The realization of Industry 4.0 does not have to necessitate a major infrastructure overhaul that costs millions of dollars. With Advantech’s iFactory Solution Ready Platforms (SRP), manufacturers can adopt a step by step wise approach to realizing Industry 4.0. For system integrators aiming to develop smart factory applications, iFactory solution ready platforms expedite project development as well as facilitate innovative solutions that meet the criteria of Industry 4.0.
With the emergence of Industry 4.0 and the ongoing development of real-world applications, manufacturers wishing to maintain their core competiveness are increasingly adopting new technologies in an effort to gain long-term advantages in today’s ever-changing highly competitive market. The reason Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing the entire industry is due to its potential to transform numerous operations including processing, equipment monitoring, factory management and energy consumption and logistics, all of which can be integrated together to innovative automated systems. However, without a standard method for transformation, the number of potential Industry 4.0 applications would be overwhelming. Many manufacturers remain unsure how exactly to implement Industry 4.0, or what steps should be taken to initiate the smart factory transformation.
Connectivity and Process Visualization are Key Prerequisites
As a passionate promoter of smart applications, Advantech has an extensive portfolio of IoT hardware and software products, including sensory devices, mid-layer intelligent hardware, and a top-layer multifunctional WebAccess cloud platform. Advantech continues to develop new solutions and services to assist manufacturers in implementing Industry 4.0 technologies.
Regarding the challenges faced by manufacturers, Wilson Dai, Market Development Manager of Advantech’s Automation Computer Business Unit, asserted, “The previous industrial revolution, Industry 3.0, emphasized automation and computerization to enable automated machine production and digitalized data management. Now, in order to move towards Industry 4.0, connectivity and visualization are the key prerequisites, specifically, equipment connectivity process visualization.”
With equipment connectivity and the collection of machine data for real-time display, manufacturers can develop a variety of transparent, predictable, optimized and adaptive smart applications. This will enable the optimization of production lines and corporate resources for low-volume multi-customized production with the highest cost effectiveness.
iFactory Solution Ready Platforms Integrate Smart Applications
Regardless of this step-wise approach to transformation, manufacturers with development capabilities as well as system integrators providing integrated services will all encounter the same issue – all processes, including planning, design, testing, and deployment, will need to be redesigned. Thus, the entire transformation process will necessitate at least 6 to 12 months for completion, Because of the amount of time and energy required, few have fully implemented comprehensive factory monitoring. For enterprises attempting to increase corporate competiveness with Industry 4.0, slow adoption not only weakens the potential benefits but also impacts the development of Industry 4.0.
Therefore, by leveraging its wealth of industry experience and diverse resources, Advantech has developed its iFactory solution-ready platforms aimed at realizing smart factories by combining hardware and software into integrated applications. These solution ready platforms comprise three main components – Demo AP, Domain AP and a Node-Red template – to allow users to rapidly achieve the required functions using pre-developed application examples. Demo Aps are aimed at single function demands. Domain Aps are aims at all industry applications and provide comprehensive programs that allow immediate implementation. The Node-Red template is provided for users wishing to develop unique applications using open sources. According to Wilson Dai, “Advantech’s iFactory SRPs can dramatically reduce development time by providing predeveloped programs and modules for easy customization and expansion. Manufacturers that have adopted Advantech’s solution ready platforms have been able to successfully develop Industry 4.0 applications in only 3 months.
A Foundation Platform with Turnkey Programs for Seamless Transformation
To illustrate, Wilson Dai used a home interior design scenario to explain the installation of iFactory solution ready platforms. He said, “When decorating a new house, people typically purchase a basic furniture package from a furniture store and whether organize the pieces in their home themselves or hire an interior designer to arrange them in their house. They may also customize the basic furniture package to satisfy their personal decoration requirements.”
“Advantech’s iFactory solution ready platforms are like a basic furniture package. With it, users can choose whether to install the components themselves or have a system integrator complete the installation. If additional software or hardware is required, the basic package can be customized and equipped with additional functions.”
iFactory solution ready platforms not only serve as a foundation platform for smart applications, they also function as turnkey solution. Wilson Dai also stated, “During system development, users must consider which of Advantech’s many products they need. After selection, the products must be assessed and subjected to performance testing. The entire process consumes a substantial amount of time and energy.
“However, with Advantech’s iFactory solution ready platforms, after verification and installation, the solution can be applied directly without additional performance testing and trials.” He also confidently asserted that Advantech’s solution ready platforms can already support 80% of all factory applications. As for the remaining 20%, Advantech offers customer consultations in order to satisfy their unique demands.
All Machines and Equipment can be Connected
In regards to equipment networking, Advantech’s solution ready platforms can support numerous PLC communication drivers and brands of PLC communication drivers and brands of PLCs by using standard protocols to integrate monitoring and management systems and enable comprehensive data collection, flexible protocol transition and operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) convergence. Advantech’s solution ready platforms have been further enhanced with the inclusion of RESTful APIs that eliminate the need to convert collected data for MES systems. By eliminating data conversion, the entire system framework has been simplified and streamlined.
With regard to process visualization, Wilson Dai said, “Customers desire a monitoring system that can increase production efficiency by 30% and be installed without disrupting operations or additional wiring. Currently, there are few solutions capable of satisfying these requirements, expect for Advantech’s solution ready platforms. Our three-color monitoring system is not only a turnkey solution for rapid implementation, but also provides a noninvasive tool to satisfy customer demands.” With iFactory solution ready platforms combined with Advantech’s WISE series wireless modules, users only need to install data collection modules at every workstation. The solution ready platforms will enable data display on large signage or mobile devices within the factory. Furthermore, with the integration of various WISE modules, the solution ready platforms can also be used to support factory environment monitoring and management.
Aimed at the three main applications – equipment networking, process visualization and informatization of factory management – Advantech’s solution ready platforms enable machine control, equipment monitoring and optimization, MES data integration, production optimization, productivity management and intelligent surveillance. Advantech plans to continue developing additional solution ready platform systems for machine wear and tear detection, intelligent assembly monitoring, temperature monitoring system, factory environment monitoring, productivity visualization, comprehensive monitoring and management and production line management system (eSOP).
Enough Talk, Now is the Time for Action
As a leading supplier of smart factory products and services, Advantech has experience with both implementing and supplying smart factory products and a clear understanding of the problems encountered during the transformation process.
The iFactory solution ready platforms were designed to assist manufacturers with implementing Industry 4.0 system integrators wanting to develop smart applications can use SRPs to not only implement projects but also develop additional innovative application that meet the criteria for smart factories.
Based on his interactions with customers, Wilson Dai stated “Many people believe that Industry 4.0 necessitates a massive infrastructure transformation potentially costing million dollars. However, implementing Industry 4.0 is not actually as challenging as people believe. Manufacturers can start by improving production flow with the adoption of iFactory solution ready platforms. Then, manufacturers can identify equipment that must be replaced to increase production efficiency, without remodeling the entire factory. Meanwhile, system integrators can rapidly complete their projects. More importantly, Advantech’s solution ready platforms provide key solutions for manufacturing industry to take action and actively implement Industry 4.0.”