All the latest news from the industry weekly compiled by the editorial team for you free of charge.
This eMail is already registered.
An unexpected error occured.
Please accept our Terms of Use.
Registration successful.

‘Smart factory’ itself describes an environment where machinery and equipment are able to improve processes through automation and self-optimisation

Image: B&R Industrial Automation

Smart Manufacturing Shifting gears for operational excellence

Sep 1, 2017

In light of increasing demand to implement smart factory solutions in the automotive sector, the automotive companies can meet the challenges of the future by reducing the amount of resources required to gather & communicate critical information across an organisation and dynamically translate the data into actionable intelligence. A read on…

Industry 4.0 is trending in manufacturing sectors, which includes the IoT, edge computing and cognitive computing. Automotive industry is cost sensitive but moreover technology craving and leading in early adoption of such technologies to become Industry 4.0 ready. This industry witnesses an exemplar shift to the models of mass production by embracing newer technologies. Automotive manufacturers’ globally adopting Industry 4.0 approaches have witnessed improvement in production, productivity, efficiency, inventory management and waste reduction. In India, too we are witnessing eagerness from the automotive manufacturers to adopt these emerging trends and looking at leveraging its benefits.

Challenges facing manufacturing

In traditional production environments, machines, MES and ERP systems are not interconnected. The existing manufacturing units already have legacy systems and MES/ERP in place. One of the challenges for these brownfield factories is collation of data and moving it to the MES. It is mostly handled manually by writing data from every machine and then feeding it in the system. Thus, factory operators do not have access to real-time data, which restricts and delays decision-making.

Today, digitisation is changing prevalent concepts, production techniques and enabling factories to achieve operational excellence. The challenges faced in the ease of adoption of Industry 4.0 are not only application of new technologies through improvement in mechanics and robotics, but also optimising logistics, service and many more aspects. Connected processes form the core of this industrial revolution, providing seamless data exchange between machines and from machines to MES/ERP systems. Thus, this unifies business and manufacturing operations. Automotive industry too is changing and is gearing up for this industrial revolution involving connectivity, mobility, integration and much more. To overcome these challenges, the automotive industry needs continued push towards enhanced automation. Although this may sound abstract, its impact is tangible and fundamentally changes business models in many organisations.

Addressing needs of smart factory

‘Smart factory’ itself describes an environment where machinery and equipment are able to improve processes through automation and self-optimisation. Vital to the smart factory is the technology which makes data collection possible. Smart factory includes intelligent sensors and actuators, motion technology, robots and a robust machine-to-machine network for exchanging data. The benefits of smart factory also extend beyond production of vehicles and into functions like planning, supply chain logistics, and even product development.

Industrial IoT for brownfield

Within many industrial sectors including automotive, manual recording of data from machines on the shop floor and entering it in a system for analytics is a common practice. This method is time-consuming, prone to human errors, not real-time and in a way, expensive. In addition, this might always entail loss of information. It is possible to eliminate these errors with installation of automated systems for data acquisition on the shopfloor. With automated systems for acquiring data from the shopfloor, it is possible to eliminate these errors and acquire the data in real-time. However, in many cases, it is not easy to obtain information from an existing machine for analytics and to use it for optimisations. Orange Box from B&R was developed with this is mind and to provide Greenfield installation benefits to brownfield installation in a cost-effective manner.

Obtaining information from data

Data is believed to be the main component for achieving IIoT-ready factories. IIoT involves not just devices but connected devices, which from a crux of this industrial revolution, generates humongous data. However, it is a challenge to derive meaningful information from this data. Before it can be analysed, it must first be prepared, filtered and structured. A systematic analysis is crucial to obtaining clear, actionable information from the sea of raw recorded data. In addition, well-informed decisions are the only way to achieve a sustainable increase in productivity.

A middleware is necessary for translating this data from the field into meaningful information and moving it to the MES/ERP. The APROL PDA from B&R simplifies this process data capture, acting as a middleware. It enables process data acquisition coupled with energy monitoring and condition monitoring. It collects and analyses logs, reports, and monitors data to enable the collection and analysis of Big Data. Users, thus, do not need different systems for satisfying different needs of energy, condition monitoring and data acquisition and can be handled in a single system. Condition monitoring systems help in predicting the behaviour of the machines and reducing unplanned downtimes. APROL PDA can be used to monitor one or more lines of machines. A clear overview of the entire plant, including aggregated status signals, makes it possible to assess the state of individual production lines or an entire plant at a glance. APROL is equipped with comprehensive analysis and reporting tools that generate individual reports at the push of a button. These analysis and reporting tools round off the functionality of the automation platform and make the system an ideal tool to meet the challenges of the future. Factory operators get a complete view of Overall Equipment Efficiency(OEE), energy data and condition data at their fingertips.

Human-robot collaboration

Increased user demands of achieving high quality, accuracy and productivity are fueling demands for robots in India. Automotive industry is one of the largest consumers of robots with robots being deployed extensively in paint shops, weld shops, assembly lines and various other units. Conventional installation of robots bounds them by cages, safety doors, mats with a view to increase human safety. On the other hand, this approach reduces productivity, as opening these cages or interrupting the safety mechanisms usually cuts off the supply to the robots and brings them to a standstill. Restarting robots post stoppages requires homing of the robot, which increases stoppages, waste and decreases productivity. With technology developments, robots no longer need to be bounded by cages and it is possible for humans and robots to work together safely. Today, manufacturing units for assembly lines actively deploy these approaches, helping them to increase productivity, ensure safe operations and reduce machine footprint. This eventually gives rise to a lean manufacturing line with increased efficiency and safety.

openROBOTICS has opened up new dimensions of robotics integration for machinery and production lines. With completely uniform programming for every component in the line – including robotics – our customers around the world gain full benefit of holistic approaches to operation, diagnostics and maintenance. This provides an option for total integration with a possibility of a single controller from B&R for robot as well as machine control and programming.

Future and beyond

Today, Indian automotive manufacturers have initiated projects or are at least thinking of moving towards Industry 4.0 readiness. Digitisation is enriching every aspect of manufacturing and it is enhancing efficiency, accuracy, productivity and quality. It is increasingly observed that data driven decision-making is finding its way into the manufacturing process. These new technologies are actual game changers and lead to higher profitability. It is clear that Industry 4.0 presents tremendous opportunities and this fact is highlighted by the industry demands for smart manufacturing. B&R provides users with automation solutions for every step towards industrial IoT and is an ideal partner for a successful IIoT implementation.

Image Gallery

  • The APROL PDA from B&R simplifies this process data capture, acting as a middleware

    Image: B&R Industrial Automation

  • Automotive industry is one of the largest consumers of robots with robots being deployed extensively in paint shops, weld shops, assembly lines and various other units

    Image: B&R Industrial Automation

Companies related to this article
Related articles