Internet of Things Machine to Machine Factory Tech

Martin Drake-Knight

By Martin Drake-Knight

We’ve installed a machine-to-machine communications project in our factory, based on MQTT. It lays the groundwork for sustaining excellent service, high product quality, rapid delivery time and overall experience for everyone in future.

In the Teemill factory there’s lots of machines that are mostly digital, perform computations or are at the very least electronic. Day to day, our team operate these machines and interact with them, for example reading the temperatures or assessing how much there is to print, and adjusting controls on other machines as a response. We brought the future nearer when we  installed a machine-to-machine communications protocol (MQTT) to get pieces of equipment in the factory to talk directly to each other, and do work automatically.

In other words, it gives us  a ‘neurological’ framework to turn a bunch of machines into an ecosystem of sensors and actuators that can feel, communicate, think and do things.

This means that the internet now talks to the factory and tells it in real time how many orders are in the queue. The factory knows how many of the team are in the building, can heat up the kit, turn the printers on and mix the inks and calculate how best to get the day’s production out and even talk to the team through speakers.  It means faster shipping, consistent quality and a strong future.

This update is MQTT based. MQTT is a machine to machine protocol designed to make the internet of things a reality, and we’re lucky enough to have had some help from our friend Andy Stanford-Clark, master inventor at IBM, to design and implementation of our scheme.

The first machine we built with MQTT took temperature, humidity and fluid level data then mixed and/or heated the supply for the machine to specifications, communicating when this was done and turning various downstream machines on and off in response, whilst broadcasting it’s observations and activity in real time to a central system.

We also gave the factory a voice, using text to speech, so it can talk to the team with any feedback or reports that are need-to-know.

This upgrade helps the team a lot, relieving them of mundane tasks so they can focus on more advanced work like optimising and designing new systems. The digitisation of information transfer helps the team monitor the status, output and performance of the factory in more detail, and hold individual machines to account for the output associated with it. For example, we now can tell that Edd’s order was printed by Machine 3 at 10:35am in a humidity of 65%, 21C, then scanned and packed at station 1.

We can then connect this data with customer feedback and in future, write code to help the factory learn from its mistakes.

So what does the Teemill M2M Update mean for store owners?

It means faster, more efficient delivery. Long term lower cost of production and consistent, high quality products for all products fulfilled by Teemill print-on-demand services.


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