Expert Interview: Mark Ermatinger & Michael McGray
Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), often considered the innovation for the future, is a term that gets used broadly to describe the connectivity of industrial application with modern technology, like instruments and sensors.
It, along with other buzzwords like Industry 4.0, also has an unfortunate black eye for only being attainable at large or resource-rich operations.
This article explores if that’s true, or if the upside to IIoT devices—and the data they produce—can make a difference in every industry's day-to-day operation, no matter shape, size, or funding capabilities.
We turned to Mark Ermatinger and Michael McGray from Industrial Control, an MCE automation solutions provider in Michigan, to share their thoughts on the rise of IIoT and how it can bring advantages to small- and mid-size manufacturers.
What is Industry 4.0?
Mark - Industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution of manufacturing, which integrates digital technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things) devices, artificial intelligence (AI), robots, data analytics, and cloud computing in manufacturing.
Industry 4.0 collects real-time equipment performance data, stores data, analyzes data, and transmits it between equipment.
What are IIoT Devices?
Mark - IIoT measuring devices are attached to the equipment. When data indicates levels are approaching a potential shutdown, the devices provide alerts indicating maintenance is needed. IIoT devices measure various applications, including hydraulics, pumps, flow, vibration, and robotics.
One example of the use of IIoT is to limit the scope of recall by using a device to measure the temperature of your food processor to recall expired food.
In the small- to mid-sized manufacturing setting, what are IIoT devices primarily used for?
Michael - Preventative maintenance is the most common use of IIoT, as alarms ensure the machine functions by going off when equipment needs maintenance.
Data collection is the second leading use, as, without IIoT, data collection needs to be done by hand. Manual data collection always comes with the risk of human error and requires employees to take the time on the job to write, which slows the production process.
IIoT devices provide significant process improvement by collecting data automatically in real-time.
How do you minimize security risks with IIoT devices?
Mark - Security is sometimes a concern when implementing IIoT devices, but the Cloud is not a significant risk. Another option is to send all data using cellular communication.
Cellular separates the building from cybersecurity and creates a firewall, making it considered a secure alternative to the Cloud.
The IIoT Box is ready for use
and offers all the functions required for digitalization,
from signal acquisition to cloud connectivity.
How is the data collected, and how can it support automation?
Mark - Automation devices are performed and analyzed as an island. Separate systems are often running and installed independently and not considered with one another.
However, all automated systems integrate when measuring efficiency and performance.
Michael - Automation projects are often separate from one another, but the beautiful thing is the data brings it all together. Accurate data must be transferred between systems to be accumulated and available for analysis.
IIoT data on performance bridges the gap between isolated automation components and provides a whole picture of performance.
What is a significant game-changer of IIoT on the factory floor?
Michael - Data exists in the automation and is collected automatically, but that data needs to be collected and communicated to control systems.
Small and mid-size manufacturers often rely on the maintenance employees to manually write down the data.
This manual data transfer might take two days to let you know that you are not meeting production goals two days later, even after employees work overtime to ensure the data is collected.
The data may also be partially accurate, as human error is always a risk during the manual transfer of such information.
IIoT devices lower the complexity of the data transfer process. Getting data from a machine to go someplace does not have to be complex or costly.
These devices operate in real-time to connect to the automation and shove the data into the database for consumption. The data is transparent, available, and easily transfers to the MES and ERP, saving lots of the time and headache of writing down manual data.
Bridging the IT/IIOT Gap
The IIoT device plays a major role in transferring data to the IT systems.
Incorporating IT resources and leveraging existing traditional infrastructures, you can bring all the datasets together, bridging the gap between operational technology (OT) on the factory floor and informational technology (IT) data systems.
Connect automation controller devices with IIoT devices to transfer machine data to IT systems. Unitronics and Wago offer devices that allow for this data transfer.
What IIoT solutions should small- to medium-sized manufacturers be considering?
Mark - You should be looking at components that will communicate with your machine.
Products like PLCs, edge computers, cellular devices, and sensors are key to connecting the floor to the front office.
Industrial Control provides smart factory consultation, engineering, and a wide portfolio of product sales for the industry’s most sought after IIoT solutions.
Contact us today to accelerate your competitive advantage!
About the Author: Mark Ermatinger is CEO of Industrial Control, an MCE Automation solutions company.
Mark is experienced in CAD, engineering, and software development, where he created comprehensive solutions spanning various departments within a manufacturing company, from engineering and the shop floor to accounting. Subsequently, he took on a new challenge, managing an I.T. helpdesk for a different employer. Through hard work, he expanded the team to 20 members, covering 60 branches in five years.
In 1999, Mark joined forces with the family legacy, Industrial Control, a distinguished high-end factory automation distributor established in Michigan in 1975.
Mark remains steadfast in his role as the General Manager of Industrial Control, committed to ensuring its ongoing success and continued growth.
For the last twenty-five years, Mark and his wife, Sue, have been actively engaged with the Association of High Technology Distribution (AHTD.org). Mark's dedication extended to volunteering on committees and the board of directors, culminating in his appointment as AHTD president in 2024.
About the Author: Michael McGray has served as the SE Michigan Sales Engineer for Industrial Control since 2023.
For more than 25 years, Michael has focused on finding the best applications of Information Technology and Operational Technology to help solve critical business problems. Throughout his career, Michael’s hard work and passion for what he does have allowed him many opportunities to align his core expertise with various business sectors, including finance, marketing, sales and business administration. Now, Michael is ready to work with innovators as they take the next technological leap into Industry 4.0.
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