What makes a factory smart?
When all the machines can communicate and all provide a consistent user interface, the factory will certainly be smarter. We’re getting ever closer to this possibility. Rexroth’s open source Open Core Interface is one of the initiatives that’s moving us closer. Open Core allows PLC-based engineering and IT automation to work together through a programming interface that allows programming withing an environment like Visual Studio 2010.
Allowing people to work with machinery in work environments that are good for the people makes all the difference.
The manufacturing Internet of Things can result in enormous amounts of unstructured data. What are you supposed to do with it? A factory that’s smart only in the sense that it has a lot of information hanging around without providing any value is not that smart.
Analytics and diagnostics that can sync not only with user interfaces on mobile devices on the factory floor but also with office applications like PowerPoint and Excel make it possible to get rid of information silos and provide data for the various teams involved in a project. With information structured for the place and situation where it’s needed, the smart factory fits into the overall organization.
Thinking about the smart factory of the future, we can imagine that a machine along the line can sense when a product is not as it should be and go ahead and make the needed changes before sending it along the line.
Sensors can already identify which sensor in miles of pipeline is in need of replacement. A recent test was able to fill empty bottles using RFID tags with custom combinations of soap, color, lids, and labels.
It’s not that big a step to real customization of products — the Shangri-la of modern manufacturing.