The increasingly important role of industry 4.0 & digitization in machine and plant construction in the future requires the networking of different machine types as well as existing machines. It is the prerequisite for working more productively and getting the most out of the machines. Many machine manufacturers have already recognized the great importance of Industry 4.0 and have long offered digital service products for their machines. Especially manufacturing companies with many machines must deal with and master many different systems in case of service. This requires a high level of training.
Recently, the focus is no longer on the service portal itself. It is much more about networking the entire machine park. Many machine manufacturers, who have already successfully positioned themselves in the field of digitization, aim to digitize not only the machines of one machine manufacturer, but also other makes and machine types and make their data available for entire production plants.
Process: Machine connection for new machines
In practice, it becomes clear that no production company wants to employ its IT staff alone to network the machines. It is therefore important that the networking of the machines is made as simple as possible and that the digitization process should therefore be as simple and standardized as possible. For example, every new machine can be delivered "ready-to-connect" to simplify the connection process for the machine operator.
Information retrieval from ERP system
To avoid duplicate data maintenance, corresponding machine data and information from existing ERP systems should be retrievable and made available locally in the company at the push of a button. This ensures that the machines are automatically created in the machine network with the correct data and integrated into existing networked production environments.
Machine connection as retrofit
To implement cross-production machine networking, the connection of all machines must be guaranteed. Since the service life of machines is very long, many older machines are active in production. Nevertheless, the connectivity of all machines is of fundamental importance for the machine operator. Only then all the advantages of cross-production machine networking can be used. Especially with this retrofit process, it makes sense to introduce a standardized connection process and to ensure that the machine is easy to set up.
Role of standardized interfaces for connectivity
To network machines with each other, they must have interfaces. Therefore, a simple connection of very old machines is not possible. In this case it makes sense to retrofit the old machines by equipping them with special sensors.
In the past, the focus was on standardized interfaces such as OPC UA. This means that the data from the machines is output in a uniform format so that the data from external machines can also be read out and processed further. In practice, however, the situation is different. Other machine suppliers do not provide the data codes of their machines or systems via OPC UA. They usually use their own proprietary protocols. Therefore, a certain cooperation is necessary to digitize entire production halls.
When it comes to machine data, safety is paramount. The production companies do not make their data freely available to everyone. As a result, data sovereignty should lie with the machine operator for networking between the machine manufacturer and operator. Only the machine operator should determine who may use which data at what time and for what purpose. At the same time, a local availability of the data should be guaranteed to provide the manufacturing companies with the advantages of data collection.
Data platforms for machine data evaluation
Platforms are becoming increasingly important in the field of machine networking. The advantage over traditional server applications is that the platforms are scalable and can also process large amounts of data. Nevertheless, it has proven in practice that a mixed form is more effective. This means that the data is collected and stored locally and extracts from this data are sent to platform services.
How can machine manufacturers best accompany their customers into the digital age and use the existing connectivity for this purpose?
The first prerequisite to accompany customers into the digital age is a secure and functioning networking infrastructure. Already with the networking to the machine, the machine operators can take advantage of the digital services of the machine manufacturer. This makes it possible, for example, for the customer to manage his maintenance locally using a tool and to track the live statistics of all connected machines. The area of monitoring offers numerous application scenarios for networked machines. For example, an alarm can be triggered in the event of an imminent fault.
In future, in addition to networking our own machines, the networking of existing machines, other machine types and components should be focused to derive maximum benefit from the networking of an entire production plant.
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