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When factories are able to achieve seamless connectivity all the way from field-level sensors to the cloud, the vertical convergence between the operational technology (OT) on their shop floor and the information technology (IT) of their ERP systems opens up new possibilities for efficient supply chain operation. EIM Solutions is able to help its customers drive value both within their factories and across their supply networks by relying on expertise and open source technology from B&R. EIM Solutions is able to help its customers drive value both within their factories and across their supply networks by relying on expertise and open source technology from B&R.

Building a smart factory from scratch is one thing, but implementing such fundamental changes in a brownfield environment is an exponentially greater challenge. EIM Solutions is a certified SAP Gold partner who provides solutions that help transform factories into smart adaptive enterprises. To help factories – both brownfield and greenfield – achieve seamless vertical connectivity, EIM Solutions chose B&R and the open source communication solutions POWERLINK and OPC UA.

Managing capacity to optimize costs

Today, factories are looking beyond automating individual machines or lines and focusing on how to more effectively manage capacity and inventory. "With Supply Chain Hub, we enable factories to bring their own inventories as well as those of their vendors and suppliers all into the same picture." explains EIM's managing director, Rajagopalan Babu. "This reduces dependencies and makes the process smarter, more connected and more efficient." EIM's software suite integrates all levels of the supply chain and is used successfully in an array of industries.

X20 systems and POWERLINK communication allow real-time data acquisition from machines and easy incorporation of energy and condition monitoring.

Digitized factories

"We can help any enterprise with a manufacturing facility improve its productivity," says Babu. "To be profitable, an enterprise has to be automated, optimized and digitized – not only on the shop floor but all throughout the supply chain."

Machines produce large amounts of data, which must be captured and converted into actionable information. Factory owners who are able to correlate this information with accurate data about their supply chain and inventory levels have an upper hand in planning and optimization to reduce costs and wastage. "A factory only stays profitable if all the data it collects is linked with ERP systems," notes Babu.

ERP systems are more than just execution systems, yet their enormous potential as a planning aid has so far been restricted by the lack of a vertical connection to the shop floor. EIM Solutions has enabled manufacturing operations to easily integrate their ERP with the shop floor using open source connectivity mechanisms and B&R technology. The software package makes information easy to access by providing a single web interface for suppliers and vendors. It is designed to reduce working capital and enable significant improvements in operating efficiency.

The B&R solution enables seamless connectivity from field-level control to the ERP system and the cloud.

Open standard for vertical connectivity

The task of integrating machines on a production floor presents a variety of complex challenges. Among them are the prevalence of proprietary networks and different control systems throughout the factory. Babu notes: "Integrating machines on a single line is challenging enough, and we had the task of integrating machines on 20 lines."

They overcame this challenge using OPC UA to achieve seamless vertical connectivity from the shop floor up to the ERP system. "We have made it a priority to maximize the use of open source solutions," adds Babu. "That not only provides us independence of operation but also reduces the total cost of ownership." The time and cost of connection and testing are drastically reduced.

To achieve real-time deterministic communication on the shop floor, EIM Solutions uses vendor-independent POWERLINK communication. The combination of POWERLINK and OPC UA offers a completely open-source communication architecture from the machines to the ERP systems.

Operating data and machine health at a glance

On the factory floor, EIM Solutions uses a B&R Automation PC 2100 running Linux, with openPOWERLINK implemented as a Managing Node (MN). Coupled with B&R X20 I/O modules, this enables data acquisition from legacy machines combined with energy and condition monitoring. "POWERLINK provides us with ideal communication and ensures complete reliability of data transmission on the shop floor," says Babu. From productivity rates to performance metrics – POWERLINK provides real-time access to all the most important information about the line. "That gives us a decisive advantage," says Babu. The OPC UA support on all of B&R's PCs and PLCs enabled connectivity to both the ERP and cloud systems.

The combination of Linux, POWERLINK and OPC UA provides EIM the full benefit of vendor independence and open architectures. "B&R's rugged, reliable Automation PCs and I/O modules helped us incorporate these open source solutions with minimal time and effort," Babu adds.

The smart factory partner

EIM Solutions has worked with B&R to implement smart factory solutions around the globe. "As our automation and digitalization partner, B&R helps us transform processes and proactively manage all aspects of manufacturing operations – live and in real-time." says Babu.

Rajagopalan Babu

Managing Director, EIM Solutions

"The combination of POWERLINK and OPC UA offers a completely open-source communication architecture from the machines to the ERP systems. With B&R as our automation and digitalization partner, we're able to transform processes and proactively manage all aspects of manufacturing operations in real-time."

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