Navigating the Data Maze: The Role of Data Integration & Data Visualization in Smart Manufacturing

Jul 18, 2023 8:00:00 AM / by ThinkIQ

Would an airport allow flights without a tower full of screens showing exactly where every aircraft is located? Never. But complex businesses today are frequently flying without integrated data, nor any real visualization of their critical processes.

Data has become critical to any manufacturing operation, but only properly utilized data. The sheer volume and complexity of this data can be overwhelming. This is where data integration and data visualization come into play, transforming raw data into actionable insights. In this article, we delve into the role of data integration and data visualization in smart manufacturing.



A Firehose Of Information: The Data Challenge In Manufacturing

Manufacturing can create tons of raw data, from the supply chain to the production floor. The challenge is, you may have incoming data streams from IoT, IIoT, HMIs, PLCs, ERPs, CRM, MES, video streams, digitized manual data, partner data, and even external data (for example, web-based temperature and humidity reports).

Not only is this data often physically located in different places, but it’s often in different “languages” — meaning, one format of data is rarely compatible with another form of data. In fact, some data seems downright incompatible — such as a machine’s IoT digital stream and a video stream of that same physical area.

This presents the initial challenge: integration. The data must be gathered into one location. Then the data must be “translated” into a consistent, common language that’s intelligible to not only processing computers, but also to it’s human users.

And even if that process were complete, we would still face a constant, never-ending, complex stream of data from every device in our manufacturing facility. (But hey, at least it would be in one place and human-readable).

This has been liked to a firehose of data — a stream of terms and numbers that doesn’t actually help us manage anything. Even with analytics tools, it can be difficult to make sense of this data and extract meaningful insights from it — especially in realtime. So, in Smart Manufacturing, data first must be integrated, then it needs to be visualized.


The Power Of Data Visualization And Integration In Smart Manufacturing

Data integration — at least in the context of a Smart Manufacturing — involves combining data from various sources into a unified view.

To integrate data, manufacturers usually first assure that all data is being collected digitally, then gathering all of this data into one application. From there, most integrators apply a “semantic overlay,” which is Smart Manufacturing speak for turning the bits & bytes into consistent, meaningful, and human-readable terms.

For example, a complex stream of 1s and 0s sent by one machine might be defined as “machine temperature warning, 120 degree operating temp.” No other machine in the factory might understand that stream. Likewise, a different stream of 1s and 0s from a totally different sensor, perhaps a factory temperature monitor, might mean “factory air temperature of 86 degrees.” If the data were ported to one screen, and converted using a semantic overlay to useable terminology, then a human operator could possibly correlate unusually high factory temperatures with machines that are about to overheat. Comparative terms (i.e., temperature) and useful semantics (“warning” or “factory temperature”) start to give useful context to this data.

But without useful visualizations, it’s not always clear when and where to take action, or even if this is normal or not. Maybe the machine has been operating at 120 degrees for weeks, or maybe the factory temperature is headed rapidly down after an AC repair. Both situations could be clear in a visualization.

Data visualization is the process of representing complex data in a graphical format, making it easier for humans to understand and interpret. It allows manufacturers to see patterns, trends, and correlations that might go unnoticed in text-based data.

Next week we will continue you this discussion with real-world applications of data integration and visualization. In the interim contact us today to discuss how you can get to Industry 4.0 Smart Manufacturing or download our eBook on becoming a Smart Factory


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Tags: SMART Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, Contextualizing Manufacturing Data


Written by ThinkIQ

Think IQ

The Industry 4.0 Data Revolution

Proven to improve manufacturing yield, safety, quality, and compliance by making sense of your data.

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