How to go from legacy system to industry 4.0 on a budget

The digitalisation of manufacturing towards Industry 4.0 can enable advanced predictive maintenance, bottleneck prevention and optimisation. Yet the challenge for most producers is how to move from a legacy system to Industry 4.0 on a budget. The answer may be to take small steps.

According to Omron Automation UK, the key is to make use of every piece of data you generate. Moreover, if the data needed is inaccessible, then make it available. Unlocking the potential in every production system will improve and optimise their output and enable them to harness the power of cloud computing and artificial intelligence at the edge.

Starting with an older production plant does not mean you cannot benefit from the modern tools, processes, and best practices essential for a successful factory. Digitalising information has become a vital bridge, enabling owners and production directors to begin harvesting the data that can provide vital clues to enhancing production.

By taking a measured approach to Industry 4.0 on a budget and gaining early wins in the areas of predictive maintenance, bottleneck prevention and optimisation, the process becomes less daunting.

Starting at the sensor level

As new standards of efficiency and quality become the norm, those seeking a competitive edge are turning to digitalisation. Attaining Industry 4.0 performance on a budget means starting at a sensor level.

Incorporating intelligent sensors into all types of production lines provides information on key production process parameters. They enable the reporting of everything from unit temperature and speed to output shape and size, weight, and hardness. Whatever needs measuring can be measured. Sensors can connect directly to an existing production system, depending on the needs of the factory. They can also form part of a wireless network, sending signals remotely

You cannot manage what you do not measure

The resulting output from these sensors is the raw data for transforming into information and insights. When used correctly, they help to streamline efficiency, remove bottlenecks, reduce downtime, and optimise production cycles.

According to the demands of the process, data storage can be in-house, in the cloud, or both. Similarly, processing can take place in either location as needed. The precise amount of data needed depends on the application, level of digitalisation, output form and required analysis. For comparison, a production line with simple sensors attached to monitor throughput will generate much less data than one with quality-control cameras monitoring multiple types of product forms.

Cloud or edge?

Pulling together the data points from various gates in the production process is an important first step. The speed of many production lines is one of many determining factors in what happens next. Once captured, stored data is available for processing. If it needs intensive analysis (for bottleneck prevention / correlation analysis etc.) then local storage might be selected.

When processing substantial amounts of data, then a cloud solution may be beneficial, although processes needing real-time and constant back-and-forth flow of data to the cloud can cause delays through latency. It is for these situations that edge processing devices are ideal. They enable the processing of data close to the machine without overloading the data network. This means that when processing data at the edge, the results are available sooner and at lower cost.

Industry 4.0 on a budget

If you are progressing towards Industry 4.0 on a budget, there are software solutions that can help. To simplify and automate the process into a meaningful and manageable system, OMRON provides the Sysmac Automation Platform. This offers a proven solution that delivers powerful and robust data capture and processing capabilities.

By providing accurate and predictable data capture and analysis, Sysmac uses an Artificial Intelligence engine to allow real-time data predictive analysis. It has a controller that includes direct SQL database connectivity, with OPC-UA and MQTT compatibility. Furthermore, it provides an easy to configure control for the entire machine or production cell that suits any setup.

Built with security and ease of use in mind, the Sysmac range brings reliability, robustness, and full control into the hands of factory owners looking to benefit from digitalisation. It provides proven tools for manufacturing traceability, predictive maintenance, change simulation or bottleneck resolution. Go here for more information.