Utilize the internet of things in industry 4.0 to get better plant floor efficiency.

Internet of Things in Industry 4.0: How They Tie Together

Internet of Things in Industry 4.0: How they Tie Together

The Internet of things in Industry 4.0. You have likely heard these words said around the industry at least a few times. The internet of things and industry 4.0 are both very valuable pieces to manufacturers’ success today and in the future. These phrases are also very commonly used together. While they definitely tie in together, they are not exactly the same thing, there are some key differences.

In this article, we will differentiate the two, and clear the air on what each of these concepts/ideas are. Furthermore, we will get into how you can make these two work together for your benefit.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the movement. It’s not any specific thing, it’s just the idea that ties everything together. In the past, there have been Industry 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and now we are experiencing Industry 4.0- the fourth industrial revolution.

This revolution started around the early 2000s. However, it’s really got moving and has made a much bigger impact in the last 5 years.

Many people associate automation with the IoT in Industry 4.0. Although automation is a big part of Industry 4.0, and there is more automation available with Industry 4.0 technology. The truth is that automation actually was the big change in Industry 3.0.

Industry 3.0 brought us machine automation. New machines that could run without operators being part of the process the entire time. In industry 3.0 theoretically, you could turn on a machine, run it all night, and come back in the morning to a finished product. That is automation. This automation from Industry 3.0 created data that wasn’t tapped into at the time.

This data is what drives industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is all about translating the data we can pull from automated machines into information that is consumable for humans.

Internet of Things

We know what Industry 4.0 is, but now what role does the internet of things play? What is the internet of things in industry 4.0?

The internet of things, commonly referred to as IoT or IIoT, are the mechanisms or systems used to turn data into information. In a few words, Industry 4.0 is the idea, the movement, the principles. The internet of things is the system that makes this idea work, it’s the part that translates the industry 4.0 idea into real life. This engineer could be using the internet of things in industry 4.0 to analyze plant floor data.

The Industrial Internet of things on its own can be broken down into a really simple concept. Simply, it’s all about getting the information that everybody needs, in their hands, instantly right when they want it.

Putting all of this together is what brings us to IoT in Industry 4.0.

Now that we know what they are and the differences between the two, we can get into how they can work together for your benefit.

How You can make the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 work together for Your Benefit

These two things are not exactly the same, but they do go hand-in-hand. When you put these two together- the principles and ideas of industry 4.0, mixed with the internet of things software and its capabilities, you create a lot of valuable possibilities for yourself. You can position yourself for massive growth, increased efficiency, and prime yourself to become an industry leader.

Here are a couple of specific ways that the internet of things in industry 4.0 can benefit your manufacturing process, help you to save money, and increase revenue.

Predictive Maintenance

Traditionally, you hear a lot about preventative maintenance. You might have scheduled every so often to do a maintenance check or change certain parts or fluids after x amount of time. This sounds good, likely a system that everybody has used, you probably do something similar to this for your car.

Utilize the IoT in industry 4.0 by upgrading your preventative maintenance schedule to predictive maintenance. Thanks to all of the big data sets that can be collected and analyzed by modern internet of things software, you have the ability to predict when machines will need maintenance based on historic data and trends. This is possible today with the help of current internet of things software. Data was created in industry 3.0, but now we have the technology to efficiently extract and use this data.

No matter how often your preventative maintenance schedule is, machines will still break. Although it’s near impossible to stop this completely, by analyzing trends in the data you will begin to understand exactly when each of your machines needs attention. Maybe you have too much planned downtime for preventative maintenance that might be unnecessary. Or, maybe the lifespan of your machine has dropped dramatically due to maintenance that was not as frequent as it should have been.

This a great opportunity to improve the health of your machines and cut back on downtime. Whether the downtime is planned or unplanned. All possible today by using the internet of things with industry 4.0 principles to gather important information all over the plant floor.

Quality Control

Up until now, quality control has been on a reactive basis. For products that get damaged or something goes wrong, it’s up to the workers to try and catch it in time. In theory, this sounds fine, but

  1. People Make Mistakes
  2. Modern technology can take over this task, and do it better.

Even the best assembly line workers are susceptible to making mistakes. You can’t expect anything else, humans make mistakes. Because of this, manufacturers are left with a lot of scrap material, and a lot of products that cannot be sent out.

IoT in industry 4.0 changes that. Internet of things equipment has the capability the monitor the quality throughout the production process. It can assess performance and instantly find defects in real-time.

We have seen numerous cases ourselves here at ectobox where companies had excessive scrap that we were able to cut down a large portion of. All by integrating an industrial internet of things system.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are near endless possibilities and areas to make improvements when you have access to the big data that the internet of things brings you. On top of that, being able to acquire this data and turn it into consumable information in real-time is immensely valuable for any manufacturer.

We have a lot more to talk about. On the Ectobox blog, we are constantly publishing new content all the time. We have lots of articles about the internet of things, industry 4.0, manufacturing analytics, smart factories, and much more. If you found any value in this article, check out some of our others posts on related topics. Feel free to reach out to us anytime with questions or concerns, and subscribe to our newsletter on the right-hand side for exclusive weekly manufacturing tips and tricks.

Worker working on a machine that could be connected with IIoT Devices to gather data and make improvements.

Thousands of IIoT Devices to choose from, which one Fits You?

Thousands of IIoT Devices to choose from, which one Fits You?

The manufacturing industry is constantly growing, and evolving quickly. There are lots of ways for you to improve your efficiency on the plant floor. IIoT devices are the key to making this happen in today’s market. Those devices enable you to gather data directly from your manufacturing equipment, process that data, and get real-time visibility into what’s going on on the factory floor. With so many brands,  products, and solutions out there just finding the perfect solution for you can be a big challenge.

Like I mentioned, and you likely know this yourself, the industry is moving at a fast pace. You need to implement the right tools and techniques to remain competitive, so what should you be looking for?

A lot of the devices that are being used and sold today might work for now, but they will be completely outdated in the coming years. What separates a tool that is going out of date, and a tool that will give you the flexibility and scalability you need now and that you will be able to use effectively for decades?

Industry 3.0 devices vs Industry 4.0 devices

The answer is Industry 4.0 devices.

Industry 3.0 devices can do their job, but not much more. Those devices lack the features and capabilities to create flexible and scalable IIoT solutions to move a company towards becoming a digital factor.

Our definition of the best Industry 4.0 devices are devices that follow 4 principles for best-in-class IIoT devices.

  • Report by exception- Data should be pushed out when it changes; decreases the load on communications and processor time for all kinds of devices including PLCs.
  • Edge Driven- Push decisions for data as close to the edge as possible; we shouldn’t be sending up completely raw, millisecond data to the Unified Namespace.
  • The Solution is Lightweight- Use protocols like MQTT that are lighter, less verbose; it makes them easier to work with, better for communications.
  • Open Technologies- Use tools that don’t have a proprietary bent, that can be leveraged with other tools from companies. When a company says you must use all the tools in their stack, run away…they’re mostly helping their shareholders, not you. Industrial Manufacturing plant that could have increased efficiency with the help of IIoT Devices.

Devices that don’t share these qualities are more difficult and expensive to work with. They also often don’t have the capabilities internally to run a variety of tools that can add to the flexibility and scalability of that device within the larger solution. With that groundwork laid out, let’s review a few of our favorite and most commonly used IIoT Devices that are Industry 4.0 capable.

DXM from Banner Engineering

The first IIoT device I want to talk about is a DXM series controller from banner Engineering. The DXM Controller can connect to wired, or wireless sensors. It communicates on a 900MHz secured and encrypted network. Another nice feature of this product is there is a scripting language that can be used to write some basic logic. This logic can perform small tasks such as turning on a light or sending an email or a text. Lastly, the device can push out its data to any endpoint via HTTPS, like a REST API.

These may sound like small features but small devices like this can have a powerful impact on getting valuable data at the edge and contribute to improving efficiency.

These products are also great for connecting legacy equipment and other old equipment with wired or wireless sensors as well as analog and digital I/O. This is really helpful when you are not able to directly connect to a CNC machine or a PLC machine.

Groove Rio, Epic from Opto22

These are another couple of products that we think are great, and fit in perfectly with the Industry 4.0 ideas and standards. The principles behind the Groove Rio and Epic products are right up our alley. Both of these products are great as they are extremely compatible with the connectivity that Industry 4.0 is all about.

There are a number of ways the devices fit the 4 principles for Industry 4.0:

  • Report by exception – They use MQTT SparkplugB protocol among others to enable one-way communications.
  • Edge Driven – The device has the onboard capacity to run NodeRed and other tools to add logic for processing data locally before sending it out.
  • Lightweight – Again, it’s supposed lightweight protocols like MQTT.
  • Open Technology – You can work with the device using open standards and tools, and don’t need to pay extra fees for extra tools.

These make for a great product with great flexibility to meet the needs of many different companies, that have very specific problems requiring a tailored solution.

They allow us to use technologies that are well suited for IIoT which includes the MQTT data protocol with SparkplugB, as we’ve said above. If you’re interested, check out this great article I just read that goes more in-depth on this topic.

Industrial PCs

An industrial PC is an immensely valuable device to have. It is exactly what it sounds like. A PC that would typically run Windows or Linux, small, ruggedized, and built to be used in harsh environments.

There are a couple of different versions of Industrial PCs that we like to use at Ectobox. One of them is from Siemens and the other is from OnLogic. Both of these are great products. The one from Siemens is a bit more expensive and has some more capabilities and will work in more demanding environments. These machines allow us to use Kepware, a machine connectivity tool from PTC which is industry standard, and other machine connectivity tools to connect to and pull data from various equipment.

These Industrial PCs work by connecting to a PLC or controller on a CNC machine via an ethernet connection RJ45 Plug. This connects directly to the machines and then we have the ability to pull out all of the data directly. Then we can process that data at the edge as needed and send that data up to our IIoT platform whether that platform is on-premise or the cloud.

So which IIoT Devices are best for you?

All of these IIoT devices are great and are built to be around for a long time. Don’t make the mistake of implementing a device that does not have the connectivity, flexibility, and longevity to be relevant in the coming years. Industry 4.0 is, in part, centered around machine connectivity across the plant, and even across multiple plants remotely.

Like I mentioned earlier, we know that everyone has a different situation that is unique to them. Some of these products might fit into a certain company’s situation, or maybe not. Regardless, at Ectobox we have helped a large number of manufacturers tackle issues, or just take the next step to stay ahead of the competition. We are more than happy to answer any questions to help you find the right solution that fits your needs. Contact us here to get in touch.

This manufacturing process could have improved efficiency if they would engage in data-driven manufacturing.

Why Data Driven Manufacturing gives You the Competitive Edge

What is Data-Driven Manufacturing?

Data-Driven Manufacturing is leveraging data gathered from the plant floor so that everyone in the plant from operators to COO’s can adjust and make improvements to the overall manufacturing process. Data from your equipment allows everyone to make confident decisions based on solid information. 

There are many ways that you can acquire data, with some being much more efficient than others. You could hire someone to go to your plant floor, and manually record data from machines with pen and paper or have the operators do it themselves. Although this is a very straightforward concept, it likely is not the best solution for you. Having people manually record data sounds like a simple, efficient, and very straightforward task. However, the data typically recorded on paper ends up being old (once it’s in a state to be analyzed), moderately inaccurate, and limited. The truth is, there is a much more accurate and efficient solution available today. 

Implementing an IIoT manufacturing analytics system. These kinds of systems will allow you to pull data directly from the machines on your plant floor, to provide you with data that was never available before, in real-time. Some wonder if we can rely on this data to be accurate, without human interference. As humans, we will make errors, and improperly record data from time to time. IIoT systems pull data from PLCs, controllers, and sensors to pull data right from the equipment. There is nothing in between, it is the most straightforward path possible. This means that you get the most accurate, and detailed information in the quickest way possible. For the data that may not be available from the equipment, HMI or operator data entry screens can be provided for operators to enter the pertinent process, production, quality, and availability/downtime data. 

Why You Need to be a Data-Driven Manufacturer

Making decisions with solid substance behind your reasoning is invaluable. We have established that implementing an IIoT system is the best way to gather data. How does the data you are gathering really make such a big difference? There are so many different categories of data that IIoT systems can attain today. You can track downtime with reason codes, production throughput, temperatures, vibration, and scrap just to name a few. That data can then be converted into more valuable information like OEE, downtime Pareto chart with reason codes listed by occurrence or duration, product goals versus actuals during the middle of the day, and more. 

If you are tracking these metrics and seeing the real performance, inevitably you will find room for improvement, even in areas where you might have thought you were doing pretty good. Seeing the actual numbers is shocking to most people. 

Continuous Improvement

When you are driven by data, you will see all the areas that need improvement. Since you are looking at precise data you will also see exactly how much room for improvement there is in one area. Right from the start, you will clearly recognize your biggest inefficiencies. Now you will know exactly where to focus your efforts. Real-time data will assist you in solving the problem, and getting instant results. In our experience it can take from 1-2 days to 2 weeks to get data recorded manually, data entered into a spreadsheet or database and then converted into usable metrics. The real-time availability of data with IIoT solutions is immensely valuable and puts you right on track to running the most efficient factory possible. 

Confident Decisions 

Being a data-driven manufacturer can help you in other ways that you might not put much thought into initially. You’re able to make confident data-based decisions. Empirical data including numbers and large amounts of the right data backing up your decision are undoubtedly a massive benefit. You’re able to work in a clearer state of mind, not continuously thinking about a past decision, wondering and hoping that you made the right move. Realistically, you have more than one thing on your plate and the added stress holds you back. When you eliminate the guesswork and know that you made the right decision based on facts, it will help you tremendously. Allowing you to solve issues quickly and effectively, and shift your focus onto the next task. 

Why Being Data-Driven will Generate You more Revenue

IIoT systems, manufacturing analytics, and real-time data are great tools and features to help convert you into a data-driven manufacturer. This is, of course, an investment. Here is how data-driven manufacturing will take your company to the next level by increasing efficiencies, reducing costs, increasing production, and in the end increasing revenue. 

Once you see the data, you will have an accurate perspective on efficiencies in your operations. Once you gain that awareness you’re better able to improve efficiencies. You’ll be able to track data to decrease downtime, increase throughput, increase OEE, you will understand your machines better, and move aware from expensive maintenance practices like reactive and preventative to more valuable practices like condition-based monitoring and other efficient and proactive maintenance practices. 

Here are some additional areas of plant operations that can be improved with IIoT solutions: 

  1. Project Lead Times

    This area will be improved if you act upon the data that you are now receiving. More units manufactured faster, as your manufacturing process efficiency is improved, your project and lead time will inevitably go down. Now that you can get projects done faster, you have time for more projects. More projects is more money.  

  2. Downtime

    Downtime will decrease. Whether it is scheduled or unscheduled downtime, the numbers will improve. Once you have PLCs and sensors installed that allow you to see what is happening inside the machine, you will learn the reasons why that machine might be going down. You will have the historic data to find trends in machine behavior, this will help you avoid unscheduled downtime. You will also know when you will need to schedule maintenance on the machine based on the actual, current health of the machine. Before you were tracking this metric, you might have even been spending too much time on maintenance that the machine did not require. Unscheduled downtime is always bad, but having inefficient scheduled downtime can be just as detrimental.  We have another blog post focuesed solely on reducing downtime- If you think you could benefit from reduced downtime check it out here.

  3. Customer Relationships

    Improved customer relationships. Your customers will appreciate you engaging in data-driven manufacturing just as much as everyone on the plant floor. Each job has different requirements and a lot of variables. Those variables can cause issues including poor quality and/or late deliveries. If you have historical data and an awareness of current conditions in the plant you can then be more proactive to make adjustments on staffing, routing, shifts, parts and raw materials needed for jobs, etc. You can then give the customer updates with precise and detailed data for when their orders will be delivered. If you can provide more insight into your manufacturing process, you will establish trust and transparency. Happier customers lead to more return customers, better reviews, and a great brand reputation.  

Put Yourself in Position to be an Industry Leader

More insight, more throughput, less downtime, happier customer, and smarter employees that have machine insights and make decisions based on the facts. These are many of the traits companies have that are leaders in the manufacturing sector. 

Technology is advancing at a quick pace. These capabilities are becoming more and more available to everyone. Being a data-driven manufacturer is not just for the Teslas and the Amazon’s of the world. Today, it is available to even small-medium-sized businesses. The ones who are taking advantage of this are the ones that are growing, making a name for themselves, and will thrive in the coming decades. Don’t sit back relying on the old way manufacturing has been done for the last 30+ years, put yourself in a position to lead the industry.  Seemingly small details are the difference that can make or break your results in the future. 

IoT in Manufacturing can help this factories' machines to run at peak performance.

IoT in Manufacturing: Is IoT a Long Term Solution?

What is IoT in Manufacturing?

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the use of tools to gather data from manufacturing equipment, people, and other systems to get the right information to the people and machines who need it, where they need it, and when they need it. The idea of this right information in the right hands then enables those people to create the best products possible at the lowest cost and highest quality possible, on time for the manufacturer’s customers.

Manufacturers use IoT to eliminate paper and digitize their entire factory, which means real-time data from the shop floor and other areas of the factory. Data acquired via IoT-enabled equipment will be precise, detailed, and delivered instantly. Machine automation, in part, enabled through IoT, allows machines to take over small tasks that would otherwise require time from an operator and creates a fully connected factory in which all people and machines are connected and sharing the same information. Everyone and everything knows exactly what is happening on the plant floor at all times, in real-time. There is tremendous value in connecting modern technology with your manufacturing shop floor, and in this article, we dive deeper into that idea.

How IoT Contributes to Better Manufacturing

  • Automate tasks

IoT systems equip your machines with smart technology, automating shop-floor equipment to take over tasks that otherwise would have to be done by a human. This frees up time for operators who can now focus on higher-level, more valuable tasks like continuous improvement of their manufacturing process. This is much more beneficial than having to perform tasks such as turning a knob to increase the speed of a motor or press a button to adjust the temperature. Let your machines handle these types of tasks.

  • Creates new jobs

Additional machine automation often brings concerns that jobs will be lost. Although automation will allow machines to take over more tasks, it rarely decreases the number of jobs. Instead, operators will have an adjusted focus or will be busy managing increased throughput! There will also be a growing demand for people that can analyze the data that is being received from machines or that can use already-analyzed data (i.e., analyzed in an IIoT platform) to make fewer adjustments to how equipment is running.

  • Real-Time Analytics

Why is eliminating paper such a big deal? Simple, paper takes time to travel around the plant before its data is entered and converted into useful metrics- it’s just not efficient. Also, paper forms and reports introduce multiple opportunities for data errors and mistakes. With a good IoT solution setup, you can pull data directly from the source (the machine). This way you get the most accurate and the most current information. Instantly identify problems and trends, and start making adjustments immediately, instead of making decisions based on hopefully accurate data from yesterday or last week.

  • Machine learning

Technology is constantly advancing, and IoT in manufacturing is no exception. With the help of devices that are equipped with Industry 4.0 connectivity, sufficient historical data, and machine learning tools at the edge or in the cloud, machines will start to identify patterns, learn tendencies on each machine, and truly learn how to make better decisions. Your whole plant floor will get smarter. Big data analytics also ties into this idea. By recording and analyzing large amounts of data on machine performance over time, your smart machines will be able to avoid issues that have been experienced in the past.  This makes for a smoother production process and assists with more maintenance practices. It’s no secret that downtime gets expensive so doing everything you can to keep your machines running optimally is a must.

  • Better Customer Relationships

With these proper IoT protocols, you will have accurate data on which to base your decisions. You can then more accurately estimate when orders will be delivered to customers. Over time you will develop a better understanding of how long each task takes in your production process, how much scheduled or unscheduled downtime you might run into, and you will be able to provide more detailed, data-based information and answers to your customers. Essentially, you are eliminating all guesswork. Your customers will be happier when they know what is going on, and they receive their order on time as promised.

Does New Technology Require You to Reinvent your Factory? 

The best part of implementing IoT is that none of this requires major changes to your shop-floor. Smart Manufacturing sensors can be added to any equipment, even those from the last century. There are many devices and systems out there that can help you get all of these features and much more, for a very reasonable investment.

The manufacturing sector is headed towards Industry 4.0 and is recognizing the importance of connectivity. Investing in Industry 4.0 capable devices will not only help you get the most out of your machines but will provide a competitive advantage moving forward. A large number of manufacturer’s equipment is running at about a third of its possible overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). IoT can ensure that your equipment is running at peak performance.


IoT in manufacturing is an important concept that we will see more and more of as time goes on. There are many benefits of automating your manufacturing process; including decreased downtime, improved decision-making, and quick adjustments to deliver on-time to your customers. The companies that are adopting these technologies now are industry leaders to be watched!

If you enjoyed this article, check out one of our other articles titled What is Industry 4.0, and how does it help you? This article describes the history of Industry 4.0 and how we believe it will affect the future of the manufacturing industry. At Ectobox we specialize in Industrial Intelligence solutions – if you would like to learn more, subscribe to our newsletter from the menu on the right-hand side of this page.


Working in a factory that could make the changes to becoming a digital factory.

Is Becoming a Digital Factory Worth the Investment?

What is a Digital Factory?

Let’s first define exactly what a Digital Factory is. A Digital factory simply is a production facility where all of the information and data is shared. This means the people are sharing data, but also the machines are all connected to the same network. In even simpler terms, just no more paper. This way every person and machine is made aware of everything that is happening through each different stage of the production process.

This is all great technology of course, but the real question is whether this can have a real effect on your bottom line. Is there any real value? If I make this investment to become a digital factory, will I generate a positive ROI? These are all valid questions. In this article, we will go more in-depth into what a digital factory is, and why it is a good investment for manufacturers.

How does a Digital Factory Increase Efficiency, leading to more revenue for you?

A digital factory is the digitization of your manufacturing process. A digital factory is a completely connected system in which people interact directly with your equipment, equipment interacts with other equipment, and the majority of people are accessing equipment data through software systems.

Getting the production schedule down to the plant floor is typically done by paper. What is the value in this being done digitally, if people are then creating and entering schedules from paper? Interrupting the digital information flow with paper schedules and work orders introduces opportunities for data errors and mistakes. With a digital factory:

  1. You can automate machines to take over some tasks, allowing you to focus on the bigger picture and continuous improvement.
  2. The equipment can take the data directly from the machine, from the source of truth. This is the most accurate way to gather data, as well as the quickest. 

This equates to fewer errors. Cutting out the human interaction, and letting the equipment interact with other equipment is a much more efficient process. If the machines are not connected, the accuracy of your production schedule is based completely on who knows the most about what is happening on the floor. When you build a digital factory use using an IIoT system, your schedule can rely on the information that is coming straight from the equipment itself. You can also write algorithms that update the schedule in real-time without having to have a person make that decision, and then execute the process themself. You will have full control over what happens on the plant floor and have the information to make the right data-driven decisions. 

This is just one example of how building a digital factory can improve your manufacturing process. There is no shortage of demand for products. This means the more efficient you can be, the more business and money you can generate. Faster production and happier customers with accurate data-based estimates will make for a less stressful environment and more revenue.

How does a Digital Factory affect Company Culture?

A digital factory can create a less stressful environment. With all of the data you are collecting, you will have more insight into what is happening in your machines, you will be much more knowledgeable about your plant floor. This is because you will not be guessing about anything anymore. When there is a problem, you will have detailed data to help you make a decision. One step further, your machine might even see that problem coming, and make the adjustment without you having to do a single thing.

Trying to diagnose a broken piece of equipment can be time-consuming and difficult. IIoT protocols help with preventative maintenance so that problems can be anticipated and avoided. And when a problem does occur, you again have the data to assist you in solving the problem. More uptime less stress!

Operators on the plant floor will also benefit from the smarter machines and data because small and repetitive tasks will be completely automated. Now, your operator can focus more on the data and improving the production process, while the machine is efficiently taking care of the task.

Everyone will have access to more data and know the machines better. There will be less confusion over metrics, KPI’s, and results. A much larger emphasis on continuous improvement, and a much smaller emphasis on the person doing the actual work that the machine could be doing on its own.

The company will be improving efficiency constantly, and employees will have a clearer headspace and be more productive. Both of these are great for establishing a positive company culture.

Real-time Metrics

Real-time metrics are a big deal. Supervisors will have the ability to make decisions based on data from right now, not based on a report from yesterday. This does not only apply to the machine data either. Instant information on scheduling, sales that just came in, weather, currency exchange rates, shipping. All of this data is available and it is all in real-time, with no delay. 
Factory that could benefit from becoming a digital factory.

This is helpful for you, and also makes communication with the customers smoother. For example, let’s say you got a weather update for a snowstorm that now is going to affect your delivery route and shipping time. You will know this right away, and now you might have to adjust your schedule from 2 days to 4 days to get this product delivered to the customer. You can adjust your schedules and production time instantly to accommodate the storm. Now you have more clarity and organization. The customer is aware of the problem faster and has a new accurate delivery time.

Big Data Analytics

So there are real-time metrics, and Big data analytics provides you with data from the past. Industry 4.0 and building a digital factory, put a large emphasis on real-time metrics. Big data analytics is also an important piece that gives your plant insight from historical data to improve your production process in real-time. This data helps provide a lot of improvement on-

  1. Preventative Maintenance
  2. Machine Learning

How does Big Data Analytics help in this aspect? It takes historical data and can help you see what you learned from collecting data on your last project, or projects from a long time ago. The point of all of this is so that your machines can begin to learn to predict from the historical data that you are going to run into a problem that you have already encountered in the past. Machines will see this coming and make the adjustment to avoid repeating the same problem. Machines understand the production process better, and the operator will develop a deeper understanding of how the machine works. Smarter machines, smarter people, fewer problems, and smoother production.


There is a lot of benefits to building a digital factory, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of people hear digital factory and think that it means they would have to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build an entirely new factory with all smart equipment. This really is not the case at all. In all reality, you can make a much smaller investment and make your current factory a digital factory. There is a lot of ways to equip older machines to be compatible with Industry 4.0, Digital Factory protocols. It does not have to be such a large investment. At Ectobox, we specialize in helping companies find an affordable solution that fits their needs. Contact us anytime with questions, we are happy to help!



Two Ways to Improve Production Schedules

Two Ways to Improve Production Schedules

We talk with a lot of manufacturers, especially high mix/low volume shops, which have challenges with their production schedules.
Typically, ERP systems don’t have great scheduling modules. Too often those production schedules are pipe dreams because they expect the world to be perfect…like an automotive manufacturer that has near-complete control over the supply chain, machine uptime, workforce, etc. You likely do not have that kind of control.  The predictions are often too optimistic and end up being inaccurate more times than not.

There is hope, don’t lose faith!

In this article, we will go over two ways to get better, more accurate production schedules.

Accurate Cycle Times- having accurate cycle times and very good data on the job setup and changeover times for jobs helps immensely in improving estimates for jobs so you lose money less often on jobs. This data also helps more accurately predict the actual time it’ll take for the job to move from station to station through the shop. This helps you but will also give the customer more clarity, and will make for a smoother transaction if the estimate that you gave the customer actually ends up being accurate at the end of the deal. A happy customer will help build your reputation as a knowledgeable and trustworthy manufacturer which will encourage a lot of customers to continue doing business with you.

This is why using an Industrial Internet of Things system to pull machine data is so important for you. The more data you have the more you will learn and understand about the machines. Over some amount of time, you will start to really see what is happening which will make it much easier to predict an accurate time. Also, this way it will be a more confident prediction, and completely data-based. Making a data-driven decision makes the process a lot clearer and will give you some real in-depth substance for more accuracy in your decision-making.

You can have better communication and valuable updates with the customer this way. Everyone involved in the project will be better educated. This makes the entire plant more efficient and leaves you with a happier customer with a project finished on time that was planned and executed the way they were told.

Actual vs. Planned- data should be available from your systems for how well the production schedule performed. This data should also be available in real-time, no waiting for someone to manually calculate and analyze actual vs. planned to provide a report. When this real-time data is available performing a post-action review on your production schedule your team can get a lot of valuable lessons for how to improve the production schedules. A prime example of how important real-time data is for multiple reasons. Use the data to avoid problems before they happen, but it also helps to continually educate people on the plant floor that have complete visibility into the machines. Everyone will develop a deep understanding of machines across the plant, which will assist them in making the right decisions to keep projects on schedule.

Do you have this kind of data available to you? I hope so. If not, look to your Industrial Internet of Things/Manufacturing Analytics product. These should be out-of-the-box capabilities. Additionally, the Industrial Internet of Things/Manufacturing Analytics solution should also integrate well with your ERP system and automatically share the data. We have a lot of experience and help with these kinds of situations all the time. If you have any questions or want to get in touch call or email anytime, we are more than happy to see if we can help. https://ectobox.com/sensrtrx/

5 Steps to Solve Manufacturing Challenges with Manufacturing Iot

5 Steps to Solve Manufacturing Challenges with Manufacturing IoT

How do we ensure we’re focusing on the true essence of the challenge at hand when looking at challenges on the factory floor? Manufacturing IoT can help.

The answer is to “get back to the basics”.

Whether it’s little league baseball or the major leagues, or any other sport for that matter, you constantly hear the coaches talking about the basics…get back to the basics on hitting stance, throwing, etc. The same should be said for business and, specifically, manufacturing.

In many meetings I’m involved in where we’re helping a manufacturer solve operational efficiency challenges to help them succeed and grow, I’m often revisiting this simple 5-step process.

  1. Business Challenge
  2. Business Hypothesis
  3. Information
  4. Data
  5. Technology

(More details on each step can be found here.)

This is essentially the entire process simplified.

Let’s apply this to Manufacturing IoT / Data-Driven Manufacturing, something we do a lot of…

Even though manufacturing IoT is “high-tech” and can sound complicated, at its essence it isn’t. Manufacturing IoT is simply a set of technologies combined together to solve valuable business challenges. It may look like information overload at times, but a structured plan around the right tools makes it easy.

We often use these technologies to solve challenges around excessive unplanned machine downtime, machines run to failure due to lack of getting those early P-F Curve signals, or they’re trying to figure out why a machine or cell isn’t producing as much as it should. This is one of the biggest problems for manufacturers and one that definitely needs to be addressed. 30 years ago running your machines into the ground was a common practice. Today there are so many constant technological advancements being made all the time. Using them effectively in the manufacturing industry will help you to stay on top of the competition.

To keep yourself grounded use a simple and systematic, step-by-step process to apply Manufacturing IoT to solving business challenges. You can get a PDF of the infograph here.

We have seen situations where companies don’t do this. To solve challenges like those listed above they first select some certain technology and try to pull as much data as possible. They’re quickly overwhelmed with data but have absolutely no clarity on what to do with the data, what challenges they’re attempting to solve, and why. They end up getting wrapped around the axle, waste time and money and don’t accomplish anything valuable.

This is why we need to use a simplified process. Yes, manufacturing IoT systems are immensely valuable. They are completely changing the industrial manufacturing landscape. As these technologies become more readily available to small-medium manufacturers, you need to learn more about how to use them. The data is only valuable if you know how to use it. There is no one way to look at and analyze the data. Every business will operate differently, and need to set specific goals tailored to them.

Determining the causes of manufacturing problems is a headache. The solution is, of course, implementing an IIoT system to eliminate the guessing and headache. So make sure that you are using the tool properly to start eliminating problems, make confident data-driven decisions with the data now available, and stick to the structured 5-step plan to keep it simple and goal-oriented.

A simple 5-step process applied to IIoT can save so much time, money, and also frustration.

If you have any questions or want to get in touch, contact us at any time. We are more than happy to answer your questions.

For more information, check out our other blog articles. We are an IIoT based company with an abundance of helpful information on topics related to the manufacturing industry.

Equipment alarms and IIoT systems are really valuable, when used well

Did anyone ever tell you it’s better to “work smart” than it is to “work hard”? That idea applies in many contexts including running manufacturing equipment and the alarms on that equipment.

My good friend Jay Kriner, CMRP, wrote this article on when to act based on alarms from the equipment, and the value of it.

He discusses the three types of alarms (information, passive, and active), what they’re for, and how to use them to your advantage. He also tells some interesting stories on what happens when operators continually push the “ignore” button or reset thresholds, so they don’t get the alarms anymore.

The alarms are good examples of the equipment essentially raising its hand to say, “Hey, I need some help here…a little attention please.” Those warnings should be heeded, within the context of appropriate procedures that focus on safety, quality, and production.

Ignoring the alarms is the completely wrong mindset not only for the health of the equipment but also for production. In every story, Jay tells the complete failure of the machine cost significantly more in time, money, and production downtime than if the equipment had been taking down for the maintenance the machine was asking for.

Another important point is IIoT systems can add a lot more value to alarms. IIoT systems can:

  • Record the alarms from the equipment for visibility and analysis;
  • Be configured to throw its own alarms where the machine can’t be configured to throw an alarm;
  • Analyze the alarms across all the connected equipment;
  • Provide better visibility across the plant to alarms and related equipment health; and
  • Drive more proactive action on the part of the Maintenance and Reliability team by integrating the IIoT solution with a CMMS (i.e., maintenance software system) to create and assign work orders for machines that need attention.

Providing more visibility, better information for decisions, and most importantly driving valuable action is where the alarms become most valuable.

Connect IIoT platform to CMMS?

Should we connect our CMMS to our IIoT platform? Would that effort provide us with valuable results? Yes…only if you keep a few points in mind. These points are honestly a reminder to stick to the basics.

Note: Computerized Maintenance Management System is software systems used by Maintenance & Reliability teams to, among other things, manage machine health using work orders and other data.)

Back to the question, should we connect the CMMS with the IIoT system?

Connecting these kinds of systems can be really valuable. It enables Maintenance and Reliability teams to monitor more equipment, attain better uptime, with fewer resources (“do more with the same”). However, there’s a balance to strike….Goldilocks strikes again (I reference “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” often).


1) Not in the Pilot Project, Keep it Simple: We recommend not doing it as part of your IIoT pilot project where you’re connecting 1-5 machines for the very first time to get maintenance and production-related data.

Integrating an ERP or CMMS with an IIoT / Manufacturing Analytics platform isn’t rocket science, far from it. Though it does make that first pilot project a little more complicated. Pilot projects are supposed to be simple. Adding another big moving part like getting two software/data systems to talk with one another adds a bit more complexity and is best done after the pilot project. KISS…Keep it Simple Silly.


2) Are the Maintenance Culture and Practices Ready? Are your Maintenance & Reliability guys and gals ready for it? Many companies are still in the Reactive Maintenance mindset, no matter the cause. If you connect a CMMS with the IIoT system, set the IIoT system to start creating work orders in the CMMS when certain conditions are met, the guys and gals in maintenance might be overwhelmed with work orders and not see the value. “Last time I fixed this machine it was smoking and whining. Why should I fix it now if it’s not smoking and whining?”

Changing the culture and mindset around Maintenance & Reliability to move to Preventative and better yet, Proactive Maintenance or Condition-Based Monitoring would be optimal. Companies that are already on this path, as many are, are well suited for this type of integration.

For those that aren’t on the path forward, this doesn’t mean you can’t and never should set up this integration of IIoT and CMMS platforms. It simply means there’s a little more thought that goes into it.


3) Start Small, Less is Better…Incremental Approach: A thought…maybe hold off trying to track a lot of data and various conditions of many machines all at once at the outset of getting IIoT setup. If you try to track a whole bunch of data points on each machine you connect with, with no approach for solving a specific challenge with the machines, then you’ll be drinking from a fire hose and it won’t taste very good. You’ll get a whole bunch of data, and it potentially won’t be terribly useful.

Instead, as part of the Pilot Project, look to solve a specific, common, valuable problem with a limited set of data. Also, do that on one specific type of machine or a small set of machines that are very similar.

However, if you’ve already done that and the value of the solution is proven…then keep going…add more data to solve additional, narrow challenges. Work the problem step-by-step, incrementally.

These are simple reminders of key ideas that many of us often forget when we get into the fray of or workdays. A lot of life and work is about getting back to the basics.

4 Best Sources of Data for IIoT solutions

Does your IIoT / Data-Driven Manufacturing (DDM) solution have good sources of data? Or are you considering these sources if you’re looking at IIoT?

Too often we see very small, cheap IIoT solutions put in place that has nothing more than a CT sensor to pull data. They can usually get production counts and machine utilization but that’s it.

Try these 4 sources of data on for size:

  • Wireless Sensors- We Like to use non-invasive sensors from Banner Engineering (a great, solid, well-recognized national company) to get data from a variety of machines new and old. They’re great for a non-invasive approach for getting data when you’re not allowed by maintenance or the machine manufacturer to open it up and get inside. They’re also great because they make it straightforward to get data from legacy machines…even if it’s turn of the century…the previous century.
  • Direct Connection- When it’s possible and when you need more data from inside a machine, like a PLC or a controller of a CNC machine, then you can pull data there as well. We typically use an IoT gateway (i.e., an industrial PC) to run the software for connecting to the machine, pulling the data out, and sending it on it’s way to SensrTrx or other IIoT platforms.
  • ERP Systems- ERP systems can be a great source of data like part data, production schedules, and standard cycle times. This data adds incredibly valuable context to the data coming from the machines and the operator. A much richer set of real-time data is then available for viewing, analysis, and decision-making.
  • Operators- Let’s not forget some of the most important people in a manufacturing plant, the machine operators (aka manufacturing technicians, manufacturing engineers). They can be a great source of data if you have an operator interface like Sensrtrx.

Why this data is so Important

Having a great, solid lineup of machines is of course very important to the success of your business. However, that is not all you need to be efficient. This can be like buying a brand new luxury car and never taking it in for an oil change, or a routine preventative maintenance check. Just because the car is driving fine one day, does not mean everything is good and you won’t have any issues tomorrow. Of course, you are going to do your best to make sure it is in tip-top shape so that it lasts a long time, and is worth the investment.

The same goes for the machines on your plant floor. Using one or multiple of these four sources of data will give you an abundance of information on the health of the machine and how well it is performing, not just the basic stats. You will see everything that is happening on the inside of your machine. Everyone that can see that data will also develop a deeper understanding of the way the machine works, being able to see the statistics on real-time OEE, scrap/quality by reason codes, real-time alerts, and more. You will also get informat0n on preventative maintenance like temperature, vibration, and velocity.

All of this information is crucial to the efficiency of your plant. Real-time alerts will allow you to solve a problem before it even happens. Avoid machines breaking and leading to large amounts of downtime, and also look at the data you are pulling to ensure that your machines are in good shape so that they can last a long time. Putting all of this together will help you save money and meet deadlines on time without running into so many problems, generate more revenue faster, and leave customers happy.