Industry 4.0: Dispel the myths surrounding smart manufacturing https://www.automation.com/files/pluginfiles/item_99784/field_376/TMR010---Industry-4.0_reg.jpg
By Nigel Smith, Managing Director of TM Robotics
Machine automation could be compared to the human body. Our eyes are the sensors that monitor the operation. Our hands are the act of maneuvering things around us. After all, our brain is the process control that provides information and controls processes. Conventional machines in industrial environments could only provide actuation, but nothing more.
As we enter the era of Industry 4.0, this article will help eliminate some of the common misconceptions about implementing smart manufacturing.
Myth 1: Automation Will Substitute People
People have spent several thousand years reducing their need for physical labor by investing in tools and machinery. In automation, this mechanical muscle became an integral part of automobile production when six-axis robots became a standard addition to the assembly line in the 1960s. Today's machine, however, goes beyond physical activity.
The danger of intellectually intelligent machines can often be a depressing assessment of the job security of persons working on production lines. However, the use of intelligent technology is certainly not the end of man in manufacturing and engineering.
Consider Smart Factory software as an example. Modern applications often include a distributed control system (DCS) with supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA). This software can automate manufacturing processes and collect production data from the factory.
Of course, implementing this software reduces the need for human intervention during operation, but people remain the deciding factor. There is no merit in gathering production data without action. Manufacturers want software that can collect data in real time and, more importantly, visualize that information in an understandable format so employees can make informed decisions.
The human brain could never successfully capture or understand the data richness of a SCADA system. However, there is no reason that these new mechanical minds can not work harmoniously with the more subjective minds of humans.
Myth 2: State-of-the-art hardware is crucial
Manufacturers often topple existing systems with the illusion that they lack the capabilities needed for smart manufacturing. However, a complete system overhaul is not required.
The transition to smart manufacturing is never easy, but manufacturers should always consider all options before ignoring the process as "too expensive." For example, if you choose process control software that is hardware independent or can work with different communication protocols, the need to invest in a completely new hardware system can be dashed.
Before any financial development, an intelligent manufacturing strategy should be introduced. Spending is made. Manufacturers should carefully consider what they want to achieve with the investment and make purchasing decisions based on those goals.
Electronic goods manufacturers, for example, can prioritize fast speeds and high accuracy to compete with cheaper manufacturing countries. For these manufacturers, investing in a SCARA robot with high accuracy and repeatability would be ideal, especially for pick-and-place functions.
Unlike a system overhaul, installing a SCARA robot should not result in long downtime - especially when using an experienced system integrator. In fact, TM Robotics just installed a Toshiba Machine TH350 SCARA robot for an Irish minute switch manufacturer in just one weekend.
Myth 3: Smart Factories Will Never Be Safe
Factories are no longer isolated solutions through the implementation of connected technologies. Intelligent factories, of course, must expand far beyond the walls of their own facility and become part of a larger ecosystem. Of course, this increasing connectivity brings with it new operational risks and unknown security challenges.
Manufacturers using Industry 4.0 technologies are exposed to many cyber security threats like other industries. For example, advanced persistent threats (APTs) have been used in the manufacturing industry for years - through consistent malware extraction with sensitive data.
However, not all security breaches in cyber security in the manufacturing industry are due to malicious attacks. When planning to implement Industry 4.0, manufacturers should also consider training their employees for the importance of cybersecurity measures. This method can help manufacturers avoid accidental data loss and improve overall system security.
Entering the era of Industry 4.0, manufacturers should be ready to make significant changes to their production facilities. Despite widespread misunderstandings, the transition to smart manufacturing is certainly not as threatening, expensive or dangerous as some manufacturers may believe.
The sensors, actuators, and process controllers involved in Industry 4.0 are easily comparable to the complex processes of the human body, but it's certainly not that impressive - at least not yet.Did you enjoy this article?
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