Smart Factory: The Connected Shop Floor

Apr 27, 2017

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In a smart factory, humans, machines, and resources interact with each other and exchange information. The manufacturing facilities have diagnostic capabilities and are able to repair themselves. Thus, a smart factory represents a self-organizing system. A continuous data exchange ensures optimum machine performance.

Smart data management

The main aspects of the connected factory are the integration of manufacturing with information and communication technology as well as real-time data availability. The basic requirement for creating a database is a machinery connection. Thereby, integration platforms help to develop a homogenous IT landscape from the company’s data islands.

However, primarily there are questions to be answered before starting with factory digitalization process: which data is the most relevant and how can the data flow be managed?

On the one hand, it is a matter of organization. On the other hand, it’s a real challenge for the technical infrastructure. Entering the required data manually is not an acceptable solution. However, a so-called Programmable Automation Controller (PAC) can provide a valuable assistance. The controllers aggregate, classify and arrange data from the shop floor.

The platform connects all the machines involved in the manufacturing process, so it can undertake the entire production control.  For this purpose, data that are relevant for a production step should be fed into the system. The controllers manage the data processing using the involved systems and then report the production and quality data.

A ‘universal language’ for connected machines

Though some branch-specific standards already exist, the variety of proprietary data interfaces at the shop floor level remains a challenge for manufacturing. The system landscapes of companies are heterogeneous.

In fact, a comprehensive implementation of the initiative ‘Industry 4.0’ requires a further standardization.  However, for the coming years, it is not expected yet.  Until then, the controllers can make the machines ‘speaking the same language’.

PAC in a smart factory

Programmable Automation Controller (PAC) can help to enhance transparency of the manufacturing process due to networking and intelligent machine communication. The controllers transmit the right data to the right place in order to early recognize variations.

Additionally, they are able to protect MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning System) from function overloading. Equipment integration solutions, that various systems and machines can be easily integrated with, are the ideal platforms for a step-by-step migration towards Industry 4.0. They enable the required lossless communication and transparency based on simple administration and manageable costs.

Learn more about Qulix IoT services.