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Following the data science for greater production efficiency

26 October 2020

To get the most out of data that already exists in the production environment requires cooperation between data scientists and production experts.

Strategic data analysis is gaining momentum in the production environment. Frost & Sullivan believes that data analysis in the industrial sector has immense potential – production efficiency could be increased by about 10%, operating costs could be reduced by almost 20% and maintenance costs could be minimised by 50% utilising data that already exists in the production process. 

The issue faced by many factories today, however, is that while the data is easily collected and stored, little happens after that, so insights that are hidden in the available information are lost. There is often also a lack of budget and personnel to devote to the task of analysing data.

Channelling the flood of data and extracting value from the information collected by sensors, controllers and machines is a complex task, which involves more than standard statistical methods and tools. Manual evaluations and the creation of dashboards and reports are not enough, as dashboards will become increasingly complicated as data volume expands. They don’t show relevant information at the right time so that an operator can see at a glance what is going on and take action. While the routines implemented in a normal machine control system for monitoring production processes and detecting errors can identify current deviations and problems. They are not able to predict future problems, link information in a meaningful way and perform advanced analysis.

Close cooperation
The central task of data analysis in Industry 4.0 scenarios is to extract decision-relevant information from collected data and present it to the right user at the right time. This involves planning the process of converting data into useful information in a conscientious and well-founded manner before implementing it. The process requires close cooperation between data experts (data scientists) and specialists in production processes who know the story behind the data. 

Data scientists will be familiar with the ‘3 V’s’ of large data sets – Volume, Variety and Velocity. A modern packaging machine, for example, can easily generate gigabytes of data per day that can be stored over a long period of time. For inspection machines, the systems may generate many terabytes each day. Storing this amount of data is not a problem, but using it is a challenge. Further, the type of data provided by machines today is much broader than it was a few years ago – measured values stored, as well as raw information from sensors and other metadata. It is not only about maintenance results, but also associated images. Additionally, data can be generated by the machine operator. This includes cycle times and even written and spoken feedback. 

Raw data from sensors is typically read every millisecond and must be treated as streaming data. Concurrently, the speed of data analysis is playing an increasingly important role. As such, updating the dashboards once a day or every hour is not enough. An operator needs to be informed about potential problems immediately to avoid downtime. Ideally, the machine should be notified in real time so that it can automatically correct itself within the same product cycle. In addition, data may be corrupted due to a problem in the sensor or other device, it might go missing or it could be recorded in an outdated manner. Because these scenarios can seriously compromise analysis and lead to false conclusions, data scientists must continually check the veracity of the data.

Data science
Industrial data science is a relatively new discipline, which is why there is no broadly valid approach that is suitable for every company. Every solution and application requires customised data analysis and modelling to achieve the best possible result. However, a standard approach is useful. The CRISP-DM model, (Cross-Industry Standard Process for Data Mining) is the most commonly adapted basis. 

A data-driven solution does not always have to include complex machine learning models or artificial intelligence. Sometimes, effective data processing to provide the right information at the right time in the right way can be enough. 

Developing the potential of data in your own production environment is no small task, but it is worth doing. In today’s manufacturing environment, it is no longer enough to simply collect data and build a few graphs. Instead, filtering out production-relevant information from the data and presenting it to the appropriate audience in the right way is vital. The key is to transform data into useful information. This is best achieved in close cooperation between data scientists and experts in the production process. Only then can a solution be developed that is popular, often used and generates long-term value. 

A whitepaper from Omron offers further information on how to benefit from the full value of industry data. Go to https://bit.ly/2SqEA0t

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