The vision of the factory of the future is one in which many things become much easier—tracking works-in-progress, performing comprehensive inspections and responding flexibly to changes in consumer demand. That being said, the process of building an Industry 4.0 facility is anything but easy.
One of the biggest challenges is the need to integrate a variety of systems from different suppliers. Industry 4.0 requires manufacturers to make everything work seamlessly together so that data will be available from all subsystems, including robots, machine vision systems, traceability systems, and so forth.
These subsystems typically have widely varying interfaces and they don’t always work as expected. Since there are different development environments for each OEM, companies need to hire experts for each environment. This becomes both time-consuming and expensive.
What if there was no longer a need to make all these different systems work together? What if there was a single environment that could take care of all configuration, programming, simulation, and monitoring needs from a simple interface?
The Power of a Single Platform
With a single software development environment, manufacturers can achieve Industry 4.0 levels of integration faster with fewer complications. This goal is at the heart of all of Omron’s automation solutions, which give customers easier control across different technologies—including PLCs, vision and robotics— using a single software interface.
What if all these different systems work together harmoniously?
Omron’s all-in-one solutions can benefit system integrators not only from the machine level, but also the enterprise level. For example, the sheer magnitude of Omron’s technology portfolio, the entirety of which is designed to integrate seamlessly allows manufacturers to build far-reaching modular systems that are easy to reconfigure for flexible production needs.
The Difference between “Interfaced” and “Integrated”
There’s significantly more work involved from the system integrator’s perspective when trying to get third-party automation technologies to work together. This frustrating yet often indispensable task requires a common interface like EtherNet/IP or EtherCAT as well as a deep understanding of each vendor’s proprietary system.
On the other hand, if an automation solution provider has put in the effort to develop a comprehensive portfolio of fully integrated technologies, then it will immediately work together as one system. The system integrator no longer needs knowledge of multiple platforms, and the whole project can be completed much more quickly.
A Fully Integrated Platform Makes Data Collection Easier
The heart of Industry 4.0 is data. Companies need a reliable and secure way to collect heaps of data from the plant floor and transfer it all to the enterprise system for comprehensive analysis. When significant effort must be expended just to make different technologies talk to one another, little room is left over for improving the handling of machine data.
With the automation solution provider having completed the heavy lifting of integrating controllers, sensors, machine vision, motion control, robotics and safety, it’s easier to incorporate advanced data handling functionality. Several Omron controllers feature SQL database integration to store machine data for further analysis – a major Industry 4.0 need.
There are sometimes very solid reasons for compiling an automation solution from multiple different vendors. However, with today’s data handling needs, ease of integration is becoming a much more valuable criterion. Manufacturers who implement a complete solution from a single supplier are likely to see huge payoffs as Industry 4.0 strategies become widespread.