IIoT: Digital Catapult launches connected factory trial

Digital Catapult has joined forces with two UK manufacturers, Dyer Engineering and Special Metals Wiggin, to demonstrate the potential of industrial internet of things (IIoT) technology.

The project will utilise innovations from connected factory start-ups to “unlock productivity, streamline processes, improve yield and increase quality control.”

The Connected Factory Demonstrator brings together Digital Catapult with the two innovative manufacturing businesses and the UK start-up community to explore how future networks technologies, including LPWAN (low-powered, wide area networks), can drive improvements throughout the product lifecycle.

Digital Catapult has issued an open call to find start-ups working with IoT technologies, inviting them to apply online to help solve some of the challenges related to process measurement, optimisation and control, and indoor asset tracking.

The chosen factories

Special Metals Wiggin produces a range of nickel alloys used in aerospace, energy, marine, automotive and nuclear industries. They require assets to be tracked across the entire manufacturing facility (approximately 47 acres/190,000 square meters) in both indoor and outdoor environments. Initial studies by Digital Catapult have found that GPS signals are available on site, both indoors and outdoors.

“We anticipate that by introducing state-of-the-art wireless technology we will make significant advancements in process control and asset tracking,” said Dr Jonathan Silk, Quality and Technical Director, Special Metals Wiggin. “This will enhance our position in a highly competitive worldwide market for the supply of nickel alloys.”

The scheme’s other partner, Dyer Engineering Group, is an innovative fabrication and machining business manufacturing metal components and structures. Its assets need to be tracked around multiple warehouses over two sites, with a total combined footprint of 8,361 square meters. Only indoor tracking is required. However, GPS signal is not available inside the warehouses.

“Adopting industrial digital technology is of paramount importance to safeguard UK manufacturing for generations to come,” said Richard Larder, Operations Manager, Dyer Engineering.

We have benefited from the technological pioneers before us and now feel it is our time to pick up the mantle and take on the challenges and risks of significant change.

The selection process will take place throughout February, with deployment to follow in March.

Commenting on the announcement, Jeremy Silver, CEO, Digital Catapult, said:

“The impact of advanced digital technologies cannot be underestimated, and we’re looking forward to working with Dyer Engineering and Special Metals Wiggin to demonstrate the full potential of future networks technologies in a working manufacturing environment.

This project will show how, by utilising technology to help innovation flourish, businesses can expect to see numerous practical benefits, from improved processes to better quality control.

Internet of Business says

In September 2018 Digital Catapult was awarded funding from Innovate UK to establish the Connected Factory Demonstrators.

The initiative aims to jumpstart IoT in the UK manufacturing industry, which has seen slower adoption than many originally expected. Digital Catapult, along with its partners, will hope to demonstrate that the connectivity technology promised to boost productivity and efficiency, and reduce downtime is available today, for manufacturers of all sizes.

Start-ups in the IoT space will be eager to prove their metal and deploy their asset tracking solutions in a live manufacturing environment. Respondents to this brief are invited to provide a cost-effective proposal to remotely monitor the location of assets, including metal components and containers, across the facilities.

The successful applicants will have a chance to distinguish themselves from the myriad solutions providers and wireless protocols out there, and promote their capabilities to UK manufacturers.

The real-world demonstration is set to play an important part in making a business case for greater digital transformation in the sector and will provide a case study for manufacturers looking to undertake similar projects.

You can hear more on digital transformation and connected factory technology at Internet of Manufacturing 5-7 February 2019, Munich, Germany.

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