Advantech's manufacturing centers began their active intelligence-oriented transformation years ago, collecting information from sensors at operating sites and uploading it to the cloud for real-time analysis with visual presentation. Now factory directory and leaders can see the current status of production lines no matter where they may be located. Previously, data monitoring in a factory required manual operation, which not only wasted time but also resulted in higher error rates. Machine failures and unsuccessful staff dispatch, if any, affected factory production schedules. Generally, yield statistics would only be available when production was completed or at the end of the month, when work order progress could finally be understood and operation results be reviewed. But now, since the digital production line management upgrade has been complete, the benefits of Industry 4.0 are obvious: reduced production time, reduced manufacturing costs, and improved capacity and quality yield.
Construction of Model Factory Showcases Potential of Industry 4.0
Smart factory manufacturing describes the collection, integration and analysis of all factory information using sensors, the cloud, big data and other technologies to realize the combined goals of enhancing efficiency and reducing costs. The overall concept of Industry 4.0 is not difficult to understand, but the actual implementation does involve a variety of challenges.
According to Lingo Lin, Vice President of Advantech's Taipei Manufacturing Center, the key in acting on Industry 4.0 is determination. Each factory has its own production line configuration, production processes, and equipment. It is crucial that those engaged in the industry dare to accept the pain and challenges of transformation and face the truths revealed by the data after introducing new systems. Industry 4.0 is not simply the introduction of an information system or the construction of hardware equipment. It is a staged development process; comprehensive factory equipment perception, data collection and networking produce optimized automation and labor savings. Integration and analysis plus data visualization enable decision making based on data analysis and help develop the factory's required smart services. These stages must be developed gradually in order to achieve factory intelligence.
Cloud-linked Control of All Factory Information
"The cloud strategic situation room is the most obvious change in Advantech's upgrade to Industry 4.0," said Jonney Chang, Vice General Manager of Advantech's Automation Systems & Solutions/ "The strategic situation room can be physical or virtual," added Lingo Lin.
Advantech collects, integrates and uploads data produced by sensors, along with general factory information, to a cloud platform and presents the above to management in the strategic situation room. Due to the link with cloud technology, management can connect with the Industry 4.0 information platform online without time and space constraints to grasp production line information in real time, including equipment status such as which operators are at which production stations, which products are being made, progress of which order execution, production yield and so on, so as to implement decisions more easily. Both factory and management evolve together when senior executives and grassroots employees cooperate closely with each other.
According to Jonney Chang, the strategic situation rook, is different from a central control room in a traditional factory. A traditional factory collects data for the purpose of monitoring. As soon as a problem arises, management retrieves data in the central control room to determine reasons for the problem, somewhat similar to the role of a data storage center. In contrast, the strategic situation room is an oriented, decision-making center that collects and analyzes factory production and operation data and displays the factory production and operation data and displays the factory environment and equipment status to facilitate decision-making. If an abnormal situation arises, the system automatically alerts the relevant leaders. It is the soul of factory management and operation.
SRP Software and Hardware Integration Simplifies Industry 4.0 Transition
For those in manufacturing with the intention of transformation to Industry 4.0, Jonney Chang advised them to think about what problems they want to solve before making plans. Advantech, for instance, identified production waste as a potential target, and expected to make further improvements. However, it turned out that the original data collected was insufficient to produce a clear cut path. As a result, it embarked on planning for its own Industry 4.0 transformation.
Therefore, data collection is deservedly called the foundation of Industry 4.0. Though data collection is not difficult, the depth and breadth of collection decides the scope of data application. Thus, where the amount of data is found insufficient, it is necessary to decide whether that data insufficiently is in production lines or equipment.
If production line data is insufficient, it will be necessary to add an action in the production line. For two example, Advantech has introduced an auto labeler in a production line to replace a manual labeling operation; it has transformed its original process of manual steel plate number painting to automatic infrared scanning to reduce operation time. If equipment replacement is impossible on the production line, equipment data will be insufficient. In that case, an enterprise may be able to upgrade by adding external equipment that collects data from the original equipment. At present, Advantech supports over 450 controller drive programs/communication protocols and all kinds of I/O sensing interfaces to fully meet demands of data collection of different manufacturing devices.
Jonney Chang mentioned that Advantech has a history of over 30 years of devoting itself to industrial automation. From basic data collection to equipment networking, it has developed a series of complete solutions. In recent years, more resources have been concentrated in the roll out of smart factory SRP (solution ready platform) software and hardware integration solutions, emphasizing equipment networking and production visualization programs, providing one-stop services to manufacturers, and avoiding obstacles that may be encountered in the introduction of Industry 4.0 and accelerating the construction of smart factories.
"Industry 4.0 is a dynamic process with no downtime that is constantly advancing and changing, Advantech is still continuing the planning of Industry 4.0. The next step is expected to integrate information into the platform. In the future, Industry 4.0 should drive upgrades and growth of the entire industry through applied experience and solutions that jointly usher in a data-driver, intelligent world," said Chang.
Writtern by Liao Peijum. Interview with Jonney Chang, Vice President of Advantech Automation Systems & Solutions; Lingo Lin, Vice President of Advantech Taipei Manufacturing Center