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2021 Metals Analysis Outlook: Optimising Production Through Connectivity

2021 Metals Analysis Outlook: Optimising Production Through Connectivity

2021 Metals Analysis Outlook: Optimising Production Through Connectivity

Despite being a year of huge disruption, the year 2020 has accelerated change for many companies. Find out more in this article by Hitachi High-Tech Analytical Science.

There’s always an opportunity with a crisis. Whilst 2020 was a year of huge disruption, with industries having to cope with sudden changes in demand, issues with supply and restrictions on the ability to operate, it did accelerate change for many companies. Especially when it comes to big Industry 4.0 trends including connectivity, big data, smart factories, and sustainability.

Thanks to new technologies being deployed throughout companies, IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is enabling the collection of more and more information every day, including from manufacturing equipment.

Today, many analysers collect data on the instrument themselves. Our Hitachi handheld analysers, for example, are able to store measurements remotely. More models also have connectivity enabled, which is the real game-changer for enabling remote, real-time decision making. This, we predict, will be a key theme for 2021.

What Do We Mean By Connectivity?

The vision is that analytical instruments will have either Wi-Fi, Ethernet, USB, or in the future, 4G/5G functionality, depending on the industrial environment. The next step would be for analysers to have the ability to share and integrate operational technology (OT) data. But today, most of the connectivity is around data sharing and automation.

Connectivity in the future could also mean that analysers could integrate to process control systems and communicate with other machines and resources. Ultimately, the end goal is to speed up processes, optimise performance, reduce waste, and ensure product quality.

Leveraging Technologies to Make Manufacturing Greener

Industry 4.0 has uncovered an opportunity for positive action when it comes to sustainability, by leveraging technologies to make processes more efficient and greener.

Foundries, for example, have for years championed the green movement by being the ultimate recyclers of raw materials. However, many are also looking at what green technology can do to help reduce material waste. Each process step should have the right solution in place: incoming inspection, melt shop floor, central lab and outgoing inspection. Connected analytical instruments can feed data to a central point, where quality issues can be easily spotted and subsequently rectified to reduce wastage and save cost.

The same concept can be applied further down the supply chain within fabrication, but equally at OEM level. Ensuring each process step has a focused solution that enables data collection can help reduce wastage and deliver greener manufacturing.

Big Data is Power

One reason information rules in the metals industry is through its ability to make manufacturing quality assurance and control processes simpler and faster. However, whilst the quantity of data available is colossal, the question is how manufacturers turn this into something of value – recognising patterns and predicting behaviour to make informed decisions.

Even if thousands of measurements are taken each day, data from the analyser can help manufacturers optimise production in a number of ways, including:

  • Increased product quality by identifying defects at the earliest stage in the process.
  • Machine failure predictions and diagnostics leading to well-timed preventative work, reduced downtime and less risk of sudden failures that are so damaging to business.
  • Reduced costs through the use of big data for predictive analytics, shortening the quality assurance process.

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