Productivity and industrial user experience

Digital employee is not software robot

 

The last post was about data contextualisation and today on this video blog post we talk about the Importance of User Experience in an Industrial Environment.

UX versus employee experience

User Experience (UX) design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. 

Employee experience is a worker’s perceptions about his or her journey through all the touchpoints at a particular company, starting with job candidacy through to the exit from the company. 

Using modern, digital tools and platforms can support employee experience and create competitive advantage. Especially working on factory systems and remote locations it’s important to keep good productivity and one option is cloud based manufacturing.

Stay tuned for more and check our Connected Factory kickstart:

https://www.solita.fi/en/solita-connected/

super

Industrial data contextualization at scale

Shaping the future of your data culture with contextualization

 

My colleague and good friend Marko had interesting thought on Smart and Connected factories  and how to get data out of the complex factory floor systems and enable machine learning capabilities on Edge and Cloud . In this blog post I will try to open a bit more on data modeling and how to overcome a few typical pitfalls – that are not always only data related.

Creating super powers

Research and development (R&D) include activities that companies undertake to innovate and introduce new products and services. In many cases if company is big enough R&D is separate from other units and in some cases R is separated from D as well. We could call this as separation of concerns –  so every unit can 100% focus on their goals.

What separates R&D and Business unit ? Let’s first pause and think about what business is doing. A business unit is an organizational structure such as a department or team that produces revenues and is responsible for costs. Perfect so now we have company wide functions (R&D, business) to support being innovative and produce revenue.

Hmmm, something is still missing – how to scale digital solutions in a cost efficient way so we can have profit (row80) in good shape ? Way back in 1978 information technology (IT) was used first time. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines information technology as “the technology involving the development, maintenance, and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing and distribution of data.” One the IT functions is to provide services with cost efficiency on global scale.

Combine these super powers: business, R&D and IT we should produce revenue, be innovative and have the latest IT systems up and running to support company goals – in real life this is much more complex, welcome to the era of data driven product and services.

 

Understanding your organization structure 

To be data driven, the first thing is to actually look around in which maturity level my team and company is. There are so many nice models to choose from: functional, divisional, matrix, team, and networking.  Organizational structure can easily become a blocker in how to get new ideas to market quickly enough. Quite many times Conway’s law kicks in and software or automated systems end up “shaped like” the organizational structure they are designed in or designed for.

One example of Conway’s law in action, identified back in 1999 by UX expert Nigel Bevan, is corporate website design: Companies tend to create websites with structure and content that mirror the company’s internal concerns

When you look at your car dashboard, company web sites or circuit board of embedded systems, quite many times you can see Conway’s law in action. Feature teams, tribes, platform teams, enabler team or a component team – I am sure you have at least one of these to somehow try to tackle the problem of how an organization should be able to produce good enough products and services to market on time. Calling same thing with Squad(s) will not solve the core issue. Neither to copy one top-down driven model from Netflix to your industrial landscape.

 

Why does data contextualization matter?

Based on facts mentioned above, creating industrial data driven services is not easy. Imagine you push a product out to the market that is not able to gather data from usage. Other team is building a subscription based service for the same customers. Maybe someone already started to sell that to customers. This solution will not work because now we have a product out and not able to invoice customers from usage. Refactoring of organizations, code and platforms is needed to accomplish common goals together. A new Data Platform as such is not improving the speed of development automatically or making customers more engaged.

Contextualization means adding related information to any data in order to make it more useful. That does not mean data lake, our new CRM or MES. Industrial data is not just another data source on slides, creating contextual data enables to have the same language between different parties such as business and IT. 

A great solution will help you understand better what we have or how things work, it’s like a car you have never driven and still you feel that this is exactly how it should be even if it’s not close to your old vehicle at all. Industrial data assets are modeled in a certain way and that will enable common data models from floor to cloud, enabling scalable machine learning without varying data schema changes.

Our industrial AWS SiteWise data models for example are 100% compatible with modern data warehousing platforms like Solita Agile Data Engine out of the box. General blueprints of data models have failed in this industry many times, so please always look at your use case also from bottom up and not only the other way round.

Curiosity and open minded

I have been working on data for the last 20 years and on the industrial landscape half of that time. Now it’s great  to see how Nordics companies are embracing company culture change, talking about competence based organization, asking from consultants more than just a pair of hands and creating teams of superpowers.

How to get started on data contextualization ?

  1. Gather your team and check how much of time it will take to have one idea to customer (production) – is our current organization model supporting it ?
  2. Look models and approach that you might find useful like intro for data mesh or a  deep dive – the new paradigm you might want to mess with (and remember that what works for someone else might not be perfect to you)
  3. We can help with with AWS SiteWise for data contextualization. That specific service is used to create virtual representations of your industrial operation with AWS IoT SiteWise assets.

I have been working on all major cloud platforms and focusing on AWS.  Stay tuned for the next Blog post explaining how SiteWise is used for data contextualization. Let’s keep in touch and stay fresh minded.

Our Industrial data contextualization at scale Kickstart

 

Factory Floor and Edge computing

Happened last time

In the first part of this blog series I discussed the industry 4.0 phenomenon: Smart and Connected Factory, what benefits it brings, what is IT/OT convergence and gave a short intro about Solita’s Connected Factory Kickstart

This part is more focused on the data at Factory floor and how AWS services can help in ingesting the data from factory machinery.

Access the data and gain benefits from Edge computing

So what is the data at the Factory floor? It is generated by machinery systems using many sensors and actuators. See the following picture where on the left there is a traditional ISA-95 pyramid for factory data integrating each layer with the next. The right side represents new thinking where we can ingest data from each layer and take advantage of IT/OT convergence using AWS edge and cloud services.

PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) typically has dedicated modules for inputs and dedicated modules for outputs. An input module can detect the status of input signals like switches and an output module controls devices such as relays and motors.

Sensors are typically connected to PLC’s. To access the data and use it in other systems, PLC’s can be connected to an OPC-UA server. The server can provide access to the data. One traditional use case is to connect PLC to factory SCADA systems for high level supervision of machines and processes. OPC-UA defines a generic object model and each object can be associated with data type, timestamp, data quality and current value and they can have a hierarchy. Every kind of device, function, and system information can be described using this meta model.

 

AWS services that ease data access at the factory

AWS Greengrass is an open source edge software which integrates to AWS Cloud. It enables local processing, messaging, Machine Learning (ML) inference, device mesh and many pre-baked software components for speed up application development. 

AWS Sitewise is a cloud service for collecting and analyzing data from factory environments. It provides Greengrass compatible edge components for example for data collection from OPC-UA server and for streaming data to AWS Sitewise. Sitewise has a built in time-series database, data modeling capabilities, API layer and portal, which can be deployed and run at the edge as well (which is amazing!). 

The AWS Sitewise asset and data modeling is for making a virtual presentation of industrial equipment or process. Data model supports hierarchies, metrics and real time calculations, for example for calculating OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). Each asset is enforced to use data mode that validates incoming data and schema.

Why industrial use cases with AWS?

I prefer more hands-on work than reading Gartner papers; anyhow AWS has been named as a Leader for the eleventh consecutive year and has secured the highest and furthest position on the ability to execute and completeness of vision axes in the 2021 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure and Platform Services. It’s very nice to see how AWS is taking industrial solutions seriously and packaging those to a model that is easy to take in use for building digital services to the factory floor and cloud.  

 1. AWS Sitewise – The power of data model, ingest, analyze and visualize

Sitewise packages nice features which I feel are the greatest are the data and asset modeling, near real time metric calculations (even on edge), visualization and build in time series database. Sitewise is nicely supported by CloudFormation, so you can automate the deployment and even build data models according to your OPC-UA data model automatically (Meta driven Industry standard data model). The Fact that there are edge processing and monitoring capabilities with a portal available makes the Sitewise a really competitive package.

2. AWS Greengrass – Edge computing and secure cloud integration

Speeds up edge application development with public components, like the OPC-UA collector, StreamManager and Kinesis Firehose publisher. The latest Greengrass version 2.x has evolved and has lots of great features. You can provision and run a solution on real hardware or simulate on an EC2 instance or Docker, as you wish. One way to provision Greengrass devices to AWS cloud is to use IoT Fleet Provisioning, where certificates for the device are created on the first connection attempt to the cloud. Applications are easy to deploy from cloud IoT Core to edge Greengrass instances. You can also run serverless AWS Lambdas at the edge, which is really superb! All in all, the complete Greengrass 2.0 package will speed up development.

3. Cloud and Edge – Extra layer of Security

SItewise and Greengrass use AWS IoT Core security features, like certificate based authentication, IoT policies, TLS 1.2 on transport and device defender, which brings the security to a new level. It’s also possible to use custom Certificate Authorities (CA) to issue edge device certificates. Custom CA’s can be stored in AWS CloudHSM and AWS Certificate Manager. Now I can really say that security is our best friend.

4. Agile integration to other solutions

Easy way for integrating data to other solutions is to use Sitewise Edge and Cloud APIs. If you deploy Sitewise to the edge the API is usable there as well, and you can use the data for other factory systems, like MES (Manufacturing Execution System). At least I think this will combine the IT and OT worlds like never before.

5. AutoML for Edge computing

AutoML is for people like me and citizen data scientists, something that will speed up business insights when creating a lot of notebooks or python code is not needed anymore.

These AutoML services are used to organize, track and compare Machine Learning training. When auto deploy is turned on the best model from the experiment is deployed to the endpoint and the best model is automatically selected using the Bandit algorithm. Besides these Amazon SageMaker model monitor will continuously monitor the quality of your machine learning models in real time and I can focus on talking with people and not only machines. 

 

Stay tuned for more

I think that AWS is making it easier to combine cloud workloads with edge computing. Stay tuned for the next blog post where we dig more into the cloud side of this, including Sitewise, Asset and data model, visualization and alarms. And please take a look at the “Predictive maintenance data kickstart” if you haven’t yet:

https://www.solita.fi/en/solita-connected/

 

Smart and Connected Factories

Smart connected factories are a phenomenon of the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0.

What is a connected factory?

Connected Factories utilizes machinery automation systems and additional sensors to collect data from manufacturing devices and processes. The data can be analyzed and processed on site at the factory, before being sent to the cloud platforms for historical and real time data analysis. Connected factory enables a holistic view for data over all customer factories. Connectivity is a key enabler of  IT/OT convergence.

Operational Technology (OT) consists of software and hardware systems that control and execute processes at the factory floor. Typically these are MES (Manufacturing Execution System), SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) and PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers) at manufacturing factories. 

Whereas Information Technology (IT) refers to the information infrastructure covering network, software and hardware components for storing, processing, securing and exchanging data. IT consists of laptops and servers, software, enterprise systems software like ERPs, CRMs, inventory management programs, and other business related tools.

Historically OT is separated from IT. In recent years industrial digitalization, connectivity and cloud computing have made it possible for OT and IT systems to join and share data with each other. On IT/OT data convergence factory floor OT data is combined with IT data:

IT/OT Convergence
IT/OT Convergence

 

When IT and OT collide we need to align things like “How to handle different networks and control the boundaries between them”. IT and OT networks are totally for different purposes and they have different security, availability and maintainability principles. IT/OT convergence can definitely be beneficial for the company but at the same time it might pop up new challenges for the traditional OT world, like “How often and what kind of data should we upload to the cloud?” and “What are the key attributes to combine different data assets?”. Here are few examples where IT/OT is  converged:

  • Welding station monitoring with laboratory data. Combining with IT data we can improve customer specific welding quality. 
  • Getting OT data from equipment and merging that with customer contract data we can start upselling predictive maintenance solutions.
  • Getting real time metrics it is also possible to create subscription based billing. For this we need asset basic information and CRM customer contract information.
  • Creating a Digital service book is easy when you have full traceability based on OT data joint to IT product lifecycle data.

I think that in order to combine IT and OT together is nowadays much easier than just a few years ago thanks to hyper scalers like AWS and others. Now we can see in action how Cloud can enable smart manufacturing using purpose built components like AWS Greengrass and SiteWise. Stay tuned for next blog posts where I will explain basics on Edge computing in a harsh factory environment.

 

Kickstart towards smart and connected factory

Solita has made a kickstart for companies to start a risk free journey. We package pre-baked components for edge data ingestion, edge ML, AWS Sitewise data modelling, visualization, data integration API and MLOps in one deliverable using only 4 weeks time.

Check it out from https://www.solita.fi/en/solita-connected/ and let’s connect!