The factory of the future will comprise humans and machines working together to improve flexibility and productivity, says Patricia Torres, Industry marketing manager at Omron


ears of replacing humans with the advances in artificial intelligence (AI),

machine learning and automation are ever present. While robots and humans are still pitted against each other, the importance of human workers and digital workers coexisting has become increasingly recognised in the workplace. But that's not all: digitalisation provides companies in the manufacturing industry with an arsenal of technological opportunities for implementing the factory of the future. Building the factory of the future

involves the integration of mobile and collaborative robots with humans, to ensure flexible manufacturing and customisation. This means manufacturers must be able to convert production quicker and produce smaller runs. The ultimate goal is to be able to deliver personalised products from an agile and networked production line. When an automation model meets these requirements; all devices, machines and solutions should be integrated. When implementing IIoT or Industry

4.0, the main hurdle for most manufacturers is that they are often not working from a blank canvas, but are restricted by the existing infrastructure of legacy machinery and plant, with little or no standardisation of system architecture. So, the Industry 4.0 concept can appear overwhelming, and defining a process or starting point for implementation can be challenging. Manufacturers should deploy a system that enables them to monitor machinery or plant effectiveness. These types of solutions can be used to monitor productivity and downtime, linking back to


a central dashboard. Systems like this are relatively simple and cost effective to deploy but provide valuable line level information for more effective decision- making. Ensuring that the right data for IIoT can be collected from the 'grass-root' level of the manufacturing process is essential when creating a smart factory. A fully networked system provides a

better link between the machines on a production line, resulting in precise quality control and greater efficiency. When an error is detected, the system can often automatically compensate for it and production is not affected. Intelligent automation solutions work fast, offer high computing power, are easy to operate and thus ensure transparent quality control in the factory of tomorrow. Manufacturers are facing an increasingly

dynamic consumer market, and to keep up with the changing trends they need to implement new flexible and agile production methods. Flexibility in an organisation is one of the key success factors for efficient production. This includes, on the one hand, the mobility of the robots used, and on the other hand their adaptability to establish requirements in practical use. This is another advantage of an effective quality control and process management system. By combining image processing, motion,

control, functional safety and robotics in a single management system, production lines can be more easily adapted to shorter runs and changing market requirements. The line layout can be quickly redesigned and the recognition pattern for quality control can be easily updated in the software. This ensures that

Flexibility in an organisation is one of the key success factors for efficient production. This includes, on the one hand, the mobility of the robots used, and on the other hand, their adaptability

different product variants or even different products are produced and packaged flawlessly. In addition, future-proofing is possible, because the system can be easily adapted to new regulations. As a result, manufacturers do not have to worry about changing their production lines but can simply initiate a firmware update for the existing solution if necessary. In many applications, greater flexibility can be introduced if the traditional production line is ‘broken up’ into individual cells. With such process modules, for example, products can be customised, and the modules can be rearranged if necessary. Collaborative robots that work safely

Patricia Torres, Industry marketing manager at Omron

alongside people have an important role in enabling flexible manufacturing and creating competitive advantage. A new generation of ‘cobots’ is emerging, evolved from classical industrial robots in response to Industry 4.0. In applications where flexibility (not production speed) is key, collaborative robots are now filling the gap, with user-friendly software tools and integrated sensory functions. The networking of humans and

machines is more than just a trend towards efficient processing and the distribution of manufacturing tasks. The tangible benefits of tomorrow’s high- performance factory are already showing how the harmonisation of human and machine-based capabilities is revolutionising production with the help of AI and robotics, and is breaking new ground in future production methods.



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