Interview with Multitrade
For many enterprises, factory automation is still performed without the use of intelligent systems. Instead, most processes are conducted manually, requiring extensive human intervention. To address this situation and enable the realization of Industry 4.0, various control systems must be employed to optimize equipment automation that enable accurate, precise, and rapid factory operations.
Lights-out manufacturing refers to factories that operate autonomously and require no human presence. These robot-run facilities often do not need lighting, and may consist of several machines functioning in the dark. In Malaysia, the sugar production sector has seen the realization of lights-out manufacturing. However, although this process has not been widely adopted in other sectors, remarkable progress has been made with the assistance of Multitrade. Based in Malaysia, Multitrade is an industrial automation solutions provider and systems integrator. The company integrates a wide range of products, including Advantech’s IIoT solutions, to provide fully integrated turnkey solutions for Industry 4.0. Multitrade collaborated with Advantech to leverage its factory automation offerings and develop an integrated software/hardware solution aimed at Malaysian sugar manufacturers. Together, Multitrade and Advantech designed a two-pronged solution to satisfy demands for machine monitoring and power management.
Machine Monitoring System
Even with standard operating procedures, tasks such as equipment monitoring, startup/shutdown, and setup are generally conducted manually. This process involves inspecting every machine, checking all parameters, and setting or updating configurations. As a result, such operations rely heavily on the presence of skilled operators. For large-scale factories or companies with multiple sites, the efficiency of these manual tasks is even more affected by the skillsets of the labor force. However, by automating procedures for irregular industrial environments, Multitrade was able to streamline operations and optimize factory management. Multitrade provided an easy-to-use solution for connecting various types of programmable logic controllers (PLCs) via the WebAccess/SCADA platform—Advantech’s browser-based SCADA software package aimed at supervisory control, data acquisition, and data visualization applications.
The solution comprised Advantech’s UNO-2483G fanless embedded automation computer equipped with WebAccess/SCADA for communicating with various branded PLCs (Siemens, Allen-Bradley, and Mitsubishi) to facilitate the collection of real-time machine data for visualization and alarm notifications. Using integrated hardware and software, this simple solution enhances the management of machine status and operating parameters, such as system availability, operating duration, equipment downtime, and causes of downtime.
After accurate, real-time information is collected and transmitted to the back-end server, data analysis allows managers to identify workflow bottlenecks and optimize subsystems for maximum efficiency. This not only drastically reduces equipment downtime, but also enables predictive maintenance for extending the equipment service life. By enabling the centralized monitoring of real-time machine data, Multitrade’s integrated software/ hardware package provides an innovative solution for transitioning to intelligent automation, while enhancing overall productivity.
Energy Management System
To also satisfy customer demands for energy efficiency, Multitrade once again turned to Advantech for a cost-effective energy management solution. Accordingly, Advantech provided power meters that support the Modbus RTU and TCP protocols, an ADAM4520 converter, and an EKI-2528 unmanaged Ethernet switch to enable network communication for power monitoring and energy management operations.
With this solution, Multitrade brought a critical tool for daily operation to the factory floor. The energy management system not only integrates diverse equipment data, but also provides actionable insights for proactively managing and optimizing production, maintenance, energy usage, and planning. The system provides the key components for effective factory management by identifying potential equipment and system issues in advance and facilitating the diagnosis and prevention of machine failures.
With the growing deployment and cost of complex, high-density electrical equipment, manufacturers are facing increasing pressure to secure reliable sources of energy efficient power. To maintain optimal plant performance around the clock, Multitrade needed to deliver the power quality and reliability required to meet current and future equipment demands. The energy management platform developed by Multitrade harnesses Advantech’s data acquisition tools for collecting real-time equipment data in order to provide an overview of all power and energy systems.
Domain-Focused Industry 4.0 Solutions Provider
The benefits of remote management and data collection are clearly apparent. With Multitrade’s monitoring solution, power management can be integrated with machine management to enable managers to identify and preempt any production issues. Furthermore, all collected data can be used as an operational benchmark for machine learning in order to establish a management platform that is capable of automatically identifying faults or potentially critical conditions before they occur.
Leveraging 20 years of experience in the fields of factory automation, process automation, and software development, Multitrade has joined Advantech’s WISEPaaS VIP Alliance in the hopes of fostering further opportunities to collaborate and develop fully integrated industrial turnkey solutions aimed at Industry 4.0. Although the typically large-scale scope and diversity of data collected can make factory automation highly challenging, Multitrade has proven that it has the knowledge and expertise to develop a solution for even the most complex tasks.
Moving forward, in keeping with their mission to better understand and serve customers, Multitrade plans to transform itself into a fully domain-focused Industry 4.0 solutions provider. Inspired by Advantech’s cocreation business strategies, Multitrade will continue to collaborate with Advantech on the development of application-oriented IoT solutions. By enabling real-time operations management, Multitrade’s solutions have propelled companies, such as those in Malaysia’s sugar manufacturing sector, to new levels of efficiency and brought them closer to realizing the Industry 4.0 vision.