How Factory Intelligence is Evolving

How Factory Intelligence is Evolving

May 23, 2018

By Larry Maggiano, Senior Systems Analyst, Mitutoyo America Corp. Featured on AdvancedManufacturing.org Intelligent factories have existed since manufacturing’s historical inception, but intelligence—defined as the acquisition and application of manufacturing knowledge—resided only with the factory’s staff. With the advent of numerical control (NC) and then computer numerical control (CNC) technologies, factory machines gained digital I/O capabilities but were still not smart. Digitally enabled machines, though increasingly productive, had no awareness of themselves, their environment, or the tasks being performed or to-be performed. In spite of these limitations, centralized factory intelligence has been achieved at modest scales through a deterministic low-level set of digital commands and responses. An experiment in large-scale centralized factory intelligence was General Motor’s 1982 Manufacturing Automation Protocol (MAP), operating over token bus network protocol (IEE 802.4). The MAP-enabled factory intelligence experiment ended in 2004 as it was difficult to maintain operational reliability. One of the most important reasons was a lack of system resiliency, a downside of required deterministic factory communication standards and protocols. Another reason was that the connected machines could not continue to operate at any level when instructions were not forthcoming from a central system. An analogy might be made to the mainframe-to-terminal infrastructure that became obsolete in the 1990s with the development of the PC and distributed computing. Several significant changes have enabled the development of smart machines for the intelligent factory. The first is the extension of IT’s ubiquitous Ethernet LAN infrastructure to the shop floor, enabling rapid 3D downloads of model-based definition (MBD), and uploads of process and product data. Secondly, today’s digital twins are smart in that they possess an awareness of not only their capabilities and operational status, but of work that can be performed on any particular MBD. In this manner, smart machines can bid on tasks, much like their human partners. A smart machine’s digital twin does not need deterministic low-level instructions, but instead responds to a submitted MBD, and, if selected, does real work with its physical counterpart. Lastly, three standardized core technologies–HTML, CSS and JavaScript—are recognized as enabling the widespread adoption of the Internet and the emergence of intelligent global systems. It is envisioned that similar standardized core technologies will enable...

Which Technologies Should Come First, Second, Third?

Which Technologies Should Come First, Second, Third?

Mar 7, 2018

By Ken Koenemann – VP of Supply Chain and Technologies, TBM Consulting Group Featured on Advancedmanufacturing.org Analytics solutions. The industrial Internet of Things. Robotics. Automation. Manufacturers looking for tech solutions that will help them control costs and gain a competitive edge have many great options. In fact, deciding what type of technology to invest in and why can seem overwhelming. Could you get a better ROI through automation and improved productivity, or through using analytics to identify inefficiencies and streamline processes? To glean the most from almost any new technology, make sure you have: A clear understanding of what’s happening in your business A vision for what you want the technology to do and why The right process structure and skill sets along with team alignment. Before investing in any new technology, ask these questions: What are the key drivers of operational and financial performance for your business? Do you clearly understand performance levels, reasons for misses and have processes for correcting them? Many manufacturers regularly fall short of their strategic goals, and it’s a good bet most of them also struggle with these questions. A lack of data usually isn’t the issue. Most manufacturing environments usually include some combination of ERP, CRM, CMMS, EMS and financial reporting systems and spreadsheets. The problem is the long time it takes to gather and analyze key performance indicators from the various sources. When that’s the case, predictive technology is invaluable and probably your best next investment: It will help you better understand what’s happening in your business and why to keep strategic goals on track, and it will position you to apply new technologies more effectively moving forward. Many cloud-based predictive solutions are also more versatile and relatively inexpensive and easy to implement compared with, say, a behind-the-firewall solution. Moreover, a well-executed solution can delivery similar types of insights quicker due to a shorter implementation timeline. Predictive solutions are helpful because they can help you improve understanding of most facets of your operations, from sales trends to reasons for downtime. One manufacturer with which TBM is familiar was regularly losing a day’s worth of production every few months, which added up to several hundred thousand dollars...

How will Industry 4.0 impact U.S. manufacturing?

How will Industry 4.0 impact U.S. manufacturing?

Jan 26, 2018

By JLL Staff Reporter, Real Views The Fourth Industrial Revolution is picking up steam in warehouse aisles and factory floors around the world. As advancing technology brings the manufacturing industry closer to the vision of a ‘smart factory,’ the future of U.S. manufacturing depends on how well industry leaders play the new cards in the deck: robotics, data, automation and 3D printing—without overlooking the value of human capital. So far, the U.S. appears ready for change, earning a “well positioned for the future” nod from the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Production assessment, which evaluated production structures in countries around the world. While human-free warehouses and factories are still a long way off, more sophisticated, tech-fueled automation is already becoming a standard feature of the nation’s industrial buildings. These days, drones equipped with sensors can scan bar codes for inventory purposes, safely restock and pick merchandise on high shelves, and move small items quickly around the warehouse. Meanwhile, robotics and other technologies such as 3D printing, connected sensors and artificial intelligence are drastically transforming the way goods are manufactured. “Industry 4.0 represents a clear opportunity for the U.S. manufacturing sector when you think about the skilled positions coming back into the economy,” says Aaron Ahlburn, Managing Director, Industrial & Logistics Research, JLL. “Most industry-relevant technology works best when paired with intelligent use, and the U.S. has a competitive advantage when it comes to skilled, tech-savvy labor.” The factory of the future depends on today’s talent The United States’ manufacturing sector is the second largest in the world, after China. According to WEF’s 2018 report, the U.S. “is globally renowned for its ability to innovate and is currently at the forefront of major developments surrounding the emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” This won’t be the first time the U.S. manufacturing industry has won in terms of innovation. This is, after all, the birthplace of the moving assembly line. And earlier automation technologies have already made this a country where only two in five employees are now directly engaged in production, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Still, according to the same report, the nation’s share of global manufacturing value has declined over time, dropping from 29 percent...

These 7 Exoskeletons Are Making The World Easier…

These 7 Exoskeletons Are Making The World Easier…

Jan 10, 2018

“These 7 Exoskeletons Are Making The World Easier To Navigate” By Tech Insider 1. You can literally take this seat anywhere. The Chairless Chair is a tool you can lean on. When locked, it can be rested on. 2. Lowe’s is giving its workers “Iron Man suits.” It makes carrying heavy loads easier. Lowe’s worked with Virginia Tech on the project. 3. This exoskeleton can help people with paraplegia walk. “Phoenix” was designed by suitX. suitX calls it “the world’s lightest and most advanced exoskeleton.” 4. Ford assembly line workers are testing EksoVest. It helps reduce injury from repetitive tasks. 5. This robotic glove is helping some people with paralysis. The Exo-Glove Poly is a wearable soft robot. The motion of your wrist control the fingers. Users can lift and grasp things up to a pound. 6. This suit gives you super strength. suitX makes five types of modular suits. They help reduce workloads of the user. 7. Ekso exoskeletons can help people with paraplegia walk again. It’s a robot that adds power to your hips and knees....

Ford, Ekso team up for ‘bionic’ auto workers

Ford, Ekso team up for ‘bionic’ auto workers

Nov 15, 2017

By Nick Carey, Rueters The U.S. automaker said on Thursday that workers at two U.S. factories are testing upper-body exoskeletons developed by Richmond, California-based Ekso Bionics Holdings Inc (EKSO.O), which are designed to reduce injuries and increase productivity. The four EksoVests were paid for by the United Auto Workers union, which represents hourly workers at Ford, and the automaker plans tests for the exoskeleton in other regions including Europe and South America. The cost of the exoskeletons, which were developed as part of a partnership between Ford and Ekso, was undisclosed. The lightweight vest supports workers while they perform overhead tasks, providing lift assistance of up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg) per arm through a mechanical actuator that uses torque to take the stress off a worker’s shoulders. If you try one on, if feels like an empty backpack, but it enables you to hold a weight such as a heavy wrench straight out in front of you indefinitely and without strain. Ekso began by developing exoskeletons for the military and medical fields, but branched out in manufacturing and construction in 2013. Paul “Woody” Collins, 51, a worker at Ford’s Wayne plant, has been at the automaker for 23 years and has worn an EksoVest since May. He attaches bolts and parts to the undersides of Ford Focus and C-Max models, raising his hands above his head around 1 million times a year. Since wearing the vest, he has stopped having to put ice and heat on his neck three or four days a week and finds he has energy after work instead of feeling exhausted. Russ Angold, Ekso’s chief technology officer, said the aim is to get workers used to the technology before moving eventually into “powered” exoskeletons that “will help with lift and carry” work. “The idea is to demonstrate this isn’t science fiction, it’s real and it has real value,” Angold said on Thursday. “As we prove its value, we will be able to expand into other tasks.” The No. 2 U.S. automaker has been studying for years how to lower its workers’ injury rates and the exoskeleton venture is the latest step in that process. From 2005 to 2016, Ford...