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Komatsu is a maker of excavators, bulldozers, and other heavy equipment.  The company has decades of expertise in making machines that can dig, lift, and move all sorts of physical objects. But when it comes to gathering and handling data to boost its own manufacturing capabilities and productivity, Komatsu needed help. So, it turned to the Azure cloud and the specialists at Microsoft.

Adopting A Cloud Solution

Microsoft asked us what we wanted to do and how we wanted to expand the solution in the future, then it gave us exactly the right support,” says Yamanaka whose team is now studying how artificial intelligence (AI) and Intelligent Edge solutions might further boost efficiencies.

Komatsu launched “KOM-MICS” – an Internet of Things (IoT) system that collects data from sensors that are installed on a myriad of machine tools and welding robots. Soon after, the company turned to cloud solution to collect and visualise data from a network of outside partners and other factories, both in Japan and abroad.

Weighing Up The Options

Komatsu compared several cloud services and moved its data onto Azure in early 2017. According to Tsuboi, a primary reason behind the choice was trust: Azure has extensive security measures backed by Microsoft’s expertise. Azure also made Komatsu’s data capabilities immediately compliant with GDPR – the European Union’s new globally important data protection measure.

The flexibility and scalability of Azure were also deciding factors that is allowing KOM-MICS coverage to ramped up almost seamlessly.

Expanding Its Scope

Komatsu connected its Thai and Indonesian bases to KOM-MICS in 2017. Since then, the number of Komatsu’s partners connected to KOM-MICS has been increasing rapidly.

With earthquakes and typhoons a constant threat in Japan, Azure has also bolstered Komatsu’s disaster response capabilities compared with the previous on-premises system.

In the end, more data from more machines in more places means the company can improve quality measures, plan and adjust with agility, and better anticipate equipment failure.

A Future With AI And The Intelligent Edge

Looking ahead, Yamanaka believes artificial intelligence (AI) on the Intelligent Edge can potentially deliver more productivity dividends, such as freeing up the time of skilled workers and opening the door to predictive maintenance.

“I believe that data can be used in a variety of ways,” he says. “We would like to automatically realise optimal machining conditions and have AI do some tasks that are currently handled by skilled workers.

“Also, there is quality. We would like features that can automatically detect signs of failures before they happen. We need to make use of AI. But because processing data in the cloud takes time, we are thinking about adopting Azure IoT Edge so we can run Microsoft Azure services on IoT devices.

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