Using 4K Video and Imaging in Manufacturing

Oct. 22, 2018
There are several ways for discovering value when it comes to adding connected video capabilities to your operations. Here are a few possibilities to consider.

A picture is worth a thousand words. I know one manufacturer using an actionable information system with a single video feed that saves it $30,000 per minute. It’s taken me a while to value the somewhat mythical Internet of Things (IoT) marketing narrative, but this is the kind of value that we’re talking about.

There are a lot of potential parts to this. A key part is applying video, which is the limited scope of this blog. Putting cameras in is not enough—they must be connected to be sources of real-time, actionable information. In an IoT solution, the cameras are like sensors. They need to be Wi-Fi or USB IP cameras. We also need to be able to sync cameras to sensors for smarter video capture events and get that video wherever it needs to go for people to act on it.

Storage could be a concern, so let’s briefly address that. We can use local edge storage with redundant solid-state RAID arrays where applicable. We would only store what is needed. We can determine how long we keep the live running feed, and purge beyond that timeframe. That could be minutes, or maybe a day in some cases. Additionally, we might want to capture a downtime event video snippet, for example. There isn’t much video storage per event.

Find, fix, run

There are several instances where the U.S. military uses actionable information systems to run their Find, Fix, Finish approach to military ops. Manufacturing is more of a Find, Fix, Run type of environment. Find and Fix is very similar between the two, and the military leverages imagery and mapping to improve their Find, Fix, Finish practice. We should, too.

Picture a packaging line or a lathe, for instance. Let’s put a 4K IP camera on it and capture data for a production run. Using triggers based on data from sensors and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), we can capture a slice of video surrounding events for a more focused, effective, storage-efficient analysis. We can funnel that video, as well as other IoT data, to the appropriate applications and storage locations.

There is nothing stopping us from having one of those triggers create a maintenance ticket and use TeamViewer (or Skype) to bring appropriate personnel together as well, including the system integrator—all viewing the incident firsthand and promptly.

This can be installed internally or on the cloud securely. Either way, we have the technology to enhance operations maintenance with collaborative, real-time, documented, searchable, problem-solving systems.

Security and security

Watch your property and your equipment for physical access security monitoring. Live monitoring services can help, providing verbal warnings and contacting appropriate personnel or authorities if needed.

Focusing on safety for a moment, zone monitoring can be applied with an audible warning as well as a means of shutting down equipment if needed. Security monitoring (or management) as a service is available if the operation warrants it. Where warranted, a live operator could give remote, verbal instructions regarding perimeter entry or safety zones, and contact appropriate personnel or authorities depending on the scenario. This can couple with security.

Inspecting elevated equipment without sending a person up to do so is accurate, consistent and safer.


Inventory imaging can provide a live view of aggregate inventory levels at, for example, a concrete or asphalt plant. This could be a simple eyeball test or a more sophisticated calculation. Cameras can also enhance accountability, such as proof of shipment and product condition. Proof of delivery might also be important, as well as deterring bad worker behavior, theft and fraud.

Production counts and quality

Count parts on a conveyor belt, count sesame seeds on a bun, or make sure there are not any seeds on a bun. Inspect the product, track the product (via barcodes or RFID, for instance), validate loss counts or maintenance events in an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) system or verify temperature.

The possibilities are numerous. Creative problem solvers are welcome. There is a lot of value to be discovered. Video will likely become one of the most common components of an organization focused on smart manufacturing.

Michael Bachelor is president at Bachelor Controls Inc., a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Bachelor Controls, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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