Hannover 2017: IoT-enabled App Engine customises operations on the shop floor

An innovative app design and production engine, which aims to bring the power of advanced analytics to engineers on the front line, has been unveiled by MIT spin-off Tulip at this year’s Hannover Mess trade fair in Germany.

The Manufacturing App Engine is a self-service technology that aims to fill the gap between rigid back-end manufacturing IT systems and the dynamic operations taking place on the shop floor by allowing manufacturers to create their own personalised digital workplace applications.

With the rise of the fourth industrial revolution, automation has taken off on factory floors, but many hands-on workers continue to use paper-based systems and traditional technology. Increasingly, manufacturers are searching for methods of empower their workers using innovative digital tools.

Tulip has developed the App Engine as a solution to this problem. The new system allows front-line engineers to create flexible shop-floor apps that connect workers, machines and existing IT systems. These apps then guide shop-floor operations enabling real-time data collection.

The platform allows manufacturers to integrate devices, sensors and machines on the shop floor making it easy to monitor and interact with previously siloed data streams. This data can then be turned into actionable insights, supporting continuous process improvement.

While software that offers to integrate devices on the shop floor is not inherently new, Tulip’s approach is slightly different to those offered by other digital service providers. Rather than offering a rigid software solution, the App Engine is a modular platform that gives engineers the tools they need to create their own unique digital solutions, allowing for a degree of flexibility that is not typically associated with existing solutions.

The application is already proving successful in trials across Tulip’s client base. In one example of successful utilisation of Tulip’s system, US based global manufacturing services company Jabil reported a production yield increase of more than 10 per cent, and manual assembly quality issues were reduction of 60 per cent in the initial four weeks of operation.

Other customers report similar results, including over 20 per cent increase in throughput and up to 90 per cent reduction in the training time required to qualify new operators.

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