Automation IIoT

Companies Focus on IIoT Networking

Grant Gerke | August 14, 2017

Executives need assistance in approving pilot IIoT projects.

Hold on to your plant-floor tablets. The wave of change to sign off on large and small IIoT initiatives from maintenance technicians is being felt by corporate management.

As an ex-Kraft Foods plant manager-turned colleague used to say, “It’s going to get bloody.”

The heart of the challenge for the past decade—depending on industries—has been how to rapidly funnel critical plant data to operators, maintenance personnel, and plant management. For some time, industrial networking and interoperable plant-floor platforms prevented data exchanges that provided actionable items for operators and managers.

Advances in industrial networking technologies, however, including encrypted messaging based on the industry operability standard OPC UA (, has moved manufacturers to data solutions that don’t involve ripping out existing infrastructure. Also, ISA-95 has provided a standardized interface process for moving control data from the plant floor, i.e., from manufacturing execution systems (MES) to business enterprises.

According to Charlie Gifford, senior advanced manufacturing consultant and contributing member of the ISA-95 Manufacturing Operations Management Working Group, “As explained at the recent ISA-95/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) meeting, BHP Billiton presented the application of ISA-95 as a corporate Industrie 4.0 standard and how they invested $2 million (US) dollars in the upgrade of ISA-95.”

As part of the smart manufacturing initiative within ISA-95, major updates include Parts 2, 4, and 5, along with the new standards for Parts 8 and 9, the smart manufacturing framework. In conjunction with this effort, the ISA-95 Process-Centric Message Working Group created an “event-driven architecture” for IIoT applications that decreases data movement between systems.

“If I send an order to the quality lab using the typical request-response messaging approach, there can be anywhere from four to ten messages sent as part of request-response messages,” said Gifford.  “This new operations event model bundles all changed objects into a single self-describing message, which is published using the new notification model in the Part 5 update.”

In a recent ProFood article (, Gifford noted the Process-Centric Message group is now identifying 20 to 30 common operation events (Level 3) in the new Part 9 of the ISA-95 standard. “Those common 30 Level 3 operation events—dispatching production, scheduling, reliability, etc.—we’re defining the data sets and objects, so when those events occur, I simply publish the whole block of information for the event in one message,” he explained.

The new operations-event model and Part 9 standard also apply to maintenance scheduling, dispatch, and tracking work in progress. For example, a work-completed event would be published by the enterprise asset management (EAM) system and received by enterprise resource planning (ERP), plant scheduling, and MES to inform those applications that the equipment resource is in an available state with a given capability and capacity. These updates could be final by Dec. 2017.

While plant personnel sift through new standards for Industrie 4.0, executives need assistance in approving IIoT pilot projects. “As you’re designing a project or a transformation, you want to design in some early wins, even if they’re simple and small,” said Robert MacNeil, senior technical advisor, Nova Scotia Power (, Halifax) at the 2017 ARC Industry Forum.

‘For The Long Haul’

According to the recently released Price Waterhouse Coopers’ (PwC) “Digital Factories 2020” study, respondents this year don’t seem to be looking for quick fixes from IIoT projects. They’re “in it for the long haul,” expecting to see a return on investments over the next two to five years, wrote Reinhard Geissbauer, head of PwC’s Industry 4.0 in Europe in a recent blog post. Click here for a breakdown by sector.

The Internet of Things is changing the maintenance and reliability world. Keep up to date with our ongoing coverage of this exciting use of data and technology at




Grant Gerke

Grant Gerke

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