Most on-site equipment was either stamping machines without PLCs or closed systems without open communication ports. Based on the varying condition of the equipment, multiple IoT wireless I/O modules were adopted from Advantech’s WISE-4000 series and EKI-6332GN Wi-Fi access points to meet the demands of the metal processing plant, which were to network the production equipment and enable monitoring of the equipment and overall facility.
With respect to establishing connectivity with the production equipment, the client’s requirement was to be able to collect statistics on the number of presses performed by 130 stamping machines. Each stamping machine was thus equipped with a WISE-4050 Wi-Fi IoT wireless I/O module to achieve non-invasive, comprehensive equipment status data collection. The WISE-4050 modules first place a timestamp on the data collected from each machine and then perform a series of processes including data encryption, format conversion, and cloud authentication. Data are then uploaded to the Azure IoT Hub via HTTPS, where equipment operation status information is analyzed or visualization tools such as Power BI are used to present the data as customized reports as per client requests. Through this type of factory information transparency, management personnel will be able to manage all types of information through the Azure cloud platform, such as the number of presses performed by individual stamping machines, the time required to process each workpiece, and machine startup/shutdown times. Production work orders could also be arranged by using transparent production processes to increase the utilization rate of equipment and stabilize the line balance rate.
Because of pre-integration, WISE-4000 series wireless I/O modules can directly support Microsoft’s Azure IoT Hub. Within a system such as this, it is not necessary to have a computer act as the gateway or write a data conversion program. Both the overall complexity associated with the system’s architecture and the hardware costs are reduced significantly. In terms of the time-stamped data logger and break-point resume functions, even when the network connection is unstable, data can be temporarily saved locally in the module first. Once the network connection recovers, data can then be uploaded to the cloud to ensure data integrity and accuracy. Although the metal processing plant’s requirement is to send data every second, stamping machines can be idle during non-production hours. Therefore, by modifying the data upload settings in the WISE-4000 module, data can be transmitted only when the machines’ status changes, thereby conserving network bandwidth. In addition, if the network bandwidth is becoming insufficient due to large amounts of data being collected, the settings can be modified via the web interface so that the time-stamped data can temporarily be stored inside the module. Then, once the criterion for data accumulation has been met, everything will be uploaded together.