In a factory environment, collecting data to gain useful insights from various sources is challenging because it requires connecting to many different types of automation systems, plcs and devices that often speak different languages. This is the problem that German industrial software company, inray (specialized in data communication between software systems and components in Industry 4.0, IoT and IIoT) set out to solve for its customers.
For industrial customers, continuous optimization of production processes is crucial for production efficiency, product quality and ultimately for business success. Optimization requires collecting data to support operational decision-making and business goals. This is especially true in an IIoT context where automated systems and production processes generate massive volumes of data.
The data generated in these new dynamic environments can be used to cut cost and improve business and process efficiency through applications such as machine learning, predictive maintenance, IoT monitoring, decision automation, cost reduction, quality improvement, and improved customer service.
Solving the data exchange problem in a factory setting
inray’s customers — well-known production companies in process manufacturing — needed an easy way to solve their optimization needs, in a self-service manner.
Optimizing industrial and commercial processes requires gathering data from multiple data sources to analyze, understand and optimize production processes and business operations. To connect the various data sources through a central platform and enable seamless bidirectional communication, inray created the OPC Router software tool.
The OPC Router provides an easy way to connect InfluxDB with almost any industrial and commercial system. It collects time series data — using the OPCUA protocol, a machine-to-machine protocol for industrial automation — from PLCs, sensors, and controllers and stores this data into InfluxDB. The OPC Router is able to interface with commercial systems like ERPs, MES, and cloud systems to help automatically link data together in a meaningful way for inray’s customers. The data collected can be used for data transfer, analysis, reports, and for executing powerful workflows to increase efficiency and quality while lowering production costs.
The OPC Router lets different automation systems communicate, simply by connecting via a drag-and-drop interface using the implemented plugins.
Modernizing production using the OPC Router
As a central communication platform, the OPC Router offers automated data exchange by integrating all systems and isolated solutions. By using this modern OPC Router, industrial customers can supersede old communication pathways to complete integrations of PLC (programmable logic controller), PCS (process control system), SCADA, SQL-server, label printers, email-server and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems in a self-service manner— and thereby modernize production. Recording process values, production figures, downtimes and consumption provides the basis for optimizing production.
How OPC Router works
The OPC Router connects OT and IT systems through powerful communication plugins, from Shop Floor to Top Floor. Customers can license only the plugins they need, thereby laying the foundation for an expandable communication platform with a calculable investment.
Connecting the OPC Router to InfluxDB
As middleware, the OPC Router connects databases and different sources. Databases are an important source and target for data at various production levels. Production processes must be provided with ordering information, recipes or machine data. Large amounts of data are generated and must be stored.
Since IoT, monitoring, and alerting data are all time series data, inray needed to connect the OPC Router to a scalable, high-performing database designed for time series data. So they developed a plugin for InfluxDB, the purpose-built open source time series database, to ingest data from the OPC Router.
Integrating InfluxDB for industrial data processing and exchange
“There’s the need to connect different kinds of systems today. This is where InfluxDB as a component fits in very well,” says Thorsten Weiler, Head of Sales and Marketing at inray. inray chose to integrate InfluxDB into OPC Router because it met their data processing and exchange needs:
- Open source time series database designed to handle high write and query loads
- Can be used as cloud service
- Easily integrates with many tools for data analysis and visualization
Value of using OPC Router with InfluxDB
Combining the OPC Router and InfluxDB allows you to:
- Send data from all your different data sources into InfluxDB.
- Feed a lot of data with the same timestamp into InfluxDB, and have one standardized solution
- Set up and use with extreme ease
- Drive cost savings since pricing for the connection between an OPC data source and InfluxDB is very affordable
The OPC Router user can define the InfluxDB measurements, tags (the meta data that to group your data by), and fields individually. (Here’s where you can learn how to configure InfluxDB through the OPC Router UI.) After you define the measurements, tags, and fields, you can create your connections.
Data can also be fed out of your production process from an OPC data source into an ERP like SAP. In parallel, data (the same, different, or additional data points) can be fed into InfluxDB.
Powerful monitoring for industrial systems and software
The OPC Router makes it possible to monitor your data transfers, providing live diagnosis:
- Live view (visualization) of transmitted data through the friendly UI
- Data transfers controlled live and historically
- Diagnostic messages from transfer objects displayed directly on the object
When issues do arise, OPC Router sends automated emails to inform users.
The fully functional free demo at opc-router.com allows you to try OPC Router and use the plugins for InfluxDB, SAP, OPC and others.
Enabling production process optimization
The OPC Router is enabling production process optimization and digitalization for inray’s customers. Data is automatically exchanged by integrating systems such as OPC UA, SAP, SQL, MQTT, REST, SOAP, Excel, labellers and others. OPC Router connects systems vertically and horizontally, from sensors and controls to ERP and the cloud, from printers and scales to MES, SCADA or LIMS. The acquisition of process data provides a continuous overview of production. Projects for automation and data exchange can be realized, step-by-step and without programming, to modernize production processes.
inray customers are already using OPC Router and InfluxDB to:
- Discover dependencies
- Build pricing and other reports and perform predictive modeling
- Achieve cost savings
- Optimize production scheduling
- Provide the ‘burden of proof’
Using time series data insights, inray customers are achieving continuous improvement. Having become data-driven organizations, they are now able to question the folklore that often exists in industrial settings, and use relevant metrics to support operational decision-making.
Learn more about this industrial time series data use case.
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