In the manufacturing industry today, Industry 4.0 is becoming a hot topic as automation solutions expand from simple machines and robots to dreams of entirely automated and connected facilities.
Vertical integration and end-to-end engineering are key to the advancement of this dream according to Ben Hope, technology driver for advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 at Festo Canada.
“Vertical integration is top floor to shop floor communications, and the idea of end-to-end engineering is about communicating and coordinating engineering data along the entire value chain,” Hope explained.
“These will result from the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) so we can communicate with our automation components,” Hope continued. “This will allow us to harvest data and translate it into useful information.”
Compared to the old style of data collection in the manufacturing industry, IIoT solutions provide a more hands-off approach.
Automation solutions equipped with analytical software and access to the Cloud can upload data right to facility management. These solutions can be optimized to meet the dynamic and changing needs of an application to increase efficiency and even influence business decisions.
Modular automation design can push this versatility even further.
“You can design functionality and modularize it to make it autonomous, so it’s self-intelligent,” Hope said. “The PLC can then make decisions based on real time information down on the shop floor level, while passing information up to the ERP or MES system.”
IIoT networks will be decentralized across a facility, rather than under one super-PLC.
“For one PLC to take care of everything is far too complex and not realistic,” he explained. “We need modules that can scale up and scale down on both capacity and functionality, to meet that demand and for the factory to remain productive.”
Adoption of IIoT Systems and Cyber Security
One of the biggest obstacles to the adoption of IIoT technology is fear of industrial espionage. Once online, corporate and manufacturing secrets are in a new and potentially vulnerable environment.
Interfaces with inherent security features will be a must for IIoT-enabled manufacturing systems.
“Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OCP UA) is an example of inherent security,” Hope said. “With the right inherent security, you can do machine-to-machine communication and machine-to-cloud communication. I think the IT world is becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of shop floor to top floor communication.”
Small to medium manufacturers maybe be the first to enjoy the benefits of this communication, according to Hope. Tier One’s, Two’s and OEMs may be drawn to its use as their customers adopt the technology.
“This can be a competitive advantage and a way to get into the market,” Hope said. “Manufacturers are going to start requiring that they have this kind of connectivity, that they have this scalability in their equipment and it’s going to be up to OEMs to really address and provide that.”
Hope predicts that by 2025, smart factories will become a significant force in the manufacturing industry as mass production adapts to new opportunities for more agile systems.
“If you’re not addressing these kinds of technologies, then you’re ultimately going to fail,” Hope said.
For more information on Festo’s products and their plans for an IIoT driven future, visit their website at www.festo.com.