We hear terms like digitalization, digital business or digital transformation all over the place. But they are more than just buzz words. At Cisco, we are on a mission to help our customers transform their business so they can lead their industries.

As Gartner defines it, “Digital business is the creation of new business designs that not only connect people and business, but also connect people and business with things to drive revenue and efficiency.”

To better explain the process of going digital and the benefits, it helps to take a look at an industry that is not traditionally digital, such as manufacturing. Manufacturers invest in machines worth millions of dollars. Keeping factory equipment running optimally is an essential part of running a successful facility and can be a big – and costly – challenge.

Traditionally, to detect a machine issue, a facility employee on the manufacturing floor would put his or her hand on a machine to feel vibrations (or heat, sound or other indicators) and then make a call based on past experience if it feels abnormal or not. You can imagine this would take an employee who has spent quite a bit of time with this type of equipment to detect an issue. It would be extremely difficult for a new employee.

Luckily, through digital transformation, there is an easier way. At Cisco we’ve been collaborating with Mazak, a builder of manufacturing equipment, on its SmartBox – a mini electrical cabinet mounted on the side of a machine enclosure; enabling the box to be connected to a machine in several ways. Within the SmartBox is Cisco Connected Streaming Analytics software embedded into a Cisco Industrial Ethernet 4000 switch; analyzing the vibration patterns on machine spindles (a rod/pin that revolves inside the machine). This is a great example of edge analytics on sensor data.


This solution is able to pick up ultrasonic machine vibrations beyond human perception and analyze the data quicker – and in more complex ways – than humanly possible. If machine vibrations exceed the normal threshold, an alert is created so an employee can take immediate action. In addition, the collection of raw machine data on the factory floor allows manufacturing operations to collect historical information providing a dashboard and reporting of the overall process performance in the factory cell, which also acquires training data for predictive analytics models.

Less time is spent manually on trying to detect issues and more time can be spent in strategic ways, such as preventative maintenance, productivity and other efficiencies. In the short-term, identifying and avoiding downtime can help a manufacturer keep up factory schedules and customer satisfaction with delivery lead times. And in the long-term, increase equipment utilization and longevity.

This is the value of digital business. If every single employee is a decision-maker, organizations must focus on enhancing the quality of each decision taken. The integration of things, connected and intelligent, with people and business enables better and faster decision-making.

Interested in learning more about streaming analytics? Check out February’s Data Storytellers Blog.


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Mike Flannagan

No Longer with Cisco