The challenge is to foresee the upcoming opportunities for entrepreneurs and develop solutions using the latest available technology.
The trends catching up
Edge computing: Edge computing is gaining importance because small, dedicated PCs can pre-process data before the same is pushed to the cloud.
Human control technology: Evolution has decreed that the central nervous system regulates human functions. Therefore, our brain, the powerful controller, acts as a modular central computer that accesses a closed process image of the entire body via our nervous system. Here, the speed of communication matters most.
Similarly, ethernet is the physical high-speed medium, and the EtherCAT fieldbus is a communication protocol that enables the exchange of process images collected to the controller. As our brain simultaneously processes multiple sensory inputs, such as visual, acoustic or tactile, the TwinCAT software runs the system using appropriate algorithms.
Machine Learning (ML): Machine Learning doesn’t follow the classic engineering route to design, formulate and deploy a solution for a specific task; rather the desired algorithms are learned from modelled process data instead. Beckhoff offers a high-performance execution module for trained classic machine-learning algorithms using TwinCAT 3 function and trained neural networks.
Digital connectivity of plants and machineries will get priority. ML, AI, robots, 3D Printing etc, are all the fast-growing trends in manufacturing technology – and have been making rapid inroads in the machines for quite some time. This journey is certainly not a cakewalk because of legacy systems, and it’s a challenge to gather required data from these systems. Products like IoT coupler can be helpful. All the new machines will be available with connectivity features.
Priorities & critical factors of digital transformation
Digital transformation is important, but it needs the right motivation from the top management for implementation. The priority must be to acquire and analyse the data from the shop floor equipment to utilise this information to improve processes, reduce resources, increase efficiencies and increase OEE for visible results of digital transformation. Highly automated energy-efficient machines will be the focus. So, machines should be smart and adequately automated to make the operator task easy, safe and efficient. Also, in the current business scenario, it is advisable to invest in equipment that supports lot-size-one production as the volume and variants that needs to be produced vary dynamically.
Adopting connectivity with real-time data exchange from manufacturing processes using interconnected machines, computerised equipment and networked inventory systems, inter-connected employee health tracking systems and relevant data sharing with customers and vendors will be most beneficial to enterprises. Machine operators and skilled people can be a part of this interconnectivity.
Tips for successful implementation
If digitalisation is implemented only in one section of manufacturing instead of a complete end-to-end process, then the benefits will not be visible. The cost incurred will be looked upon as an expense. Digital transformation is a continuous process, with a full visibility/roadmap of the end results for the complete manufacturing process.