Smart approaches to manufacturing digitalisation

Smart approaches to manufacturing digitalisation

John Browett of the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) Europe, addresses the challenges companies face on the road to manufacturing digitalisation.

Different approaches will suit different businesses and choosing the right one is critical to achieving a company’s full potential. Two main aspects of the project need addressing if a company is to benefit fully from IoT and manufacturing digitalisation. They are: having a digital strategy supported by senior management; and effective understanding of data management requirements.

We are still in the formative days of IIoT. Organisations know they will be handling more data, but what data, how much, and how they will use it may be hazy. Many applications for this data have not yet been invented.

Cross platform connectivity and data transfer between departments, such as the management office and the shop floor for example, will usually require pre-planning and a clear strategy. Upgrades to existing equipment will form many early projects. Making sure systems are compatible and ensuring flexibility for the future are both very important. It is also essential that the data management side of the enterprise can be fully resolved.

Manufacturing digitalisation and smart devices

Modern automated production processes tend to create very large amounts of data. This may need transferring to edge computing or the cloud for storage and processing.

Projects for digital transformation will need open, high-bandwidth networking for seamless cross platform connectivity. Gigabit Ethernet will provide effective communication, whether machine to machine or device to PLC. Furthermore, for shop floor automation to top-floor ERP systems, Ethernet is likely to prove a wise choice.

Connection of more machines and processes and smart sensors will increase the data volumes. The reliable handling of this valuable data is of critical importance. Robustness of the physical networking and protocols used to encode and send the data also becomes very important. This is particularly for manufacturing or processing systems using a PLC driven architecture. Transparent data transfer and management is essential for an efficient and synchronous system.

Companies designing a controllable and scalable system from the start and expanding it based on the feedback will benefit from digitalisation by . Failure is an important part of the learning process and sometimes inevitable with new technologies. However, failing to delivery an effective digital initiative can make the company more averse to the idea of digitalisation entirely and stall developments which will ensure future competitiveness.

Involving people in digitalisation

The human factor can have a big impact on the adoption of manufacturing digisilisation initiatives. Enterprises should also work on establishing a company culture that promotes these activities. Sharing data among different teams is time-consuming, expensive, and a source of unwanted additional workload. As a result, teams may not share data to avoid the issue, which will have a negative knock-on effect on productivity. By motivating staff to use data as an asset and share it effectively enhances productivity and justifies investment.


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