Symtek Automation Asia is a system integrator for materials handling products, and has engineered and sold AGVs (Automatic Guided Vehicles) , robotic arms, and conveyor systems to PCB (Printed Circuit Board) factories and a number of other industries. To meet the challenges of Industry 4.0 trends and customer requirements for electronic production records, many PCB factories are seeking IoT solutions to connect their existing automation machines and equipment to networks in order to acquire data from different devices and machines, allowing for M2M communication and achieving intelligent digital manufacturing operation.
However, since much PCB production equipment was put in place quite some years ago, Symtek encountered challenges and bottlenecks in connecting up aging equipment for IoT communication. They decided to join the WISE-PaaS Alliance launched by Advantech Technology, where partners get access to hardware and software resources and full technological support for developing IoT applications. These resources include WISE-PaaS/RMM, an IoT platform provided by Advantech that enables data connection and IoT management.
With the WISE Agent framework provided by WISE-PaaS/RMM, Symtek successfully and quickly built intermediate protocol conversion handlers for many of their previously sold machines, and helped their customers connect existing equipment to IoT networks, acquire data from the equipment, and produce electronic production records in unified and standardized formats for tracking and analysis. The solution can be expanded to whole plant data acquisition and integration, as the Advantech WISE-PaaS/RMM is an open platform that can be customized to support all kinds of machines and equipment. The acquired electronic production data can be further connected with a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), order and inventory management system, to build an intelligent manufacturing environment and decision-making process in line with the smart factory concept.
With the IoT data platform provided by Advantech, Symtek successfully transformed itself from a mere machine vendor to an IoT hard-and-software solution provider. This prospect for transformation is provided by Industry 4.0, which offers opportunities not only for manufacturers but also for system integrators to upgrade and transform their businesses.
Most of the equipment and machines Symtek sold to its customers in early years were custom-engineered products without a standardized control method or communication data format; they were independent from each other in operation and were not able to send data to a remote control center. To carry out an IoT project they needed an intermediate agent to translate each machine’s specific protocol and data formats into today’s IoT-standard format so that machine data could be acquired and transmitted to a backend server. As it was, so many AGVs, robotic systems, and machines in use and waiting for connection caused a processing bottleneck that was consuming time and money. They needed a better way to cope with the challenges.
Symtek opted to use the open and standardized IoT infrastructure WISE-PaaS solution for this project. They first applied a Device Networking Gateway to connect different automation machines to create a digital network. The second step was to acquire and integrate different device data with WISE Agent software and the IoT Gateway Computer. The last step was to deploy the IoT data service platform–WISE-PaaS/RMM to convert all data into standard format, apply RESTful APIs, and employ Node-RED to create the process flow that communicated with different equipment and back-end systems. WISE-PaaS/RMM contains a rich collection of function modules for SIs to build up IoT systems quickly and easily with high integration and expandability.
Among the major components of WISE-PaaS/RMM is WISE Agent, the core software package enabling IoT communications, which contains a Modbus/TCP Handler providing sample code—one of the most widely used industrial field-bus protocols based on the source code provided by Advantech. In the Modbus/TCP sample handler, an SI can use the System Development Kit (SDK) provided in the same package to edit and create their own handlers so as to deal with the conversions of data protocols. This saved Symtek tremendously on programming efforts and reduced their system development period from nearly a year to just a few weeks, also reducing development cost and achieving fast customization.
In addition to the gateway-level WISE Agent, Advantech WISE-PaaS/RMM also provided a rich bunch of server-level tools for easily development of management functions, including: over 100 RESTful APIs for web services, which can easily integratewith other systems; 10+ dashboard widgets to visualize IoT data and control interfaces; and a Node-RED rule engine forwiring hardware devices, APIs and online services together and mapping out IoT workflow with easy-to-use visual tools.
WISE-PaaS/RMM is an open platform, providing complete tools and building blocks for SIs or other users to easily develop or expand an IoT system or upgrade existing production facilities and quickly get on board with the IoT era and Industry 4.0 trends.
- WISE-PaaS/RMM enables PCB factories to upgrade their existing equipment to catch up with IoT requirements and create electronic production records for better management.
- With the Advantech software platform services, this SI saved tremendous time and effort that would otherwise be spent on developing IoT systems for their customers.
- Leveraging Advantech brand values and technological support, this SI has become an IoT solution provider rather than a mere equipment vendor, achieving a successful business transformation.
WISE-PaaS Alliance is an IoT partner program launched by Advantech that helps partners solve IoT application challenges and take those applications to market. With Diversify Software Solutions, partners can unify different protocol standards, thus enabling data, image, device and network management, and ensuring that IoT device and data infrastructure is reliable and scalable. Alliance programs provide comprehensive development service, including development tools, professional consultant and technical support service and VIP IoT Developer Forum. Program members leverage the Advantech marketing platform to generate product awareness, and also engage with local salespeople for sales leads and opportunities.