The easiest way to get on the IIoT bandwagon: Electronic Batch Record

August 7, 2017

If your SME is skeptical of all the whoopla around the Internet of Things, I have can’t-lose information for you.  Replace your paper batch records with an electronic version; enjoy the benefits at once, and - BAM! - you’ll have joined the IIoT revolution.

 

Really? 

 

To review, IIoT is the process of connecting sensors and platforms to the Cloud so that machines and people can report their status to one another. 

 

Let’s examine batch records methods, with an open mind.  First of all, why do you use paper?  It can’t be because paper is durable and easily located any time you need it.  Nor is it likely that paper enables your tech to record all values – especially time – with absolute precision.  (Isn’t it remarkable how all half-hour processes are always done in exactly thirty minutes?)  It might very well be that despite all these problem with paper, your decision to stay put is very rational: reasonable alternatives have not presented themselves.

 

There are risks in converting to an all-electronic method.   I assume that your first concern would be with the tech; the challenge of learning a new method could be formidable – in the meantime batches could get mixed up, even spoiled.  Then there’s the confusion in your QA department; making these folks adjust to a new procedure will surely be complicated, holding up batch delivery because of strange new answers.  Compounding the problem is the demand on your already overworked IT department.  “Installation and checkout could take weeks!”  And finally, how in the world will Finance be able to keep track of what’s been manufactured and what is ready for delivery when even QA and IT are overwhelmed?

 

Do I understand your concerns?  Payback, especially when considering the upset to your standard operating procedure, could take forever.  In the meantime the risks are clear and present.  So while you may not like paper, what’s the alternative?

 

I suggest using the TraKit method illustrated in the figure.  Your tech starts by loading the application on his Android tablet and logging in with the confidential credentials that identify him uniquely.  He adds the header information – location/purpose – once, at the beginning of the manufacturing run, and then keys in the recipe/batch card responses in the three fields on the tablet.  After recording the text, the tech hits the Upload key sending the text to the Cloud with an automatic time stamp. That’s it; the data is in the Cloud and can be seen by authorized users immediately.

 

Your tech does exactly what he did before, following steps that are specified by the exact same batch sheet that has been on paper all along.  No change whatsoever is made to your standard operating procedure.  For permanent records, the recipe procedure is stored as a pdf along with the responses keyed in by the tech.  The tech can hold on to – and even fill out - the same paper batch sheet while performing his work; or he can (preferably) view the pdf of the recipe on his tablet.

 

My experience is that it takes anyone - tech or supervisor - no more than five minutes to master this procedure. Then you’re in the Cloud and your records are electronic. Immediately.

 

All you need is a tablet.  Android was specifically selected as the operating system because platforms are universally available at under a hundred dollars.  Indeed, TraKit is so simple, that you can maintain your skepticism, and continue to use paper while you and your team familiarize yourselves with this IIoT method.  But you start on Day One; there is no upset to anyone … actions are simple and nothing new is required for interpretation.

 

And familiarization will be richly rewarding.  You, the supervisor, will be able to log in on your Android device from anywhere in the world and immediately know the current status of this or any other batch being recorded with the application.

 

The platform will allow the tech to send you photos and videos that add information about the batch impossible with paper.  Indeed, these images, archived as part of the electronic batch record, can be sent to you for approval – and even electronic sign-off. 

 

But is this simple, useful, quickly implemented application genuinely IIoT? 

 

Of course!  The linkage is machines and people; the modality is Cloud.  The data is in a tamper-proof database, easily downloadable to the PC for QA, IT, Finance inspection.  Once you see that IIoT is laden with benefits for your SME, once you see that it is really something your SME is comfortable with, you will be on your way to adding more applications and creating a Smart Factory.

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