Omron Automation has produced a positioning paper outlining its view of digitalised machine automation. It considers the core technologies needed to realize a smart digitalised manufacturing infrastructure.
The fourth industrial revolution will be a convergence of the physical world and the virtual one. Moreover, it has the potential for a more disruptive change than any previous industrial revolution. The extent of this need can be seen from the growth of connected devices and components. This growth is forecast to become exponential as IoT is adopted by more manufacturing organisations.
When considering connected objects, it is important to understand that IoT includes all physical devices. They do not have to have a web connection or even carry any electronic intelligence. An object that makes its virtual representation available to an IT system, is also seen as an Industry 4.0-component.
For example, a simple relay manufactured under a traceable production process. By associating the relay with a unique serial number stored in a QR code, users can use this code to identify the relay. Scanning this code will show its production and installation dates. It becomes part of the digitalized production line, by scanning its code. At that point, its age, specification and life expectancy become immediately available to the system.
By recording the operations and the load applied to the contacts, the control system can predict the remaining life of the relay. When this prediction indicates an increased probability of failure, the system can order a replacement. Installation during the machine’s maintenance cycle will avoid unexpected downtime and production loss.
If we look at machines, lines or plants we can recognize that we have a hierarchy of nested devices that build the system. The Industry 4.0 component concept and administration shell allow an easy and logical scalability of cyber physical systems (CPS). The example of a simple CPS is also useful to explain and clarify the real value behind IoT.
Digitalised machine automation
The power of digitalisation is not in the data itself, or the connectivity, or in the processing capabilities of a device. The real value of the Internet of Things comes by using these cyber elements to make an object, a machine or a plant perform better. Within a CPS, the combination of cyber and physical elements can transform a product into a Smart product. A Smart product is a product that can perform a more useful function with the empowerment provided by the Internet of Things.
Similarly, processing large amounts of data provide better and more useful Smart services. Smart services including predictive and preventive maintenance are possible by processing large amounts machine date. This requires an incremental and structured approach to digitalization.
The changing business environment
Manufacturing strategy and company infrastructure need careful transformation and a well-thought plan. To conduct the transformation, several changes in the business environment must happen. These will ensure efficient integration of business partners in the horizontal integrated ecosystem. A network of reliable partners is also a crucial element to succeeding in this challenge.
Collaboration will drive the supply chain to consider how far they need to cooperate with partners. Markedly, they must consider the creation and leverage of their scalable business platforms. In a factory, vertical integration of communication is the key enabler to manage all the available assets and the relevant data. Seamless communication infrastructure enables vertical integration from plant level down to device level.
The Platform Industry 4.0 has recently reconfirmed the research roadmap needed to achieve a full Industry 4.0 implementation. The roadmap predicts a digitalized enterprise will not become reality before 2030. This is despite technologies being already available to create and use digitalised production. A successful company cannot wait until all the technology will be available. It would also be wrong to surrender to the hype and get disappointed by not meeting expectations.
Finally, the best approach involves starting the use of available technology to address the most value-added digital applications. To then gradually move on through the digital journey whilst also ensuring high levels of security in manufacturing.
Download the Omron whitepaper “Machine Automation concepts to enable innovation for