Promoting smart factory benefits, in manufacturing and in products
Industrie 4.0 launched by Germany, cyber-physical system (CPS) of USA and China Manufacturing 2025 all promote the integration of industrial and information technologies, and this is being done by China, according to Yin Xuanbo, deputy chairman of Delta-Cimic Electronics Co. Ltd., in an interview with Control Engineering China.
Smart factory integration
Xuanbo explained that the use of information technologies in the smart factory requires managing factory information as well as external communication. "Through such external communication, the enterprise can know customers’ demands quickly; the internal information flow of [a] company can be directly touched by such information, and products meeting customers’ demands can be produced immediately," Xuanbo said, which creates "powerful competitiveness for a smart factory."
When customers’ orders are received, he said, through big data analysis, accurate and reasonable resource allocation can be performed, and the job will be allocated to specified suppliers, connecting the supply chain effectively and seamlessly.
Higher quality products
Future industrial products, Xuanbo suggested, will focus more on quality and details, another "objective pursued by smart factory." Smart factory products should have no defects; to realize this, precise equipment is needed with accurate control over product dimensions; corners and edges shall not be neglected. Humans and current machines cannot achieve this, so coordination of machines and intelligent equipment is needed, Xuanbo said. This is the great value caused by industrialization; it can realize the upgrading of many key technologies and processes, easily realizing precision and quality required.
The smart factory requires deep integration of industrial and information technologies, Xuanbo said, and after a smart factory is built, cost of production can be largely reduced throughout the enterprise. This is the objective pursued by green manufacturing of China and is being pursued persistently by Delta.
Diversified products, green manufacturing
"Delta always insists on the business mission of ‘environmental friendly, energy savings, and loving the earth.’ It continually develops innovative products and solutions, so as to continually improve the energy utilization ratio of products," Xuanbo said. Delta has gradually transformed to integrating energy savings in solutions, rather than only manufacturer products, he said. Delta supplies smart factory applications with servos, servo drives, sensors, instruments, machine vision, industrial robots, power supplies, and other industrial controls. At the same time, communications capabilities are more diversified, easing interconnection among products.
Delta assists customers in connecting machines via manufacturing execution system (MES), with equipment-level interconnections. The whole factory is connected via supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) configuration software, independently researched and developed by Delta, to exchange information within the line, outside the line, between levels, and across factories.
In the future, Xuanbo said Delta is looking at developing energy management system (EMS) software and integrating it with SCADA industry configuration software. Through cooperation with third-party enterprise resource planning (ERP) companies, it provides customers with integrated offerings. Most diversified products are produced by using the smallest number of machines, Xuanbo said, reducing the idle rate of each machine to the minimum.
The smart factory can meet the customer requirements for flexible customized production, but industrial automation products are mainly universal products, Xuanbo said.
"In industrial automation, for 70% to 80% of customers, universal products can meet application needs; for industrial development, customized products are needed," he said. However, as industries develop, it will be more difficult to show the competitiveness and core advantages of an enterprise, if only standard products are offered. Competitive differentiation of manufacturers’ products will be needed to improve competitiveness and exhibit advantages.
As smart factories progress, Delta will transition from large-scale manufacturing to customization. To meet customer needs, Delta will the corporate vision of being environmental friendly, saving energy, and loving the earth. Research and development is working on more sophisticated products that have higher speeds and better energy conservation characteristics, providing more green solutions for industrial development and promoting the realization of the green smart factory, Xuanbo explained.
- Delta integrates smart factory concepts in manufacturing and in its automation products
- Energy efficiency is important in production and products, helped with factory and information technology integration
- Manufacturers should focus on high quality and ability to offer customization without errors.
Operations and information technology integration in a smart factory can bring higher levels of quality, energy savings, and more competitive products. How smart is your factory?