The value of real-time information and knowledge is now being realized across many industries.

Status updates in logistics and transportation have become central to the customer experience, and the manufacturing sector is increasing its investment in technologies that achieve this level of transparency and immediacy.

“A real-time manufacturing enterprise seamlessly integrates business and management processes with manufacturing processes,” says Andrew Thomas, CEO of Industrial Internet of Things specialist Skkynet. “The goal is a real-time, synchronized, and optimized digital architecture through closed-loop connectivity between IT departments and operational technology (OT) groups.”

In these scenarios, data is passed from equipment operations to business systems such as digital twin models, analytics tools, and artificial intelligence engines. These systems send control commands back to OT systems in a closed loop, all in real time.

Despite the demand for these processes, the technology has not been available for a long time and its implementation among manufacturers has been limited. “Companies these days typically rely on historical data,” says Thomas. “They may use enterprise resource planning systems that are not directly synchronized with operations, so the data may be from hours to months. Many also use a manufacturing execution system, which is faster, but adds a layer of cost, complexity and fragility. Typical systems only collect data, which then needs to be analyzed separately. Any feedback loop is usually a manual process.”

Relying on historical data creates problems, so the drive to use live data could transform the industry. “The integration of production data into the company meets the needs of the times”, says Thomas. “For example, it is improving existing factory automation systems to reduce costs as we move from labor-rich to labor-scarce economies. It can power smarter and more versatile production lines that are needed to meet consumer demand for personalized products and sustainable use of resources. And it can enable more dynamic and flexible supply chains.

But Thomas also acknowledges that there are challenges, such as network security, performance, and closed-loop control.

This is where Skkynet proves its worth. The company provides secure, real-time, two-way industrial data communications. “Our latest release, DataHub 10, introduces features not available anywhere else,” says Thomas. “It runs on-premises and as a subscription service on Microsoft Azure. This provides end-to-end real-time connectivity and connects OT to IT securely. And it supports networking of real-time and historical data, giving management a complete view of their production systems.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Technology Record. To receive future issues straight to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.


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