Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Case for Traceability Throughout the Supply Chain

By Alex Herbert, MESA Member and Manager, Strategic Accounts for Kepware

MESA’s 2017 Smart Story Awards is now taking submissions. 

In an interview with the winners of the 2016 Smart Story Awards, the second place winning story from Kepware and Faurecia inspired some follow-up questions about the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). More specifically, attendees asked about Operations Technology (OT) and IT integration, IIoT benefits, and how to manage scalability and security issues as the requests for traceability drip down the supply chain. Alex Herbert addresses their questions below.

How can we overcome gaps between OT and IT?
There are two types of gaps between OT and IT. The first—and often easiest to overcome—are the technological gaps, which can include security and interoperability between legacy equipment. The second—and often much harder to overcome—are the cultural challenges of adapting two different department cultures to a new business model and communication style.

To resolve these gaps, organizations need the cooperation of both OT and IT employees. As connectivity tools help streamline interdepartmental data communication, departments need to work more closely and interact within a similar culture in order for the business to succeed.

What are some best practices for addressing scalability issues and concerns?
For full scalability (and efficiency), organizations should utilize solutions and protocols that are capable of bridging current and legacy automation devices and software applications from a range of vendors.

For Faurecia in particular, the data for providing in-depth traceability and transparency across the business had been available for some time, but interoperability issues prohibited scalability. By using an IoT Gateway, Faurecia was able to develop and deploy a next-generation MES solution (IJ Core NG)—resulting in significant time and revenue savings. Utilizing the familiar REST/HTTP protocol for the web services based IJ Core NG eased deployment and any lingering scalability concerns, with Faurecia planning to standardize on KEPServerEX in its North American, Asian, and European factories.

Can you talk more about what types of machines are connected at Faurecia?
KEPServerEX connects to various types of PLCs (including Allen-Bradley, Modbus, and Siemens) at Faurecia, as well as Torque Tool equipment. These PLCs control machines (such as robot arms, welders, RFID scanners, automated guided vehicles, and more) on the production lines of Faurecia’s core manufacturing businesses.

How did Faurecia ensure that OEMs don't overreact to small glitches that they can fix prior to any products being completed or shipped?
Faurecia’s new implementation improved overall deliverables to their customers, mitigating any glitches. It gave their customers insight into productions, but also enabled Faurecia to manufacture products more efficiently and quickly identify and resolve any issues with quality.

What is the business value of smarter decision-making processes?
Let’s look at Faurecia as an example. Faurecia’s customers and internal stakeholders were asking for in-depth parts traceability throughout the manufacturing process. To address this, Faurecia developed the next generation of its MES, building it on web services using RESTful APIs. The IoT Gateway for KEPServerEX communicates over REST/HTTP—providing real-time, on-demand traceability required to satisfy customer and regulatory requests.

Real-time data means that decisions can be made based on the best information possible. It has enabled Faurecia to quickly adapt to any new challenges and better serve their customers.

Decision-makers can monitor real-time production issues on a tablet display and make plant floor decisions based on instantaneous and up-to-date information. This reduces unplanned downtime and improves production quality.

The benefits reach beyond the plant floor, as well. Rapid deployment and scalable training via smart technology saves Faurecia money. And increased visibility and incorporation of digital tools means less paper is used, for a smaller environmental footprint.

Are there security issues with IoT connectivity?
Integrating internal systems with external platforms (cloud solutions) can allow new attack vectors to be targeted. It's important to ensure that a comprehensive security plan is developed and executed with multiple teams within your organization. Integrated cooperation ensures all potential issues are vetted and handled appropriately.

The opportunities for growth across the IoT cannot be overstated. According to “The IoT Global Forecast and Analysis 2015-2025 Report” from Machina Research, the IIoT is expected to grow to 27 billion connected things—and generate $3 trillion in revenue—by 2025. There are always security concerns to overcome with any new technology, but today’s trusted IoT software vendors are experts in proactively mitigating threats. The benefits of the IoT—both for connecting the manufacturing plant floor today and future-proofing for tomorrow—far outweighs security concerns.

To read the full case study, visit and click on “IoT Gateway Provides Faurecia with Data to Improve Traceability By Kepware and Faurecia.”

About the Author

Alex Herbert
Strategic Accounts Manager

Alex brings six years of strategic sales experience to his position on Kepware’s sales team. He is currently focused on supporting customers implementing solutions for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), applying a consultative approach to fully understand their global initiatives and requirements. Alex is passionate about technology and learning how large organizations perceive the IIoT and the implications it will have on their businesses. He enjoys sharing ideas and working with customers across a variety of industry verticals to find innovative solutions for their challenges.

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