Smart Industry, or Industry 4.0, is here to transform traditional manufacturing by automating traditional processes within industrial practices. Business leaders within the fourth industrial revolution are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits that the smart industry can unlock by transforming manual activities into fully automated processes. Within the Netherlands, multiple solution providers have extensive domain knowledge of the interface between factories, OT, and IT. What sets CoNet apart is its devotion to innovation, which complements ICL's mission - to innovate ICL as a leader in fertilizer technology. Continue reading to understand how CoNet and ICL work together towards a Smart Industry.
ICL and CoNet
ICL is a global manufacturer of products based on unique minerals, primarily in three markets: agriculture, food, and engineered materials. ICL is a world leader in fertilizers, bromine, and flame retardants.
CoNet is a software engineering company that provides automatization processes to different industries. CoNet’s Process IT team is a blend of IT and Process Automation professionals who have a wide knowledge of process automation, machine communication, and system integration between the various levels of the industrial automation software stack. Together with OT and IT domain knowledge, they can deliver quick, safe, and immediate solutions.
The partnership between ICL and CoNet started a few years ago with the help of ICL Project Manager Steven Rademakers and his aspiration to make a positive impact on society. Steven Rademakers’ desire for innovation and a sense of responsibility towards climate change was the catalyst behind the first steps for ICL and CoNet’s project towards Smarter Industry.
After several consultations and brainstorming sessions, it was determined that the current ICL’s moisture meter analyzing process was not efficient as it was done manually and these results were lagging. Due to this, a more cost-effective and automated analyzing system needed to be implemented which would use historic data to predict the levels of moisture within the product. The project started off with a roadmap towards a Smarter Factory. The goal was to implement an innovative solution to automate workflow, optimize processes, and drive data easily.
To improve the moisture metering process, CoNet created a data-driven solution by using its Smart REACT tool which was implemented to gather more structured and insightful data. REACT is a management logging tool that logs the factory’s data into usable information as well as gathers process information to improve the insights regarding downtime. Information gathered from Smart REACT allows ICL to easily see the quality measures, to recognize recurring issues, and to have a better overview of the factory operations. Additionally, it improves workflow and results as the data provide enough insights to improve the business strategy. With domain knowledge and the data gathered from Smart REACT, the IT Team made changes to different aspects of the factory and developed a smart and dynamic solution that helped to optimize the ICL factory’s day to day activities which resulted in energy consumption reduction. Energy reduction is a challenge that many factories are dealing with and is a crucial factor for delivering better results while closely following EU policies.
Additionally, CoNet implemented a laboratory information management system (LIMS) to gather information and to improve workflow. LIMS is a software-based solution that assists a modern laboratory’s operations. LIMS allows multiple departments to work concurrently and helps to improve the synergy between all the parties. The platform not only improves the effectiveness but also creates a complete overview of all the activities. LIMS is built in a way that adjustments and expansion of the system can be done easily.
Flexible Database and Migration
A challenge that came to light during the process was to ensure that a stable and efficient database was set in place for additional datasets in the future. The implemented program provides flexible solutions, supports the load of information, and delivers in-depth analysis. Additionally, it was of a high priority to program a separation that would allow the front end to be independent of the data layer. By designing a flexible database, CoNet increased the sustainability and durability of the application.
Another challenge during the process was data migration from the old database to the new, flexible one. The migration had to take place throughout a time period of one hour during the downtime. The migration was first analyzed and tested by the CoNet team. After the data model was discussed and the consequences were researched, a risk analysis was created which provided a complete overview of implications. Finally, the migration was implemented successfully within the needed time frame.
Machine Learning Module
The main goal and achievement of the project was to help ICL transform towards a smarter factory. During this project, CoNet provided ICL with its first machine learning solutions which deliver faster and more qualitative process automation results. The machine learning module allowed ICL to have direct results with less manual work and higher accuracy. Process automation solutions can not only decrease energy usage but also reduce the factory’s costs and time. Smart REACT’s implementation allows ICL to have better oversight of the process, accurate live data, and achieve KPI’s faster. Finally, LIMS implementation has made improvements in ICL’s workflow and teamwork. This project shows how a collaboration of two-sector leaders can create a positive impact and grow towards Smarter Industry in innovative ways.
CoNet and ICL’s collaboration towards a smart factory is not ending here. Nowadays, the expectations and the need for flexibility is required to grow. Not only because of competitors but also due to EU policies that require the industry to reduce energy and carbon footprints. With the fast-changing data and industry developments, the main goal was to create the most sustainable and adjustable way to run the business. CoNet has built a solution that is scalable and flexible to grow with the company. The project will always be evolving. Work to incorporate the system deeper into the business to gain more in-depth insights is the next step within CoNet and ICL’s collaboration.
Smart Industry Is Here
Smart Industry is here to stay and businesses must develop and grow towards more automated processes. The success of this project shows how fast new, innovative technologies can be implemented and improve business processes. Smart Industry 4.0 not only brings benefits to the companies but also for society as a whole since it can help with energy and other resource reduction throughout the process. CoNet and ICL’s project shows how two passionate and innovative companies can deliver greater good to the stakeholders and society.