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A New Approach to Factory Insights with Modern PLCs and Machinechat Software



The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is poised to alter industrial automation by bringing more productivity, lower costs, greater safety, and higher quality. Despite these advantages, the shift to Industry 4.0 faces challenges such as obsolete systems, cautious engineering techniques, proprietary technologies, and a lack of specialist skills.


However, the scene is shifting with the emergence of open systems and improved automation technology, which are breaking down boundaries and establishing new standards for industrial communication. This transformation is reflected in the world of smart homes, where transparency and collaboration have paved the path for new and long-term solutions. The industrial sector is increasingly following suit, as manufacturers incorporate these findings into their products.


Challenges with traditional PLCs


The Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is at the heart of factory automation, a tenacious digital device created in the late 1960s to replace previous relay-based systems. Despite their dependability and simplicity, many older PLCs struggle to meet IIoT standards. This is mostly owing to their limited connectivity and the possibility of obsolescence as technology advances.


The Evolution Of PLCs


Today's PLCs have evolved to include Ethernet connectivity and bridge the gap between older devices and current infrastructure via gateways. This new generation of PLCs represents a shift toward open, flexible systems that can smoothly connect with multiple software, enabling for easy installation of industrial automation apps.

This versatility makes modern factory automation available to a broader spectrum of engineers, encouraging efficiency and innovation.

For example, the Phoenix Contact 1069208 PLCnext controller is a major step towards an open, programmable solution. PLCnext runs Linux, letting engineers program the PLC in C++, C#, Java, Python, and Simulink, while IEC 61131-3 languages can still be used. These versatile programming languages make modern factory automation accessible to more engineers.



Phoenix Contact PLCnext
Phoenix Contact PLCnext Controller (Image source: Phoenix Contact)


Read more about Phoenix Contact PLCnext in this article from DigiKey Electronics.


The Arduino Opta microPLC is another example that brings open-source ecosystems and collaborative engineering paradigm shift to modern factory automation. It integrates the familiar Arduino programming environment with PLC language standards to create a user-friendly platform that meets industrial standards. Based on STM32H747XI dual-core Arm Cortex-M7 and M4 MCU, Arduino Opta empower engineers to create and deploy comprehensive monitoring, and predictive maintenance applications.



Arduino Opta Wi-Fi microPLC
Arduino Opta Wi-Fi microPLC (Image source: Arduino)

How Machinechat JEDI and VisualManager Improves PLC Insights


Machinechat JEDI is a user-friendly vendor-neutral software application that makes it easy to collect data, integrate, visualize, and manage real-time operational data. It runs locally on your PC, Mac, or Raspberry Pi.


Machinechat VisualManager is an advanced data visualization, analysis, and data workflows automation software that runs on your PC or Mac. It allows you to create role-based dashboards that display real-time data and historical trends from a variety of sources. This allows for making educated decisions quickly, streamlining operations and increasing efficiency of industrial processes.


Integrating Machinechat JEDI and VisualManager provides an effective solution for overcoming traditional PLC limitations. JEDI's user-friendly interface and VisualManager's powerful data visualization capabilities combine with the adaptable architecture of modern PLCs to deliver actionable insights into factory processes.

Engineers can quickly monitor, manage, and analyze data from PLCs and other IoT sensors thanks to JEDI's real-time data gathering and integration functionalities. This comprehensive data supervision enables proactive decision-making and predictive maintenance, resulting in reduced downtime and optimized production operations.


VisualManager complements this environment by providing intuitive dashboards and visuals that make complex data understandable at a glance. This collaboration enables a smooth flow of information from PLCs to decision-makers, ensuring that insights gleaned from manufacturing data are actionable and meaningful.


Factory Insights with Machinechat JEDI and VisualManager


Machinechat JEDI and VisualManager offer a versatile platform for creating custom dashboards that combine various chart types with vector graphic elements, background images, and data overlays. This enables factories to visualize a wide array of data points and insights in real-time, supporting informed decision-making and continuous improvement in operations.


Production Metrics

  • Throughput: Visualize production volume over time with line or area charts to identify trends and patterns.

  • Cycle Time: Use timeline scatter or timeline step plots to monitor the time each production cycle takes.

  • Downtime: Gauge charts can highlight downtime periods, with conditional icons indicating the reason for downtime.


Equipment Health and Performance

  • Machine Utilization: Radial charts to display the percentage of machine utilization against its maximum capacity.

  • Predictive Maintenance Alerts: Custom tile charts with conditional icons to alert on potential equipment failures.

  • Energy Consumption: Line or area charts to track energy usage over time, identifying peaks and optimization opportunities.


Quality Control

  • Defect Rates: Bar charts or timeline bar charts to visualize defect rates by production batch or over time.

  • Process Variability: Use scatter plots to analyze variations in production processes, aiming for consistency.

  • Material Waste: Area charts to monitor the volume of material waste over time, identifying trends and reduction opportunities.


Environmental Monitoring

  • Temperature and Humidity: Radial or gauge charts for real-time monitoring of environmental conditions affecting production.

  • Air Quality: Visualize air quality data with line charts, monitoring levels of various pollutants.


Supply Chain and Inventory

  • Raw Material Levels: Bar charts to keep track of raw material inventory levels, highlighting shortages or surpluses.

  • Work-in-Progress (WIP): Use custom tile charts to monitor the status of different production stages.

  • Finished Goods Inventory: Timeline bar charts to track finished product stock levels over time.


Worker Safety and Ergonomics

  • PPE Compliance: Custom tile charts with conditional icons to monitor compliance with safety gear requirements.

  • Ergonomic Risk Factors: Gauge charts to assess ergonomic risk factors, visualizing data from sensors or assessments.


Energy Management

  • Peak Demand Analysis: Line charts to analyze energy demand over time, identifying peak usage periods.

  • Renewable Energy Utilization: Area charts to display the proportion of energy sourced from renewables versus non-renewables.


Operational Efficiency

  • Workflow Analysis: Timeline scatter plots to analyze the flow of operations and identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies.

  • Lean Manufacturing Metrics: Use radial charts to monitor key lean manufacturing metrics, focusing on waste reduction and process improvement.


Future Of Factory Automation


Whether you choose Machinechat JEDI for small data acquisition projects or VisualManager for advanced IIoT data analytics projects, experience a significant leap in industrial automation. Manufacturers can future-proof their operations, increase efficiency, and drive innovation by adopting open systems and using the power of IIoT.

This approach not only tackles the immediate issues of transitioning legacy systems to Industry 4.0, but it also creates the groundwork for a more connected, intelligent, and adaptable manufacturing environment. As we move forward, the emphasis on collaborative platforms and user-friendly software will continue to reinvent what is possible in industrial automation, paving the road for smarter factories and a more sustainable future.


Download and test drive Machinechat JEDI and Machinechat VisualManager today.

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