A wireless-based and low-infrastructure Internet of Things (IoT) solution gives industrial customers an overview of their assets in production and logistical areas. Knowing which assets are in which condition in which process step creates transparency and produces the potential for optimisation.

More and more companies are dealing with the topic of digitalisation and the question of which advantages can be generated by innovative Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications. Above all, companies with their own production and (intra) logistics are faced with the challenge of identifying the right processes for digitalisation and evaluating the added value in monetary terms.

The challenges

In a mainly large area spread over several halls and sections, various “assets” can be found in one cycle. Assets here can simply be containers with material, load carriers with components or entire assemblies which follow defined processes in the internal logistical and production procedures. Most of the process steps in this intralogistical procedure require manual intervention – be it by scanning barcodes, attaching dockets or manually logging into input systems.

There is no automatic detection of assets provided at specific, critical locations or in defined areas, and not even automatic assignment to individual production steps. There is no transparency about both the number and the location of the assets, so a reliable complete overview is not possible. The consequences of this are occasionally uncontrolled replenishment, missing material and even inefficient processes in the areas of production and logistics. And that not only leads to considerable additional costs, but also to dissatisfaction among employees and customers.

How can companies now build a system which delivers information reliably and automatically about the position and status of relevant assets to any downstream systems – ERP, MMS, SAP, etc – without any major infrastructure measures?

The solution

Knowing that the right asset is reliably at the right time at the right place in the process means creating transparency and accordingly provides a good basis for a continuous improvement process. By installing a low-infrastructure, wireless-based location infrastructure, all assets on the premises can be clearly identified, availability becomes visible, deviations from the planned processing and lead times can be identified, priorities can be set and processes can be optimised.

The requirements for automatic identification and localisation of assets in the intralogistical and/or production logistical process differ in terms of the precision required, sometimes from hall to hall or from area to area.

With conbee’s applied integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solution, companies can decide flexibly which precise measurement in which area best supports the process.

When choosing the solution, it is important that the system can be flexibly extended or supplemented later during the operation.

Identification of Assets in defined areas

So-called beacons (e.g. the conbee B200R or B400R) are securely mounted at selected points within the relevant areas and send BLE signals. The TAGs on the assets (e.g. the conbee B200R or B400R) receive the signals as soon as they are near beacons, and relay the received data (ID and signal strength) via a gateway using Bluetooth.

The data received from the tags is forwarded by the gateways (conbee G100) to an application platform. The gateways can be connected and powered via network cables depending upon the available infrastructure. If there is no network available, the gateways can also communicate via WLAN or mobile communications. In the application platform, the data is checked for plausibility according to the regulations and converted into TAG coordinates and transferred to object coordinates in accordance with the defined specifications.

Precision to approx. 5 metres can be reliably achieved with this low-infrastructure solution and in many cases meets the requirements for assignment to zones and areas. For more precise positioning, e.g. on the parking level, the system can simply be supplemented by a so-called RTLS (Real Time Location System) positioning. Here the angles of incidence of the signals are used by locators in order to calculate the location. This requires more infrastructure because the locators must be both powered and connected with a network cable.

The technology

The battery-powered conbee beacon (B200R) is robust and ideally suited for use in harsh, industrial environments. A high IP class IP69k ensures that neither dust nor splash water nor even high pressure cleaners can affect its functionality. conbee’s TAG (B400R) meets the same industrial requirements and can also be equipped with a temperature and acceleration sensor, depending upon the application. The conbee Gateway (G100) ensures the optimal transmission of data. The Gateway has Power over Ethernet (PoE), is already based upon the BLE 5.0 standard and supports common cloud protocols like MQTT, HTTP, REST, etc.

Summary

Transparency and process reliability in the production and intralogistical processes can be achieved efficiently by using low-infrastructure BLE-based wireless infrastructure solutions. The system can be used worldwide, is flexibly scalable and future-proof – a smart IoT solution!

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