By harnessing real-time data from factory operations, a groundbreaking new project is creating the blueprint for a more sustainable, connected and productive future.
The need for sustainable manufacturing has never been greater. The global climate crisis has reached a critical point, demanding immediate and substantial reductions in carbon emissions.
Governments around the world are implementing stringent environmental regulations and setting ambitious emissions reduction targets. Consumers and clients, particularly in sectors like government contracting, construction and aerospace, increasingly require suppliers and service providers to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through documented Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) plans.
Meeting the environmental challenge hinges on harnessing the power of Industry 4.0 technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), data analysis and Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices. These technologies not only provide the critical insights and capabilities needed to revolutionise manufacturing operations, they also unlock new ways of working and collaborating.
So, where should companies start? Enter the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS).
Helping Manufacturers Embrace the Future
NMIS, operated by the University of Strathclyde and part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, works with manufacturers of all sizes to help them overcome obstacles, seize new opportunities and future-proof their businesses.
Within its world-leading campus in Renfrewshire lies the NMIS Digital Factory. This state-of-the-art, fully connected manufacturing environment demonstrates the vast potential of digital technologies in helping manufacturers improve their products and processes in the drive towards a net-zero economy while still increasing productivity.
Above all, the Digital Factory proves that Industry 4.0 technologies aren’t exclusively for new and expensive equipment. By integrating accessible and affordable solutions with legacy machines, aging equipment has been transformed into digitally-enabled assets that provide valuable production insights without requiring substantial investments.
As part of NMIS’ ongoing Resource Efficient Supply and Manufacturing Environment (RESuME) research project, more than 100 assets – including 73 machines ranging from low tech to highly advanced, as well as power monitoring sensors – have been connected to enable seamless, synchronised and centralised real-time data acquisition.
Connecting dozens of machines, sourced from various manufacturers and each with distinct communication protocols, presented several challenges, says Anastasia Khatunsteva, NMIS Digital Factory’s Connectivity Theme Lead;
“We are showing how digital transformation can be done for large-scale manufacturers, no matter the machinery available. Adding one, two or five machines to a network isn’t difficult. Connecting hundreds of machines, all serving different purposes, that’s when it becomes challenging.
“Our network isn’t directly connected to the public internet. This restricts the network’s ability to communicate with external services or cloud platforms that rely on internet connectivity. Many manufacturers face a similar restriction, so it was important to demonstrate how we overcame this challenge to connect every machine, regardless of age, into a shared infrastructure.”
Energy Efficiency Goes Beyond Cost Savings
The data gathered from this interconnected ecosystem provides enormous insight into the entire manufacturing process, helping to drive substantial improvements in energy efficiency, quality and safety. The NMIS team believes that the key to effective energy optimisation and carbon emissions reduction of factories is to draw the most realistic picture of current energy performance.
It’s a belief shared by says Iain Crosley, Director at XpertRule Software.
“Transforming manufacturing operations requires a holistic view of everything that’s happening. Such a view relies on capturing, aggregating and processing data from sensors, actuators, control modules, IT applications and back-office systems to monitor, assess and, most importantly, act.”
XpertRule Software, alongside Booth Welsh and Predator Software, are key delivery partners for the RESuME project. Live power consumption and environmental data from each machine are pulled into XpertRule’s performance optimisation software xpertfactory.ai for further analysis and insight.
The aggregated data is accessible via local displays and remotely via the cloud, providing critical insights into machine performance for faster, better-informed decision-making. The addition of artificial intelligence and machine learning unlocks further opportunities, including advanced troubleshooting and preventative maintenance. One relatively straightforward feature is the ability to quickly and easily see whether a machine is on or off at any given time.
“It sounds simple but those who’ve seen the system at work are often surprised that local sensors can help them calculate machine utilisation, among other benefits,” says Anastasia. “Analysing utilisation allows you to better plan workloads and workflow. That can help to maximise the efficiency of your operation. Understanding your energy consumption in real-time also enables you to take more targeted actions to reduce your carbon footprint.”
“At its core, this project is about taking the guesswork out of calculations. Being better informed and making decisions based on factual data will help us achieve our sustainability targets, as well as overcome other operational and manufacturing challenges,” Anastasia concludes.
Iain agrees, adding that; “Tackling the climate crisis relies on having the courage to challenge existing norms, to seek out new partnerships, collaborations and solutions and the drive to apply continuous improvement practices. This demonstrator project exemplifies all these qualities and paves the way to a greener, cleaner future for industry and our planet.”
Decision-Intelligence Powered Manufacturing
XpertRule helps companies reach their Net Zero goals through constant ongoing optimisation. This is a journey, not a sprint. We are working with companies in the manufacturing sector to improve performance through better utilisation of their people, plant processes and products to drive better profits (the 5Ps).
Our XpertFactory software incorporates multiple AI capabilities, including applying digitally captured human expertise to improve any manufacturing process. By being able to digitally capture, streamline and audit the decision-making process manufacturers can improve overall efficiencies while lowering their carbon footprint.
Realising Smart, Sustainable Factories Through Real-Time Data
Anastasia Khatunsteva recently spoke to ManufacturingTV about the groundbreaking achievements of the RESuME research project and highlights the pivotal roles of collaboration and live monitoring.
You can view it here:
Find out more: Accelerate the road to NetZero