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Proof of Industry 4.0 payback

20 April 2018

Eberhard Klotz explains what contribution Industry 4.0 is already making to the booming automation technology sector and demonstrates how it is already offering a pay back.

Festo is driving the change towards digitalisation in industry. The company not only implements IoT functions and services into its product portfolio and offers adds training and consultations to students and professionals, it is also using this latest technology in its own factory at Scharnhausen in Germany where it has offered a significant 15% improvement in performance and quantity output of a new assembly line thanks to insight provided by big data analytics. The project also highlights, how Festo's new automation platforms (with IP20 and IP65), IoT gateways and a direct link to a cloud can provide the basic ingredients for success.

Industry 4.0 and digitalisation is far more than just marketing hype. It is backed up by specific projects, products and services. Festo, for example, is a member of the Industry 4.0 platform advising the German government; it develops basic and further training concepts and measures for new career paths, and carries out visionary research in the Bionic Learning Network with autonomous and self-controlling systems such as BionicANTs or the prototypes of interactive, collaborative, pneumatic seven-axis robots like the BionicCobot.

From mechanics to the cloud
Festo is already delivering some real automation technology products for the fourth industrial revolution: integrated drive packages, modular valve terminals with OPC UA and IOT gateways, decentralised CODESYS controllers and autonomous mechatronic subsystems with IP20 or IP65. In addition, there are IoT driven apps and services, valuable dashboards for some products and complete subsystems. Festo is able to provide consistent connectivity from the mechanics up to flexible and multiple cloud concepts (Festo cloud, Siemens MindSphere, Rockwell Factory Talk). However, the most exciting innovation in pneumatics is the Festo Motion Terminal, which is the first automation platform to be designed as a cyber-physical system and can replace up to 50 individual pneumatic functions.

Festo, in contrast to consultancies, has the advantage that it can draw upon a wealth of user experience from pilot production projects in the Scharnhausen Technology Plant. This includes topics such as energy management and optimisation as well as innovative one-piece-flow concepts based on standardised networking, mobile maintenance with tablets or automated, flexible test systems for individual products. This experience is also incorporated into our own products.

Big data analytics figure out bottlenecks, and finally reduce cycle time by 15%: A large assembly line is designed to operate mass production as well as batch sizes of one. Currently, customers demand batch sizes of between 200 and 2,000. The volume produced in a year equates to around 1.2 million units at a cycle time of 13 seconds.

The change of the batches is handled by SAP ME / order management, but inside the machine RFID at every work piece holder triggers the necessary parameters/recipes at each station. The technical basics of this assembly line are mechatronic subsystems in all machine cells, which are operated by decentralised control concepts for the electric and pneumatic drives and actuators. Each station provides all the data needed to operate and maintain the line in a unified digital format, and are networked with all testing stations/quality systems. Data which is relevant for the machine operation is processed locally in real time. Data from around 400 IP addresses is gathered, condensed and provided, via OPC UA, to either support motion control or analytics on a PC or on a cloud-based solution.

Such a concept generates huge amounts of data and requires machine personnel to have additional data analytical skills. To get maximum value from all the available data you would need a ‘data scientist’.

After two years in operation at the Festo plant the first big data analysis was executed and this turned out to be a very valuable operation. Typical patterns resulting in bottlenecks could be clearly identified. It was possible to find solutions to overcome these bottlenecks and to further optimise a new machine’s cycle time by 15% (from 13 to 11 seconds). The changes made at the plant included modifications inside the test cells and their procedures, the workpieces trigger the cell in advance and thereby save time for ‘booting’ the test routing and its connectors. Other bottlenecks required a stronger CPU. The data proved to be hugely valuable and without transparency such optimisation would not have been possible. It offers a great demonstration of how a measured value can be transformed into an added value. While the results of the Festo project were outstanding, a payback of less than one year, even a much smaller effect with payback times of between two and three years would still be valuable in many industries.

Industry 4.0 solutions
To get all relevant data out of a machine and all its mechatronic subsystems, you need several ingredients. Depending on your production system, it could include seamlessly connected and integrated drive solutions in electric axes as well as pneumatics. Vision sensors, sensors, quality inspection, tracking information, energy monitoring, connection to logistics and order management/MES. Festo’s CPX-E system is a high-performance control system for factory automation. The system consists of individual function modules that can be used to create a modular, compact and thus very flexible (sub)system. Depending on the module combination, the system can be used as a purely remote I/O system or as a (centralised or decentralised) control system for factory or process automation.

From a functional point of view, the CPX-E control units are designed as EtherCAT master controllers and motion controllers. These are high-performance control units which can be used both for extensive PLC functions and, in the Motion Control M1 variant, also for multi-axis applications with interpolation (CODESYS V3, PLCopen Parts 1, 2 and 4).

A further special feature of the control units – in addition to the EtherCAT master interface – is the integrated PROFINET device or EtherNet/IP slave interface. This means a decentralised control system can be easily integrated into appropriate host systems. The OPC UA interface is available for Industry 4.0.

Bus modules for PROFIBUS, PROFINET, EtherCAT, EtherNet/IP (and Modbus/TCP) are available as a remote I/O for the configurations. In addition to the usual digital and analogue I/O modules, IO-Link master modules and a counter module are also available.

Festo can, therefore, offer a consistent portfolio for the decentralised automation of sub-systems and small machines/installations with IP20 (CPX-E platform) and IP65 (CPX platform), all in line with a flexible Industry 4.0 host environment including the (coming soon) CPX-IOT gateway and first customised dashboards in the clouds of Festo, Siemens MindSphere or Rockwell FactoryTalk.

What we successfully use in our own production environment we also share with our customers. We really do walk the walk as well as talk the talk! We are indeed the engineers of productivity.

Eberhard Klotz is head of the Industry 4.0 campaign at Festo.


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