From our point of view, the three key layers necessary are as follows: Layer one is about intelligent machines and robots; layer two focuses on Advantech’s connected iFactory Solutions; and layer three deals with the Internet of Services.
Modern, automated factories are focused on giving machines greater autonomy over their tasks by enabling them to make adjustments based on the data they receive. Advantech’s focus on this layer (layer one) is on controllers, motion control, machine vision, automation computing, integrated machine tools and robot controllers—all of which are being used to transform machines into cyber-physical systems.
Full autonomy, of course, is a long time off, but in modern car manufacturing plants, the latest machines and components will feed data about their job to PLCs and touch panel computers where the data is monitored and adjusted in real time.
Advantech’s iFactory layer (layer two) refers to the networking and continuous monitoring of all devices within that system, whether in a single building or across multiple sites. By providing uninterrupted analysis in real time, engineers and managers can make any adjustments as required using manufacturing execution systems (MES) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
To reach these goals, Advantech provides solutions to enable a fully networked connected iFactory. Advantech’s WebAccess Integrated IoT Software Suite and Solution Platform, together with products such as gateways, can connect machines, robots and equipment to the factory network and integrate with MES and ERP systems.
For food processing and manufacturing, increasingly complex processes, expanding product portfolios and increasing globalization are driving the need to update traditional MES. Advantech not only offers a variety of hardware products to take on the important task of data collection in the production line, but also provides a software platform to serve as a data gateway between the front-end equipment and MES application.
Through this total solution, system integrators can design the required management systems for food processing and manufacturing factories, and food manufacturers can upgrade their existing manual work into the paperless and automated operation, thus establishing a product traceability system to achieve the goal of safe manufacturing. At the core of this solution is WebAccess, which can reduce developers’ costs and time while accelerating the speed of system implementation.
For the food industry, complete data collection, screen display with friendly and graphical user interface, real-time statistics and historical analysis reports, and cross-platform and mobile management facilitate manufacturing processes with more transparency and openness to prevent malpractice while letting users properly solve abnormal issues as soon as they occur.
Layer three—the Internet of Services (IoS)—involves the analysis of Big Data using open platforms and interface architectures. As an example of this, consider the case of a global chip manufacturer that purchased a new wafer-polishing machine. The problem this company encountered was that this new machine was polishing the wafers excessively and, therefore, producing a lot of waste. However, because this machine was continually producing data about what it was doing, the machine’s owners could send the data to the manufacturer to determine that it was the AC current causing the problem. In response, the machine supplier sent an engineer to quickly fix the problem without spending many hours or days trying to determine the exact fault.
Through these three essential layers, the IIoT is changing the way that manufacturers do business. It will not only improve production techniques and the final quality of goods, but it will also help reduce the downtime of devices and components and reduce material waste to improve the economics of the manufacturer.