How Industrial Data Was Born (Part I)

We take for granted the data that is all around us. That data helps us better understand our processes and how we can improve them. But sometimes we have to pause and remember how it all started and why that data became so important to us.

The industrial revolution was the genesis of industrial data although the latter didn’t show up until recently. As disciplines and processes for industry were augmented by better technology, we were able to store industrial data and mine it for information. These industrial processes ranged from for pure process (O&G, water, etc.) to discrete (automotive, appliance, etc.) to everything in between in hybrid production which includes aspects of both process (or continuous) and discrete industrial applications.

The Technology Journey

In the beginning, we gathered data manually. Reams of production logs were kept by workers. When I think of the beginning industrial data, however, I think of relay control. Electrical mechanical relays were an important step in the path leading to industrial data.

Electrical relays are used in many products around us such as cars and appliances. In industrial applications like manufacturing, do you remember some of the first industrial relays that were used in the beginning of automation?  We thought we were so advanced.

This relay started an electric motor. Motor control is the  foundation to factory automation. These relays were mounted in large panels and wired together forming a basic Boolean logic to do automatic control of industrial applications.

Here’s a quick example of this logic. This shows “anding” logic where stop “and” start have to be closed or the auxiliary contact (M) is closed “and” the overload (O.L.) is “not” tripped then the motor (M) will start.

Take a look at this relay panel used in industrial automation from 1965. This entire panel probably executed the equivalent of a couple lines of code.  How clumsy it looks to us now. Do you remember using equipment like this?  What was your first experience?