Automated equipment and robotics are the basis of any smart factory, meaning that to stay competitive, manufacturers must learn to embrace this technology.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 are two terms that have dominated industry in the last couple of years. A smart factory will use IoT connected devices to communicate commands between machines or production lines. The benefits of a fully connected industrial facility have been highly publicised: a reduction in costs, an increase in efficiency and the ability to modularise the complexity of a system.  Modularisation allows a number of manufacturing processes to take place simultaneously – a major advantage for those attempting to create a fully flexible manufacturing facility.

Automated industrial equipment forms the foundation of any smart factory, but this increase in sensors and intelligent machinery brings several challenges for software engineering too. Smart factories should be capable of completing an array of customised, automated process, but with greater hardware complexity, manual software configuration becomes increasingly difficult.

HMI/SCADA applications have already secured their place as a key enabler for any smart factory, collecting and analysing data from machinery on the production floor, right up to traditionally IT-focused applications such as PLM and ERP software. When paired with technologically advanced hardware, manual software configuration calls for high levels of technical engineering, increasing the risk of errors and heightening implementation costs.

Following the investment in automated equipment and intelligent HMI/SCADA software, it is vital that manufacturers make investments in employee training, enabling talented engineers to focus on important tasks requiring human traits such as judgement, empathy and common sense.

>>Read more by Jonathan Wilkins, Automation.com, November 16, 2016

Automated Everything: Flexible manufacturing through automated engineering