An interview with Mao Oguri from PATLITE on Network Connection

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Mao Oguri, Business Support Manager at PATLITE

Mao was born in Osaka, Japan and joined PATLITE in 2013. After working as a salesperson in the Japanese domestic market, he transferred to the Global Marketing Division. Mao oversees the marketing of signalling products like signal towers, signal beacons, and audibles. In 2022, he moved to Germany to support his colleagues and customers in Europe.

1.How is PATLITE involved in the IIoT industry?

PATLITE offers products that can connect to the network. Especially, our WD wireless data acquisition system allows for easy visualization and monitoring of production in the factory. The WD system collects information that determines when and in what light patterns signal towers are turned on in the factory. We also have many signal towers and beacons that can be connected via Ethernet or USB cables.

2. What do you think are the key factors in driving this industry forward?

In times of staff shortages, the implementation of IIoT is crucial. Thanks to IIoT, advanced technologies and networked machines enable more efficient and faster plant operation. In addition, the stored data allows processes to be better visualized and optimized, errors caused by human can be prevented and a basis for future improvements can be created.

3. What do you think are the most challenging aspects of working in this industry?

At PATLITE we use wireless connections. Sometimes the network can be disconnected because Wi-Fi transmits data using microwaves. Other errors may also occur, such as background noise in wireless networks. In terms of wireless communications, noise is any energy interference that reduces the quality of a wireless signal. Of course, our products also save the data if the connection is interrupted, so customers don’t have to worry about data loss. However, it means that the system is not working in real time. In order to visualize data in real time, we need to develop a more stable connection system. It’s difficult, but our R&D team is constantly trying to advance our networking products to reach the next level.

4. What do you think is holding some companies back from investing in IIoT?

Mainly costs. It’s sometimes expensive for companies to implement an IIoT system and products. While it’s difficult to clearly predict the impact of IIoT, these companies may fear that their return on investment will not be enough, or they may not believe that IIoT will have enough positive impact to offset the cost of acquisition. The path to IIoT solutions is always quite challenging and it can be difficult to find the right time to implement such solutions.

5. How can your customers start using your series?

Our WD series can be started only in one way, using a transmitter and a receiver. Therefore, the customers can start with the cheapest option, then after they discover the advantages of the WD, they can expand the system by investing in other devices, to fulfil their projects and applications.

Luckily, PATLITE products are suitable for various industries and can connect to existing equipment regardless of brand or age. Watch the video below to find out more.

6. How do you think security concerns have been addressed?

We keep updating the firmware to protect data. For example, in some of our last updates we integrated the use of secure protocols such as HTTPS, SNMP v3 or SSH to connect the products. Fortunately, we have no problems with the security of our products but as the reality keeps changing, we have to be prepared that there might be other security issues appearing in the future. Therefore, it is important to be up to date and focused on safety concerns. All industry-leading companies need to keep developing the security architecture for data protection.

7. IIoT is very much a data driven industry, do you offer data services? How does this solution fare compared to competitor services?

We only provide the software to set up the system. To manage the factory visualization, customers need to use the software provided by our partners. It may seem inconvenient, but the situation and the requirements for the system are different depending on the needs of our customers. We have several partners who can offer extensive software with different options for customers to choose from. If you want to create your own solution, this option is also available. This is one of the advantages of our system.

8. What level of support do you offer your customers in adopting your solutions?

Our products are quite easy to use so customers don’t need much assistance. However, if additional help is needed, our customers can always contact us. We also offer online meeting and technical support options, or even face-to-face meetings if required.

9. What do you think will be the main focus in IIoT over the next couple of years?

For industry leaders, the IIoT has become a common and important topic. On the other hand, many small companies have not yet implemented an IIoT system. Companies that offer solutions like ours must examine the use of such technologies and solutions for each individual customer. To achieve this we must try to lower the price and improve it to make it easier and more accessible. Due to our efforts and the efforts of other companies, IIoT solutions within the industry will increase more and more in a few years.

10. What are you most passionate about working in this industry?

PATLITE is the world’s leading signalling equipment company. The purpose of our brand is to share our products with customers and visualize the status of the equipment. Our devices are widely used in many factories. We are proud of these products and that they can be used for the IIoT solution. Since the meanings of the different colours of these devices, such as red for “stop” or “error in the system”, are already known to the operators, this colour information is really useful for visualization and analysis of the factory condition.

Products from PATLITE WD series.

11. Is PATLITE already looking towards Industry 5.0?

Yes of course. After a few years, the workforce situation will deteriorate worldwide, and people will have to invest in automated solutions as the fifth industrial revolution is about human-robot collaboration. In order to solve many problems, we’re constantly observing and developing new technologies such as AI, 5G/6G, VR/XR, etc. In addition to this, we’re trying to increase the sustainability of our products to make future technologies even more environmentally friendly.

12. The IoT industry has many manufacturers all working toward various standards or proprietary specifications, this prevents challenges when communicating between one-another. How open would you say your solutions are in the Industry? 

With the WD system, the connection between the transmitter and receiver is closed. But the receiver can connect to Socket, MySQL, Modbus/TCP and MindSphere. Our other network products are also connected via common protocols.

13. What is unique about your PATLITE technology in connecting all systems into one data driven solution?

The WD transmitter can be adapted to our modular signal towers without installation. The transmitter is attached in just a few simple steps and the customer can start collecting and evaluating the data immediately.

14. How do you support real-time data driven productivity?

Data collected across the WD Series is presented on an Andon display or Gantt chart. The operators can easily monitor and understand the situation of their factories in real time.

15. What are your company’s current and future digital ambitions?

Many of our products can’t connect to the network at the moment. Our ambition is to interconnect our entire range of products. This will make our products easier to control due to increased flexibility, and settings will be easier to change. Maybe in the future advanced automation will be able to detect situations and set up our products automatically, allowing our customers to spend their time more efficiently.

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