Industry 4.0 — aka the internet of things — is all the rage. Even though true Industry 4.0, where every single production machine, and every single factory, is interconnected, is probably decades away if we ever really get there.
This month, Best Practices takes you into that world. We'll take a closer look at a company called ei3 Corp., founded in 1999, that sets up cloud-based Industry 4.0 systems. (Ei3 is "based" in Pearl River, N.Y., north of New York City, but the "cloud" is its real home.)
CEO Spencer Cramer said ei3 concentrates on middle-tier industrial clients, especially manufacturers of machinery in plastics, paper, converting, printing, packaging and other areas.
Cramer said working with machinery companies is the best way for Industry 4.0 to reach the broad manufacturing world.
"We really believe that for the internet of things, the biggest opportunity is for machinery OEMs," he said. Machine builders put hardware on their equipment, and ei3 software helps them connect the data to the cloud.
Cramer wrote a blog that explains the importance of equipment makers: "Machine builders have a deep base of equipment knowledge and understand manufacturing best practices. This makes the delivery of internet of things services a natural extension of the engineering-driven relationship between machine builders and their customers."
Now, if you've never heard of ei3, that's by design. The company offers a "white label solution," which is tech-speak for operating in the background for its equipment clients, with its software meshing seamlessly with theirs. And ei3 officials claim to connect thousands of industrial devices in more than 90 countries.
For plastics, that includes Bobst Italia SpA, an Italian maker of printing equipment for flexible materials.
And also a company better known to readers of Best Practices: Milacron Holdings Corp. That's because ei3 is the force behind Milacron 4.0, which securely connects Milacron equipment to the cloud, linking a customer to a full suite of services like remote monitoring of what's happening in their molding plants, and manages and maintains the equipment — anywhere in the world.