Secrets of the production line – the ‘cloak and dagger’ of industrial IoT
The pursuit of cheaper, faster, and more varied production is intensifying. Factories are bustling with innovation experiments, as industrialists are availed of ever-more sophisticated digital tools.
But the manufacturing sector is competitive, and its grab for innovation, to raise its members above their rivals, is highly secretive. Indeed, distrust runs so deep that innovation is not just happening behind closed doors but behind long black curtains, hanging ceiling-to-floor – behind closed doors.
Not even staff can be trusted, it seems.
This is the story German firm Software AG tells, anecdotally, when asked why the car industry is not crowing, yet, about its paint-shop analytics solution, developed with German robot maker Dürr, and rolled out by at least two prominent – unnamed, but not hard to guess – German car makers.
“It’s like a secret recipe,” explains Bernd Gross, the company’s chief technology officer. “They’re configuring these machines and testing how to optimise production, to gain a percentage here and a percentage there. But they have these black curtains – I am not even kidding. No one can look in, except for the team closest to the machine.”
He goes on: “I don’t know what their experience is, but that’s how they work. They’re afraid someone’s watching. I saw it with my own eyes – curtains, suspended from 20-metre high ceilings. It looks bizarre. But they can’t change.”
In fact, Gross is talking about a visit to a plastics factory in the US, and not about his customers in the automotive sector in his home country. “It’s not just paranoid Germans,” he jokes. But the effort the tale evokes, in terms of both the pursuit and secrecy, makes clear how jealously the sector prizes innovation on the production line.
It is where the industrial magic happens, after all.
This article is taken from a new report from Enterprise IoT Insights, called ‘AI on the line — how advanced analytics and artificial intelligence are transforming the production line’. The report is available to download for free, here.