retains the rights to data. The data can be used, manipulated and throttled however the vendor sees fit.  If an organisation chooses to move to another software or platform, they suddenly lose access to critical historical data. Inflexibility like this has no place in Industry 4.0 and data ownership needs to be one of the first topics covered in any discussion with vendors. Having ownership over your data puts the power in your hands to build a technology stack with the platforms you want – without limit.

From our perspective, by having our users fully own the data that FitMachine collects from their equipment we ultimately enable future development and integration with other technology – improving our clients’ productivity and our own services. 

Finally if you are working through a digital transformation initiative or looking to get started, we recommend you investigate the data integration and ownership challenges upfront and work with vendors who promote open architecture principles. 

If you’re looking for a condition-based monitoring solution that can integrate with your existing systems, try our platform for free and see what a shift to predictive maintenance can do for your organisation:

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