Yes, Your Data Must Be Conditioned

When I was a little boy, I wished for a magic wand. Oh, the things I could do with that magic wand. Turn my bike into a motorcycle. Turn every vegetable into cherry pie. And, of course, have my own computer. I grew up in an age when computers were in data centers and you needed a raised floor to run all the cables.

When I read about some of the Smart Manufacturing solutions out there, I’d get the feeling that these companies must’ve had a magic wand. They completely ignore one of the dirtiest jobs needed to build a Smart Manufacturing system: Data Conditioning.

It’s unfortunate that all data is not created equal. It comes in a variety of formats, sizes and nomenclature. Take tank level for example, glue tanks, water tanks, medicine tanks…etc. There are lots of tanks around a manufacturing plant. The tank levels can be in feet, inches, millimeters or even a percentage. Sometimes, it’s analog and the output of a sensor that generates a 0-5, 0-10 or 0-24V signal. If it’s digital, it might be expressed as a floating point, an unsigned integer, binary coded decimal value or even a string of ASCII digits.

You will likely have all sorts of conditioning challenges. Equipment comes from different manufacturers with different standards and these standards are different all around the world. Since these kinds of problems exist, there’s no doubt you will have to deal with them sometime.

You can deal with them at the equipment level. You might do data conversion at the controller level. Or you might format your data in an aggregator. You’ll want to do it as close as you can to the original data source. The worst place to deal with data conditioning is in the Cloud where the source equipment might be obscured.

No matter what system you have, data conditioning is something you will have to deal with. It’s an unfortunate truth of Smart Manufacturing that a lot of vendors gloss over.