Time to connect the machines for the production of the future

Time to connect the machines for the production of the future

Industry 4.0 and IoT are concepts that most of the manufacturing industry has started to take a closer look at. The vision is that products that go through the manufacturing process communicate with the production equipment in a self-learning system – the smart factory.

The tool for achieving the vision of the smart factory is IoT (Internet of Things). In industrial context, it is also referred to as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The technology enables continuous data exchange between affected units from the chip of the product in the flow, robots and machines to the production and ERP systems.

Considerable activity in the field

Several IT solution providers have already presented their first versions of more or less large-scale data collection and data exchange solutions. Machine and tool manufacturers join to present their solutions to connect. Manufacturers are following the process and are preparing themselves. Some are making major investments in the technology that is currently available. Others are glancing at smarter machines to be prepared for the next step.

”What drives development is the need to increase productivity and thus maintain its competitiveness. With the smart factory, you can see highly automated production processes with less operators. Because machines and even products in the flow themselves can call on operators as needed, fewer employees can manage more production units more efficiently.”

“Other factors that increase interest are changes in the market place that lead to changed production processes. Shorter lead times, higher quality requirements, more customer-specific manufacturing, shorter series and more changeovers are some of the parameters”, says Mats Elmwall, Marketing & PR Executive at OPTIWARE.

Where are we today?

Despite the hype and promises of solutions, in practice, however, we have not come far. There are a lot of solutions available, but no one is sufficiently comprehensive or easy enough to access for a breakthrough of the smart factory. The biggest threshold is, as before, standardization.

In order for the vision to be realized to the level it has been raised by many actors and the media, all different systems must be able to communicate seamlessly. Unified communications and data formats are required, as well as IT security solutions. So, do we need to wait another 10 years?

Production of the future realized by many

For many manufacturers, a large part of what is included in the Industrial 4.0 and IIoT concepts has been a part of their standard operating procedures for a long time. With production monitoring systems like AXXOS OEE, they have their machines connected and continuously collect production data. Many have integrated the systems with their ERP systems and, thanks to that the ability to monitor production in detail at article and order levels without double entry of information.

In addition, many have connections to an EAM system like API PRO, which provides seamless integration between production site and maintenance for e.g. alarm and error notification. It also provides the ability to build maintenance on actual production data, which in turn allows for predictive and proactive maintenance, making concepts such as Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) real.

”Here at OPTIWARE we have helped our customers to connect the machines and measure their production for almost 20 years, so this is nothing new to us. The companies that have been working with this for some time have a head start since they have learned what is important in context of using the information effectively to improve their production”, says Mats Elmwall.

Positive trend for OPTIWARE

OPTIWARE is the leading supplier of production monitoring systems in Scandinavia and sees increased interest in OEE measuring, both in Sweden and internationally. The company has had strong growth for several years and is now expanding rapidly on an international market.

“The trend of increased interest in Industry 4.0 and IoT is very positive for us. We have lengthy experience of delivering large parts of what is still a vision for many. We connect our customers’ machines, help integrate with other systems and make production data available. We have solutions to visualize and make information available within local production facilities and globally in major organizations. We also have the tools to compile and analyze production data to create decision making material and enable improvements in efficiency and increased profitability.”

“ OPTIWARE offer a complete sloution with integration between our OEE system AXXOS OEE and our EAM system API PRO suitable for all manufacturing companies with reliability, efficiency and productivity in focus. “

Mats Elmwall provides a good advice for the companies that have not yet begun their journey towards future production.

“Take a closer look at how well you are utilizing your production resources. When you have a better idea of your current situation you are better set up to start working on improvements. Then you can continue to look at how the information can be used in different parts of the organization to continue the journey towards the smart factory”, he concludes.