Modern Manufacturing with IoT
USG, based in Chicago, began modernizing its 47 manufacturing plants in North America in 2015. Its IT and engineering teams have upgraded about 10 plants a year with IoT and will complete the project in 2020.
At some plants today, driverless forklifts transport goods throughout the manufacturing process. At others, robotic arms place the finished products on pallets and wrap them, Johnson says.
Networked sensors embedded in manufacturing equipment alert staff if machinery needs maintenance and provide real-time data to help staff measure productivity and improve performance, says Marty Keane, USG’s director of process controls.
“In the past, a lot of data was written down on clipboards on the plant floor, so the ability to pull up a screen or get an email on current production information is an advancement,” he says.
A fast, state-of-the-art network with Wi-Fi throughout serves as the foundation for USG’s advanced manufacturing push. USG’s IT and engineering teams needed to upgrade and merge two historically separate networks at each plant: one network that runs the manufacturing process and another network for email, file servers and other administrative tasks.
“We realized a separate network model was not going to work,” says Chuck Arvia, USG’s senior manager of IT. “With IoT, we would create more useful data, but we couldn’t harvest that data with a separate network model.”
Both previous networks needed significant upgrades. The manufacturing network was limited in scope and only supported the finished goods section of plants, so even though manufacturing equipment had sensors, the company couldn’t tap into the data.
The USG team has standardized on Cisco networking equipment: Catalyst 4500 Series core switches, Catalyst 9300 Series edge switches and Aironet 3800 Series wireless access points. The company also uses APC UPSs for power backup and surge protection, and Pelco IP-based cameras for outdoor security and to oversee the production line.
Each year since 2015, Keane, Arvia and Senior Project Manager Amanda Gentile have juggled 10 modernizations. They constructed networks with redundancy and security built in, with plenty of bandwidth and scalability, Arvia says.
CDW supplied the equipment at each plant, and its engineers performed wireless and LAN surveys, installed fiber-optic cabling and configured and helped install switches. It keeps USG informed on emerging technology so the company can keep pace with technological advances, says Thomas Medina, a CDW network solution architect.
USG is now reaping IoT’s benefits. The company ingests the sensor data into industrial computers and into databases for analysis.
“Our process improvement people can query the data and find efficiencies in the plants, or if they know we are having a problem, they can use historical data to track it down and get to the bottom of it,” Keane says.