Integrated Manufacturing for Smarter Factories

Integrated Manufacturing for Smarter Factories

More and more everyday devices from home appliances to cars are now connected to the Internet. The same trend and its impact can also be feltin the manufacturing industry. Manufacturers can no longer afford to operate their machinery in silos at the expense of efficiency and interoperability. In this day and age of smart factories, a production floor is like an invisible information highway, where data are constantly exchanged between machines.

Omron 3-i and its Integrated pillar

Echoing this data-driven approach is Omron’s 3-i manufacturing concept, which takes into account of Industry 4.0, Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and other technological developments. You can think of 3-i as a blueprint to create better and more seamlessly connected smart factories. These, according to leading analysts, will not only provide greater productivity, but possibly trigger another industrial revolution–rapidly accelerating innovation at an unprecedented pace,taking us one step closer to fully autonomous lights-out manufacturing.

Omron 3-i is based on three important pillars of Intelligent, Integrated and Interactive. In this second instalment of our 3-i series, we will be exploring the Integrated pillar to achieve seamless technology integration through advanced control.

Integrated Automation Platforms

Today, there are sophisticated Integrated Automation Platforms dedicated to the complete control and management of plants. They enable synchronous operations of all machine devices and exciting new capabilities, such as ultra-precision motion, intelligent robotics, and database connectivity.

Other benefits include a simplified architectural design, reduced programming effort, and increased productivity. This could potentially lead to unparalleled speeds without compromising reliability, and more importantly, sets the stage for higher value-added manufacturing.

A machine controller also supports remote monitoring capability, allowing the users to access all performance and process parameters on-the-go, anytime and anywhere. By turning factory floor data into actionable, high-value information, manufacturers stand to gain tremendously from the following propositions:

Here are two defining characteristics of these platforms:

  • An integrated development environment (IDE) and software
  • An integrated connection

IDE –One-stop tool for automation

An IDE is a software suite to interface, configure, simulate, and monitor the following crucial aspects of next-generation factory automation and smart manufacturing systems.

  • Motion
    Real-time synchronous control of position, speed and torque to ensure smooth and dependable action, while bolstering speed and precision.
  • Safety
    All safety-related data can now beshared and analysed, making safety functions like emergency shutdown and safety door easier to manage.
  • Vision
    Besides verification and grading applications,new shape-searching algorithms can realise even more accurate object detection.
  • Robotics
    Effortlessly operate a group of robots, plus capitalise on the latest“time-based robotic function blocks”capability for easier programming.
  • Sensing
    Collection and synchronisation of high-precision detection and positioning data via the network. The accumulated production knowledge can also become an invaluable asset.
  • Information
    Real-time communication with external databases, and high-speed data exchange optimised for big data to improve productivity and aid predictive maintenance.

One integrated connection for all machines

Instantaneous machine control and plant data management can only be attained through a fast and ubiquitous connection to connect enterprise and machine-class devices. It is why the best Integrated Automation Platforms now support EtherCAT. As the world’s standard factory automation network, EtherCAT offers the fastest networking performance, is flexible, and supports up to 192 connections.

The benefits of a fully integrated approach

Businesses can leverage integrated manufacturing and Integrated Automation Platforms to gain two distinct advantages. From a control evolution standpoint, a more sophisticated control application can solve many existing production issues, reduce workers’ workload, and intermittent stoppages. For instance, incorporating vibration monitoring and suppression for high-speed material handling.

Another substantial benefit is fine-tuning technology to maximise machine performance. Although visual verification is an effective way to minimise production disruption, it is extremely laborious and cannot be done in real-time.

Here is where Cyber-physical technology comes into the picture. It overcomes these limitations by simulating real data in a virtual environment before feeding the best results back to actualrunning machines.This integration of the virtual and real worlds has the potential to reinvent manufacturing, creating new value with machines that can operate faster and more precisely.

Harley Davidson leading the manufacturing revolution

Over at Harley-Davidson’s US manufacturing facility, every machine is connected, monitored, and analysed continuously via an integrated automation system. The collected data is used to anticipate maintenance needs so as to eliminate workflow interruptions, as well as to identify factors that will improve efficiency and throughput.

This has enabled the iconic motorbike maker to tell (within the nearest tenth of a second) the time taken to install every component, and keeps its floor managers informed of issues at an individual part level. In fact, Harley-Davidson can even measure rotating speed ofthe factory’s ventilation fans to create a conducive workspace.

So far, the system has saved the company US$200 million operating costs, and slashed its production schedule for new orders from 21 days to merely six hours.

Integrated Manufacturing is the way to go

Traditional automation is no longer adequate for our fast-changing and highly competitive economy, where consumers expect products to be personalised and produced faster than ever. This trend calls for a fully integrated production floor for manufacturers to harness the true potential of technology, embodied in innovative concepts like Omron 3-i, computer-integrated manufacturing and integrated manufacturing systems.

Early adopters, including Harvey Davidson, are reaping the benefits and positioning themselves well ahead of their competitors. You could be next! Click here for more information. Check out our other 3-i manufacturing series on Intelligent and Interactive.