‘Smart Data’: The Rise of the ‘Dashboards’

For North American plastics processors, NPE2018 offered the broadest exposure yet to the bundle of trends and technologies known as Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT).

The timing was right: The week before the show saw the release of the first standard for digital interfaces based on the OPC UA (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) machine-to-machine communication protocol that is the basic platform for emerging Industry 4.0 technologies.

Euromap 77, a standard for data exchange between injection molding machines and MES (manufacturing execution systems) computers was released on May 4 by Euromap, the European Association for plastics and rubber machinery manufacturers.

It allows machines from different manufacturers to be easily connected in one network for monitoring and production data acquisition, management of production jobs, and transfer of whole datasets for machine settings.

One sign of how this new standard is already being realized was the appearance of production-data “dashboards” all over the show. Under the banner of “Smart Data, not Big Data,” suppliers of injection and blow molding machines, machine monitoring/control systems, MES systems, and even robots and other auxiliaries showed their latest efforts to avoid overwhelming users with masses of data by displaying quick snapshots of crucial data—job production totals, time to job completion, good/bad part counts, cycle time, OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) statistics, and color-coded machine status.

Such data are uploaded to the “cloud” so as to be available to computers and mobile devices anywhere, 24/7 (see photos for some examples).