Home Business Insights & Advice Understanding the developments of today’s industrial automation limits

Understanding the developments of today’s industrial automation limits

by John Saunders
22nd Apr 21 10:34 am

Many manufacturing companies are slipping into the pit of attempting to preserve traditional processes and maintaining long-outdated properties in order to weather what they consider to be a transient ‘storm’ in today’s context of dramatic advancements across all fields.

On the process side, they aim to facilitate evolutionary transformation by gradual changes, focusing on continual improvements of current processes using well-established approaches and technology – rather than drastic changes in process and business strategies. Also, on the asset side, companies continue holding outdated industrial automation systems, incurring high costs in order to preserve heavy, outdated equipment while maintaining conventional gross margins.

These methods could be risky strategic business errors that will eventually result in a substantial loss for businesses and the downfall of the industrial manufacturing company. The explanations for this action are simple to comprehend.

Age of digitalisation

Many of these organizations’ development and competitiveness strategies are based on a conventional view of the world that implies investments in manufacturing processes that are extensively hardware reliant as well as by systems that are often characterised by the restrictions of the physical frameworks.

That being said, in this day and age of digitalisation, companies are no longer bound by the constraints of this conventional approach. Software and interoperability of the finest software solutions, besides smart machine functionalities and controllers’ technical expertise, are what helps establish valid marketplace competitiveness.

Since all such latest software is open source, nowadays, it allows for a reassessment of how basic production floor processes can be implemented. Latest software tools that collaborate are frequently what empowers the agility, creativity, and consistency in quality that is required to gain a competitive advantage.

Understanding the developments of today’s industrial automation limits

Ensuring the maintenance of the current industrial automation model is detrimental to manufacturers for a variety of reasons, including:

1 .Inflexibility

If automation industrial systems are specialised, then the automation programme formed for one application, eg: industrial manufacturing, would not run upon others. This embedded technology makes it extremely challenging to exchange data across applications and prohibits industrial organisations from launching major improvements with multivendor networks, resulting in sluggish improvements and a limited capacity to incorporate technological innovations.

2. Restricted innovation

Vendor noncompliance with open programming standards leads to massive inadequacies and architectural problems, resulting in isolated islands of control around the construction site.

Incorporating these islands through an overall plant architecture necessitates extensive application engineering, additional hardware, and additional software to create a structured plant automation and control framework.

The additional interface layers result in reduced reliability, higher production downtime as well as maintenance, and at potentially higher costs. Working under the limitations of such conditions limits one’s ability to foster a culture of innovation.

3. Non-Digital architecture

The majority of today’s modern automation systems were, in principle of ideation, built in the 1970s and 1980s. Such infrastructure is not built to leverage the latest and accelerated information technology developments (IT).  To recognise the potential of Industry 4.0, IT benefits like rapid data collection, information exchange, and assessment.

4. Greater cost of ownership

As upstream design development software tools and downstream operational software and tools cannot be intricately intertwined without a considerable investment of time and financial commitment, developing an effective digital network covering the entire process/machine lifespan becomes prohibitively expensive.

In addition to lowering the cost of production, eliminating the restriction of locked, proprietary systems would allow end-users to benefit from continuous product innovation, optimal asset utilisation, streamlined factory and information technology, higher production mobility, smoother scalability, increasingly integrated control, as well as the capacity to execute self-diagnostics and preventative analysis.

The IEC 61499 standard makes integrated interoperable systems possible

Interestingly, it is now both feasible as wise to adopt an accessible, standards-based framework capable of delivering highly personalised goods to customers in record time. The solution can be found in an existing framework, IEC 61499, which enables manufacturing companies to integrate Industry 4.0 design changes into their operations cost-effectively.

The IEC 61499 standard contributes to addressing key limitations that several organisations are currently experiencing. In terms of functionality, the standard, for instance, allows application-centric development by decoupling the application model from the proposed system model. This enables the communication between devices through networks using uniform communications and statistical data models without any need for configuration.

Furthermore, as a result of the standard, the problem of application code functionality would no longer be a barrier to investment in innovative and productivity-enhancing applications.

The specification also supports both distributed and centralised digital frameworks, so it includes software, application, as well as hardware architectures, allowing applications also to be built independently of the corresponding automation infrastructure. Furthermore, standard implementation reduces TCO by enabling simpler deployment, connector networking, smooth synchronization or divergence of hardware and software, and even a seamless and convenient upgrading course.

Therefore, based on the intricate complexities of such processes, it is recommended to consult a qualified industrial automation consultant or a leading provider to gain a deeper understanding!

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