Smart Manufacturing
The Factory of The Future
by Dale Whitfield, October 2014

What can we expect to see in the Factory of The Future?

The Factory of the Future will be built around an Internet of Things (IoT). The concept and examples have been around for a while under the guise of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications and various other headings. Ultimately, everything is connected. Machines are connected to other machines.

The German company Fraunhofer "Europe's largest application-oriented research organization" says the following:
"The "Integrated Industry" sector has, thus, been in the focus of many research activities at Fraunhofer for some time. Cyber-physical systems link the virtual world to objects of the real world. This creates the "Internet of things" where real products and production processes are linked to the Internet. This accelerates processes and helps to better utilize resources. However, what is decisive for the success of the integrated industry, is the human factor."

A new way to look at the embedded systems of tomorrow is encapsulated in the concept of Cyber-physical systems (CPS)

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) stated:
"Cyber-physical systems (CPS) are engineered systems that are built from, and depend upon, the seamless integration of computational algorithms and physical components. Advances in CPS will enable capability, adaptability, scalability, resiliency, safety, security, and usability that will far exceed the simple embedded systems of today."

Standards for inter-operability that will facilitate machine interactions are in the process of being developed.

How do we prepare for this with our products?

Some initial thoughts:

  • Interconnectedness of machines
  • Machine awareness of its role and its effectiveness in the production process
  • Machine Identity - what role and functions it is able to perform
  • Auto configuration of peripheral devices
  • Cabinet free machine designs
  • Move the HMI / UI off the production floor
  • IT barriers will come down and we need to be ready
  • Industry 4.0 - German Government strategy to promote computerization of manufacturing industry. The intelligent / Smart Factory. Connects into the IoT. Reality in 10+ yrs.

To be continued...