Knowledge repositories encourage sharing and collaboration

Sheila Kennedy says new databases help manufacturers be smarter about sourcing, machine use.

By Sheila Kennedy, CMRP, contributing editor

Better decisions are made when people put their heads together. Fortunately for industrial production companies, a growing assortment of industrial directories, databases and registries is facilitating knowledge-sharing, deeper analysis, and teamwork. The common online platforms provide ready access to accurate information, helping companies reduce errors and improve the quality of business and technology decisions.

Asset information

A new global registry of equipment information allows manufacturers, service providers, and equipment operators to exchange data with one another through a cloud-based platform. The Asset Intelligence Network from SAP provides current manuals, maintenance strategies, and related resources to operators and automatically captures use and failure data from operators.

“A manufacturer, for example, can make the master data available for a specific model," explains Achim Krüger, vice president of Line of Business Asset Management at SAP. "Customers who use this machine or component model can transfer the data to their systems and link it with their own master data. As a result, the data remains up to date without complex manual work or integration gaps.” He adds: “This boosts efficiency and reduces the risks of operating equipment.”

The World Bioenergy Association recently introduced a centralized directory of bioenergy equipment designed to help customers find trusted suppliers for their enterprise.

“The Bioenergy Equipment Directory is an ideal place for customers to find all information needed on different manufacturers based on geography, size of the equipment, and their bioenergy sector,” says Bharadwaj Kummamuru Venkata, project officer at World Bioenergy Association. “This platform facilitates technology transfer among the manufacturers as well as between clients and companies.”

Materials database

A consolidated materials information database simplifies the selection of materials commonly used in capital projects. The Global Materials Information (GMI) project at Fiatech aims to provide cloud-based access to accurate, complete, and normalized product information and supporting documentation. The database allows for materials authentication, side-by-side comparisons, and verification of interoperability. Information in the database is owned and maintained by product suppliers.

A side benefit of GMI is its anti-counterfeiting measure. “Suppliers who generate RFID ‘birth certificates’ for their products can upload that information into the system,” says Reg Hunter, senior program manager at Fiatech. “This helps to identify counterfeit and suspect materials before they enter the supply chain.”

Manufacturing innovation support

Test beds from the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) allow companies to test and ascertain the usefulness and viability of new technologies, applications, products, services, or processes before bringing them to the Industrial Internet market.

“Our first public test bed in manufacturing, called Track and Trace, tracks every person, part, work-in-progress, and tool on the factory floor,” says Richard Soley, executive director of the IIC. “The factory floor will become more efficient because companies will know which parts of the floor will be used for what in real time through predictive analysis.”

A new digital marketplace aims to spur innovation and collaboration in manufacturing. GE is leading an open-source project to build the Digital Manufacturing Commons, an online community and platform that will securely aggregate and allow analysis of manufacturing data. The goal is to have more than 100,000 users nationwide by 2017.

“Through our work with the UI LABS-led Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII), we are building a home in the cloud where businesses big and small and individual entrepreneurs and universities can collaborate on product design and development,” says Stephan Biller, chief manufacturing scientist for GE. “It will democratize manufacturing in profound ways that bring together more experts, invite more ideas, and ultimately accelerate the speed at which these new ideas become commercial realities.”

The Global Design Database from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) allows innovators and other individuals to conduct simultaneous searches of industrial designs registered around the world. The online tool presently includes more than 1.5 million industrial designs registered under the Hague System and/or in participating national collections. It will continue to expand as collections from other national offices are added.

WIPO, an agency of the United Nations, developed the search tool as part of its “commitment to creating an interconnected and inclusive knowledge-sharing IP infrastructure to support innovation worldwide.”