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Industry 4.0 — Connectivity optimizes processes

Issue: November 2018

Representatives for auxiliary equipment manufacturers cite a number of advantages of the Industry 4.0 era, including improved predictive maintenance. By leveraging data and managing it in the cloud, companies can reduce downtime, increase productivity, improve traceability and optimize their processes.


Micro Interface Design engineering manager Antonio Nucaro adjusts the Midexx Traceability color-management system during NPE2018./Micro Interface Design

TSM Control Systems makes gravimetric blending systems and has created its own division, Insight, that specializes in connecting devices and business systems to provide a comprehensive view of plantwide operations. The division shares its name with a cloud-based product TSM developed with input from its customers. Now commercially available, the cloud-based platform can collect real-time data from a plethora of networked devices, include supervisory control and data-acquisition (SCADA) systems, PLCs and drives.

Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing the plastics industry, said Shane O’Callaghan, Insight division manager.

Connecting machines and business information systems can be challenging. Because plants expand and evolve, a factory may have equipment of varying ages from a variety of suppliers. Industry 4.0 technologies allow communications between business software systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and machines on the floor in a way that wasn’t possible previously.

Using the data it collects, Insight delivers a holistic view of plant operations, O’Callaghan said.

“This provides a whole new layer of value; companies can make better decisions if they have better information in real time,” O’Callaghan said. “This allows all parties involved, from operators to upper management, to make the best decisions for the business in full alignment.”


A major challenge for companies adopting Industry 4.0 solutions is that different equipment traditionally has used different communication protocols, said Peyvand Melati, CEO of Micro Interface Design. The company supplies liquid-color dosing and dispensing systems, material-handling equipment, masterbatch blenders and gravimetric blender controllers.

The company spent several years working on enabling communications between machines of different generations and from different manufacturers, Melati said. “The dispensing systems need to have a common language to talk to each other,” he said.

Earlier this year, Micro Interface Design introduced its Midexx Traceability color-management technology for its Midexx-3D dual-drive gravimetric dosing system for continuous liquid color dosing. The technology uses a radio-frequency identification (RFID) chip to identify, match and transmit color information from the colorant container, preventing the use of the wrong color.

Midexx Traceability provides real-time data on material usage and precisely measures colorant throughout the gravimetric process so that if anything goes wrong, the user can pinpoint the problem, Melati said. Midexx Traceability provides manufacturers with insight into not only incoming data from Micro Interface Design machines, but also those from other manufacturers, using a common language.

Beyond quickly recognizing, tracing and correcting problems in production, Industry 4.0-enabled equipment and software also enable companies to collect trending data that shows when machines or auxiliary equipment are starting to go outside of tolerances, Melati said. The data enables companies to fix equipment before it breaks down, eliminating downtime.

Phillip Britt, correspondent



Micro Interface Design,

Markham, Ontario, 905-947-1114, 

TSM Control Systems Inc.,

Marietta, Ga., 770-886-6630,