Machinery retrofitting: this is the keyword that has been circulating in manufacturing industry circles since the beginning of the 21st century. Let’s see what this means and why we should join this industrial 4.0 evolution.

To have a company evolve toward the  4.0 standard, it is necessary to digitize it in order to improve energy consumption performance, but also to achieve savings from the machine operating and maintenance costs. Using only modern and the latest generation machinery is not always a sustainable choice for companies that have already purchased very expensive machinery in the past and therefore cannot currently bear the replacement costs in production plants. How do you solve this problem? With the retrofitting of industrial machinery.

More than 10 years of history

The vast majority of Italian small and medium-sized enterprises have a very long history and own fleets of machinery with an average life of more than 10 years. However, these machines are neither old nor obsolete. On the contrary, they often work perfectly. They turn out to be performing well in terms of production capacity. So why change them? The reason is that these machines do not have control systems that allow interfacing with modern Industry 4.0 systems.

One of the biggest challenges entrepreneurs face is to operate during a complete process of technological transformation by finding the right solution that can fit within the company budget. This is why deciding on an industrial machinery retrofitting solution is the best decision that can be made.

It is possible not to replace entire production lines thus avoiding economic waste. This is so both in terms of purchase costs and wasting machines that work perfectly, but which simply lack some technical and technological characteristics. It is thus possible to enable the machinery with typical features of Industry 4.0 in a truly minimally invasive way.

Greenfield, Brownfield machinery with PLC and without PLC

To better understand the processes and technologies necessary for the retrofitting of industrial machinery, we need to define the different types of machinery.

Let’s start with Greenfield machines. They are modern and ready for 4.0 technologies since they are able to send data to management systems and receive production data and configuration parameters. Often these machines have proprietary management systems that are able to communicate with third-party software and clouds.

On the other side of the spectrum, Brownfield machines are more dated and do not have integrations that allow communication with 4.0 management systems. However, not all are so “old” and some even have a PLC programmable logic controller networked to the computers that control the machine by managing the sensor reading and actuator control cycle. PLCs often have connection ports that allow interfacing with other systems and therefore data extraction.

However, there is a problem with these machines. Often the owner does not know the protocol used by the PLC to communicate with it, or the PLC only communicates with proprietary systems and, therefore, it is not possible to integrate the machine with third-party systems.

There are also machines that do not even have a PLC and are therefore managed by electromechanical automation systems that do not have digital doors and are unable to connect to anything.

Thanks to the Zerynth IoT Platform, it is possible to apply retrofitting actions to industrial machinery, allowing the creation of the digital twin for your machinery and merging the interaction between the Operation Technology side and the IT side.

The importance of retrofitting industrial machinery

Retrofitting industrial machinery means adding new features in a minimally invasive way and enabling the machinery with typical features of Industry 4.0. The technologies allow for the collection and processing of production data in order to produce the KPIs necessary to improve  production process efficiency. It is therefore not only a question of complying with the regulations on industrial energy monitoring, but also monitoring corporate finances.

Thanks to retrofitting the machinery it is possible to:

  • improve the efficiency of industrial processes by increasing production capacity and reducing operating costs.
  • Save the cost of purchasing new industrial machines.
  • Improve performance by increasing the life of the machinery already present in the company, and reducing their maintenance costs.
  • Reduce human errors with a consequent increase in personnel safety conditions.
  • Make company monitoring and analysis more agile, based on data collected directly from the machines reliably and safely.

Zerynth technology for the retrofitting of industrial machinery

We at Zerynth have developed a technology for retrofitting industrial machinery that allows you to connect any industrial machine to any management system or company cloud. All with low investment and very short setup times.

Our IoT platform is a real interface system between the world of Operation Technology (OT) and the world of IT (Information Technology) that allows you to produce a digital twin of the legacy machinery in perfect harmony with the dynamics of industry 4.0.

The data collected from the machine by our Edge Devices are then sent to the Zerynth Cloud Core after being processed on the Edge. The Zerynth Cloud Core software allows you to acquire data from any type of industrial machinery and in the case of Greenfield and Brownfield machinery with a digitally connected PLC it is also possible to enable the sending of parameters and instructions to the machinery.

Once the data has been collected, Zerynth Cloud Core sends the large amount of data collected to any management system in the factory through the use of ready-to-use connectors for most common management systems.

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About the Author: Angelica Puddu

Angelica works in the Zerynth Marketing Team. She graduated in Digital Humanities, so she has a critical perspective of how digital technology is increasingly part of everyday life. She likes to manage and organize projects and, in her free time, she likes to attend theater workshops and play sports.

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