industry insights

retrofitting 101 – how to stay future fit with retrofit!

Carla Märkl

Carla Märkl

Anyone familiar with the buzzwords “Industry 4.0” and “Smart Factory” is guaranteed to have heard the word “retrofit” before. This word is a compound of the Latin word “retro”, meaning “backwards”, and the English word “to fit”. “Retrofitting” therefore means upgrading and modernizing existing, often old machines.

The goal of such a retrofit is to extend the service life of machines, to save costs – especially in comparison to a new acquisition – or to network machines in order to harness their data. In this blog post, you will learn what problems arise, what approaches there are to solving them, and how retrofitting works with Peakboard.

the older machines are good at a lot. but unfortunately not at data.

Often, older machines are still in use in factories, which only provide data in analog form. For example, they can typically send out 24-volt fault signals, which a simple traffic light system uses to indicate defective cables. What they lack, however, is information about changes in temperature, fluctuations in boiler pressure or, lacking a piece counter, flow rate, for example. In addition, older machines often do not meet the requirements for transferring data to a database. This problem also affects many newer machines. However, in order to obtain a correct, complete picture of their own production and to make optimal decisions, store floor managers also need this information.

machine manufacturers do a good job – but that’s just not enough.

Often, production facilities grow and factory equipment increases in number, for example, when production lines are added. However, many companies use machines from different suppliers that are hardly connected with each other. Each of these machines can be considered a small island that speaks its own language. The lack of a common denominator leads to significant communication gaps.

new acquisitions or classic retrofitting? usually very expensive or even too expensive.

In most manufacturing companies, the pressure to modernize is increasing. Digital real-time images of the company’s own production and logistics are now a decisive competitive factor. The most obvious solution is to replace the existing machines. However, this rarely makes sense from an economic point of view. Retrofitting is correspondingly popular. Those who retrofit in the classic way have to accept longer downtimes due to the conversion and risk that the machine will not function afterwards. Moreover, after retrofitting, better interaction between all machines is not automatically a given. In addition, any intervention in the control system (PLC) jeopardizes the manufacturer’s warranty and CE certification.

retrofitting with Peakboard and without programming effort.

The key challenge in retrofitting a heterogeneous machine environment is to avoid IT workloads. With Peakboard, companies can leverage information that is not yet available digitally – without consuming IT resources.
To give a simple but effective example: A photoelectric sensor installed on the production line, connected to Peakboard, forms a real-time digital way to count production units. The same applies to a temperature gauge. These are just two examples of many. Of course, Peakboard can also visualize all other existing data.

with the right data, even business intelligence works.

Companies can also historize the data in order to analyze it as part of their business intelligence. This enables them, for example, to identify accumulations of errors in individual production lines on the basis of average values. With maximum flexibility, they are able to connect numerous other systems, for example, to link order data from SAP with actual production data.
Peakboard thus provides real-time data for the agile optimization of production or logistics processes, and can also store this data as a starting point for strategic decisions. Hundreds of customers have already been supported in this way, from large corporations to medium-sized companies.

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