A modularised look at the future
It was nearly 80 years ago that Konrad Zuse developed the first universally programmable computer, and it’s almost 50 years ago now that the first personal computer appeared on the market. As the performative capabilities of the devices have increased, their fields of application have also changed and expanded. Without the complex information processing provided by these electronic brains, our present-day lives would no longer be conceivable, since starting with cars, smartphones and tablets all the way through to robot vacuum-cleaners and even washing machines: all of them are controlled with integrated circuits and processors. These developments were the most important foundation for kick-starting a fourth industrial revolution, namely digitalisation. Today, increasingly informative production data are being acquired and evaluated. Companies are learning to get to know their production processes to an extent that at the time of the first computers was difficult to imagine.
In beverage production operations, too, huge progress is being made, and Krones has long since been working on cross-manufacturer, cross-machine solutions. At Syskron, we are a start-up within the group that is in operational terms largely detached from the conventional processes, and embraces new conceptual approaches, creates solutions, but wherever necessary can tap into the corporate experience of Krones itself.
Getting existing machines fit for digitalisation
When it comes to digitalisation in the beverage industry, our development people were clear in their minds right from the start: digitalisation must not exclude existing machines. For this reason, the Edge component ReadyKit was developed as one of the first products.
ReadyKit as a managed computer enables the IT of the filling lines to be linked throughout for acquiring the production data. It’s particularly important in this context to ensure that both new and existing machines, plus equipment from third-party manufacturers, and even machines lacking a communication interface can be linked up. This information is collected and saved in the Cloud, and can then be displayed, evaluated and utilised by the individual applications in our IIoT platform Share2Act.
Share2Act: demand-responsive, flexible and future-friendly
By developing Share2Act, we at the Krones subsidiary have created a multi-client-capability platform in which not only every machine, even from different manufacturers, can in future be linked and imaged in the production operation, but which at the same time provides many functionalities that were offered in classical MES suites. Whereas in the past a vendor’s competence was determined by his ability to offer interfaces between individual systems such as line planning, production and quality management, and thus to offer harmonised solutions, it has now become possible, with technologies like Edge Devices, the Cloud and IIoT platforms, to provide a single product that in its core covers all supra-ordinate functions like access and user management while at the same time imaging extensive functionalities in the shape of individual modules, referred to as services. The great advantage here lies in a significantly faster development process, which means users of such platforms can regularly, and at comparatively short intervals, receive new standardised functions and solutions.
During the programming work, it was important for Syskron to ensure that the software solution can not only be customised to suit the different services, but can even be tailored to individual employees. For example, each employee receives his/her own account, in which only the information and functionalities are displayed that he/she needs for his/her daily work. Since Share2Act is Cloud-based, users can access the information flexibly and from any location through computers and mobile terminals.
The flexibility, however, shows up not only with the users and access to the data, but also with the user interface and the costs. Because thanks to an SaaS (Software as a Service) model, the customer does not purchase a costly and often unnecessary complete package, but can at any time and at need book individual elements in addition.
Not least, an IIoT platform is essential for creating the basis for applications from the fields of machine learning or artificial intelligence. Only with the collection, classification and storage of extensive data from the production operation will it be possible in the future for systems to intelligently output specific statements and recommendations for action, and thus respond to the altering framework conditions in the beverage industry as well.