Modernize Your Factory Operations: Build a Virtual Factory with MongoDB Atlas in 5 Simple Steps
Virtual factories are revolutionizing the manufacturing landscape. Coined as the "Revolution in factory planning" by BMW Group at NVIDIA, this cutting-edge approach is transforming the way companies like BMW and Hyundai operate, thanks to groundbreaking partnerships with technology companies such as NVIDIA and Unity. At the heart of this revolution lies the concept of virtual factories , computer-based replicas of real-world manufacturing facilities. These virtual factories accurately mimic the characteristics and intricacies of physical factories, making them a powerful tool for manufacturers to optimize their operations. By leveraging AI, they unlock a whole new world of possibilities, revolutionizing the manufacturing landscape, paving the way for improved productivity, cost savings, and innovation. In this blog we will explore the benefits of virtual factories and guide you through the process of building your own virtual factory using MongoDB Atlas. Let’s dive in! Unlocking digital transformation The digitalization of the manufacturing industry has given rise to the development of smart factories. These advanced factories incorporate IoT sensors into their machinery and equipment, allowing workers to gather data-driven insights on their manufacturing processes. However, the evolution does not stop at smart factories automating and optimizing physical production. The emergence of virtual factories introduces simulation capabilities and remote monitoring, leading to the creation of factory digital twins, as depicted in Figure 1. By bridging the concepts of smart and virtual factories, manufacturers can unlock greater levels of efficiency, productivity, flexibility, and innovation. Figure 1: From smart factory to virtual factory Leveraging virtual factories in manufacturing organizations provides many benefits including: Optimization of production processes and identification of inefficiencies. This can lead to increased efficiency, reduced waste, and improved quality. Aiding quality control by contextualizing sensor data with the manufacturing process. This allows analysis of quality issues and implementation of necessary control measures while dealing with complex production processes. Simulating manufacturing processes and testing new products or ideas without the need for physical prototypes or real-world production facilities. This significantly reduces costs associated with research and development and minimizes the risk of product failure. However, setting up a virtual factory for complex manufacturing is difficult. Challenges include managing system overload, handling vast amounts of data from physical factories, and creating accurate visualizations. The virtual factory must also adapt to changes in the physical factory over time. Given these challenges, having a data platform that can contextualize all the data coming in from the physical factory and then feed that to the virtual factory and vice versa is crucial. And that is where MongoDB Atlas , our developer data platform, comes in, providing synchronization capabilities between physical and virtual worlds, enabling flexible data modeling and providing access to the data via a unified query interface as seen in Figure 2. Figure 2: MongoDB Atlas as the Data Platform between physical and virtual Factories Now that we’ve discussed the benefits and the challenges of building virtual factories, let’s unpack how simple it is to build a virtual factory with MongoDB Atlas. How to build a virtual factory MongoDB Atlas 1. Define the business requirements The first step of the process is to define the business requirements for the virtual factory. Our team at MongoDB uses a smart factory model from Fischertechnik to demonstrate how easily MongoDB can be integrated to solve the digital transformation challenges of IIoT in manufacturing. This testbed serves as our foundational physical factory and the starting point of this project. Figure 3: The smart factory testbed We defined our set of business requirements as the following: Implement a virtual run of the physical factory to identify layout and process optimizations. Provide real-time visibility of the physical factory conditions such as inventory for process improvements. This last requirement is critical; while standalone simulation models of factories can be useful, they typically do not take into account the real-time data from the physical factory. By connecting the physical and virtual factories, a digital twin can be created that takes into account the actual performance of the physical factory in real-time. This enables more accurate predictions of the factory's performance, which improves decision-making, process optimization, and enables remote monitoring and control, reducing downtime and improving response times. 2. Create a 3D model Based on the previous business requirements, we created a 3D-model of the factory in a widely used game engine, Unity . This virtual model can be visualized using a computer, tablet or any virtual reality headset. Figure 4: 3D-model of the smart factory in Unity Additionally, we also added four different buttons (red, white, blue, and “stop”) which enables users to submit production orders to the physical factory or stop the process altogether. 3. Connect the physical and virtual factories Once we created the 3D model, we connected the physical and virtual factories via MongoDB Atlas. Let’s start with our virtual factory software application. Regardless of where you deploy it, be it a headset or a tablet, you can use Realm by MongoDB to present data locally inside Unity and then synchronize it with MongoDB Atlas as the central data layer. Allowing us to have embedded databases where there's resource constrainment and MongoDB Atlas as a powerful and scalable cloud backend technology. And lastly, to ensure data synchronization and communication between these two components, we leveraged MongoDB Atlas Device Sync , providing bi-directional synchronization mechanism and network handling. Now that we have our virtual factory set-up, let’s have a look at our physical one. In a real manufacturing environment, many of the shopfloor connectivity systems can connect to MongoDB Atlas and for those who don't natively, it is very straightforward to build a connector. At the shopfloor layer you can have MongoDB set up so that you can analyze and visualize your data locally and set up materialized views. On the cloud layer, you can push data directly to MongoDB Atlas or use our Cluster-to-Cluster Sync functionality. A single IoT device, by itself, does not generate much data. But as the amount of devices grows, so does the volume of machine-generated data and therefore the complexity of the data storage architecture required to support it. The data storage layer is often one of the primary causes of performance problems as an application scales. A well-designed data storage architecture is a crucial component in any IoT platform. In our project, we have integrated AWS IoT Core to subscribe to MQTT messages from the physical factory. Once these messages are received and filtered, they are transmitted to MongoDB Atlas via an HTTP endpoint. The HTTP endpoint then triggers a function which stores the messages in the corresponding collection based on their source (e.g., messages from the camera are stored in the camera collection). With MongoDB Atlas, as your data grows you can archive it using our Atlas Online Archive functionality. Figure 5: Virtual and physical factories data flow In figure 5, we can see everything we’ve put together so far, on the left hand side we have our virtual factory where users can place an order. The order information is stored inside Realm, synced with MongoDB Atlas using Atlas Device Sync and sent to the physical factory using Atlas Triggers . On the other hand, the physical factory sends out sensor data and event information about the physical movement of items within the factory. MongoDB Atlas provides the full data platform experience for connecting both physical and virtual worlds! 4. Data modeling Now that the connectivity has been established, let's look at modeling this data that is coming in. As you may know, any piece of data that can be represented in JSON can be natively stored in and easily retrieved from MongoDB. The MongoDB drivers take care of converting the data to BSON (binary JSON) and back when querying the database. Furthermore, you can use documents to model data in any way you need, whether it is key value pairs, time series data or event data. On the topic of time series data, MongoDB Time Series allows you to automatically store time series data in a highly optimized and compressed format, reducing customer storage footprint, as well as achieving greater query performance at scale. Figure 5: Virtual and physical factories sample data It really is as simple as it looks, and the best part is that we are doing all of this inside MongoDB Atlas making a direct impact on developer productivity. 5. Enable computer vision for real-time inventory Once we have the data modeled and connectivity established, our last step is to run event-driven analytics on top of our developer data platform. We used computer vision and AI to analyze the inventory status in the physical factory and then pushed notifications to the virtual one. If the user tries to order a piece in the virtual factory that is not in stock, they will immediately get a notification from the physical factory. All this is made possible using MongoDB Atlas and its connectors to various AI platforms If you want to learn more, stay tuned for part 2 of this blog series where we’ll dive deep into the technical considerations of this last step. Conclusion By investing in a virtual factory, companies can optimize production processes, strengthen quality control, and perform cost-effective testing, ultimately improving efficiency and innovation in manufacturing operations. MongoDB, with its comprehensive features and functionality that cover the entire lifecycle of manufacturing data, is well-positioned to implement virtual factory capabilities for the manufacturing industry. These capabilities allow MongoDB to be in a unique position to fast-track the digital transformation journey of manufacturers. Learn more: MongoDB & IIoT: A 4-Step Data Integration Manufacturing at Scale: MongoDB & IIoT Manufacturing with MongoDB Thank you to Karolina Ruiz Rojelj for her contributions to this post.
Three Major IoT Data-Related Challenges and How to Address Them
IoT has formed itself a crucial component for future-oriented solutions and holds a massive potential of economic value. McKinsey & Company estimates that by 2030, IoT (Internet of Things) will enable $5.5 trillion to $12.6 trillion in value worldwide, including the value captured by consumers and customers. For proof of its growing popularity and consumers’ dependency on it, you likely don't need to look any further than your own wrist. From fitness bands to connected vehicles, smart homes, and fleet-management solutions in manufacturing and retail, IoT already connects billions of devices worldwide, with many more to come. As more IoT enabled devices come online, with increasingly sophisticated sensors, choosing the right underlying technology to make IoT solutions easier to implement and help companies seize new innovative opportunities is essential. In this blog we will discuss how MongoDB has successfully addressed three major IoT data-related challenges across various industries, including Manufacturing, Retail, Telecommunications, and Healthcare. The challenges are the following: Data Management Real-Time Analytics Supply Chain Optimization FIgure 1: MongoDB Atlas for IoT Let's dive right in! Data management Storing, transmitting, and processing the large amount of data that IoT devices produce is a significant challenge. Additionally, the data produced by IoT devices often comes in variable structures. This data must be carefully timestamped, indexed, and correlated with other data sources to make the context required for effective decision-making. This data volume and complexity combination makes it difficult to effectively and efficiently process data from IoT devices. Bosch Consider Bosch IoT Suite , a family of products and services in IoT device management, IoT data management, and IoT edge by Bosch Digital. These products and services hold over 250 international IoT projects and over 10 million connected devices. Bosch implemented MongoDB to store, manage, and analyze data in real time. MongoDB’s ability to handle structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data, and efficient data modeling with JSON make it easy to map the information model of each device to its associated document in the database. In addition, dynamic schemas support agile development methodologies and make it simple to develop apps and software. Adding new devices, sensors, and assets is easy, which means the team can focus on creating better software. ThingSpace Another example is that of ThingSpace , Verizon’s market-leading IoT connectivity management platform, which provides the network access required to deliver various IoT products and services. Verizon works with companies that purchase network access from it to connect their devices, bundled together with their own solutions, which they sell to end users. ThingSpace’s customers each sell an IoT product that needs reliable connectivity to ensure the devices always work, which WiFi cannot offer. Verizon’s monolithic RDBMS-based system would not be able to scale to handle both transactional and time-series workloads, so Verizon decided it needed a distributed database architecture going forward. MongoDB proved to be the only solution that scaled to meet Verizon’s requirements across different use cases and combinations of workload types. The immense processing needs resulting from the high number of devices and high velocity of messages coming in were only addressed by MongoDB’s highly available, scalable architecture. Native MongoDB Time Series allow for improved performance, through optimized storage with clustered indexes and optimized Time-Series query operators. MongoDB's advanced capabilities, such as flexible data modeling, powerful indexing and Time Series provide an effective solution for managing the complex and diverse data generated by IoT devices. Real-time analytics Real-time data analytics, one of the most crucial parts of big data analytics today, brings value to businesses for making more data-driven real-time decisions. However, despite its importance, very few can respond to changes in data minute by minute or second by second. Many challenges arise when it comes to the implementation of real-time analytics for enterprises. Storing such a huge volume of data and analyzing it in real time is an entirely different story. Thermo Fisher Cloud Let’s consider the Thermo Fisher Cloud, one of the largest cloud platforms for the scientific community on AWS. MS Instrument Connect allows Thermo Fisher customers to see live experiment results from any mobile device or browser. Each experiment produced millions of "rows" of data, which led to suboptimal performance with existing databases. Internal developers needed a database that could easily handle a wide variety of fast-changing data. MongoDB's expressive query language and rich secondary indexes provided the flexibility to support both ad-hoc and predefined queries customers needed for their scientific experiments. Anytime I can use a service like MongoDB Atlas, I’m going to take that so that we at Thermo Fisher can focus on what we’re good at, which is being the leader in serving science. Joseph Fluckiger, Sr. Software Architect @Thermo Fisher MongoDB Atlas scales seamlessly and is capable of ingesting enormous amounts of sensor and event data to support real-time analysis for catching any critical events or changes as they happen. That gives organizations new capabilities, including: Capturing streaming or batch data of all types without excessive data mapping Analyzing data easily and intuitively with a built-in aggregation framework Delivering data insights rapidly and at scale with ease With MongoDB organizations can optimize queries to quickly deliver results to improve operations and drive business growth. Supply chain optimization Items move through different locations in the supply chain, making it hard to maintain end-to-end visibility throughout their journey. The lack of control on any stage can dramatically harm the efficiency of planning, slow down the entire supply chain and ultimately result in lower return on investment. From optimizing warehouse space by sourcing raw materials as needed, to real-time supply chain insights, IoT-enabled supply chains can help significantly optimize these processes by eliminating blind spots and inefficiencies. Longbow Advantage Longbow Advantage delivers substantial business results by enabling clients to optimize their supply chains. Millions of shipments move through multiple warehouses every day, generating massive quantities of data throughout the day that must be analyzed for real-time visibility and reporting. Its flagship warehouse visibility platform, Rebus, combines real-time performance reporting with end-to-end warehouse visibility and intelligent labor management. Longbow needed a database solution that could process quantities of that scale and deliver real-time warehouse visibility and reporting at the heart of Rebus, and it knew it could not rely on monolithic, time-consuming spreadsheets to do so. It became clear that MongoDB’s document database model was a good match and would allow Rebus to gather, store, and build visibility into disparate data in near real time. Another key component of smart supply chain solutions is IoT-enabled mobile apps that provide real-time visibility and facilitate on-the-spot data-driven decisions. In such situations, the offline first paradigm becomes crucial, since staff need access to data in areas where connectivity is poor or nonexistent. Realm by MongoDB is a lightweight, object-oriented embedded database technology for resource constrained environments. It is an ideal solution for storing data on mobile devices. By utilizing MongoDB’s Realm SDKs, which wrap the Realm database, and Atlas Device Sync , which enables seamless data synchronization between MongoDB and Realm on your mobile phone with minimal developer efforts, businesses can rapidly develop mobile applications and drive innovation. MongoDB provides a powerful solution for IoT-enabled supply chains that can optimize processes and eliminate inefficiencies, enabling organizations to make data-driven decisions and improve supply chain efficiency. Conclusion The IoT industry is rapidly evolving, and as the number of connected devices grows, so do the challenges faced by businesses leveraging these solutions. Through a range of real-world use cases, we have seen how MongoDB has helped businesses deal with IoT data management, perform real-time analytics and optimize their supply chains, driving innovation in a variety of industries. With its unique features and capabilities, designed to manage the heavy lifting for you, MongoDB is well-positioned to continue playing a crucial role in the ongoing digital transformation of the IoT landscape. Want to learn more or get started with MongoDB? Check out our IoT resources MongoDB IoT Reference Architecture Migrate existing applications - with Relational Migrator MongoDB & IIoT ebook IoT webpage