By Anjesh Shekhar
Machine learning can help organizations improve manufacturing operations and increase efficiency, productivity, and safety by analyzing data from connected machines and sensors, machine. For example, its algorithms can predict when equipment will likely fail, so manufacturers can schedule maintenance before problems occur, thereby reducing downtime and repair costs.
How machine learning works
Machine learning teaches computers to learn from data – to do things without being specifically told how to do them. It is a type of artificial intelligence that enables computers to automatically learn or improve their performances by learning from their experiences.
Imagine you have a bunch of toy cars and want to teach a computer to sort them into two groups: red and blue cars. You could show the computer many pictures of red and blue cars and say, “this is a red car” or “this is a blue car” for each one.
After seeing enough examples, the computer can start to guess which group a car belongs in, even if it’s a car that it hasn’t seen before. The machine is “learning” from the examples you show to make better and better guesses over time. That’s machine learning!
Steps to translate it to industrial use case
As in the toy car example, we must have pictures of each specimen and describe them to the computer. The image, in this case, is made up of data points and the description is a label. The sensors collecting data can be fed to the machine learning algorithm in different stages of the machine operation – like when it is running optimally, needs inspection, or needs maintenance, etc.
Data taken from vibration, temperature or pressure measures, etc., can be read from different sensors, depending on the type of machine or process to monitor.
In essence, the algorithm finds a pattern for each stage of the machine’s operation. It can notify the operator about what must be done given enough data points when it starts to veer toward a different stage.
What infrastructure is needed? Can my PLC do it?
The infrastructure needed can vary depending on the algorithm’s complexity and the data volume. Small and simple tasks like anomaly detection can be used on edge devices but not on traditional automation controllers like PLCs. Complex algorithms and significant volumes of data require more extensive infrastructure to do it in a reasonable time. The factor is the processing power, and as close to real-time we can detect the machine’s state, the better the usability.
Learn more here about machine learning.
Anjesh Shekhar is production and applications specialist at Balluff.
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