Your facility might have a number of smart devices and equipment, but organizing the data produced by those devices can get complicated. Organizing your data is a prerequisite to any further action or manipulation of data. Unorganized or unusable data can be more of a disservice than not having any data at all. As one of our leaders likes to say, “Customers can either be sitting on a landmine of data or a goldmine of data.” Manufacturers should strive for the latter.
For information to be valuable, it must be actionable. For data points to convert into actionable information, it must be available to your reporting and analysis tools. Data collected manually can be collected improperly and contain errors.
You might have parts of your facility or production lines that aren’t currently on any type of plant floor network. How do you talk to those machines? Or maybe you have a connected plant floor and are collecting lots of data, but the data lives in separate locations. Another possibility is that you have instrument data going into a data historian and production data going into a database, and you struggle with how to bring all that data together.
Fortunately, there have been substantial investments and developments in products and tools to make it easier to connect instruments, machines and data repositories. Let’s look at some examples:
• You need to get data from a device that only communicates via serial. There are new protocol converters and gateway devices on the market that allow almost any conversion of communications.
• You need smart instruments where you don’t currently have them. New technology with wireless products allows users, in many cases, to start collecting data without needing to run pipe and wire.
• You need to pull electronic data from multiple data repositories, perhaps even the cloud. There are new solutions in the marketplace that help facilitate the transfer of data to where you need it.
Some solutions might seem expensive or lacking certain capabilities. Yet it may be worth your while to take another look. Give your automation technician a call. Products and solutions are coming to the market more quickly than ever before in the industrial space. Costs might have changed and functionality might have expanded. A large portion of what Interstates Control Systems spends on R&D today is looking at the marketplace for these new products and services and evaluating their merits for our customers’ needs.
Jerry Steenhoek is chief technologist at Interstates Control Systems Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Interstates Control Systems, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.