Meeting the requirements of Industry 4.0

08 September 2015

Suzanne Gill finds out what CC-Link IE has to offer those looking to reap the benefits of smarter factories and to achieve the goals set by the Industry 4.0 initiative.

Since it was first discussed at the Hannover Messe in 2011, Industry 4.0 has become something that all progressive companies – be they end users or suppliers – have sought to align themselves with. 

The Industry 4.0 term originates from a high-tech strategy implemented by the German government which promotes the computerisation of the manufacturing industry. It is not just about machines communicating with each other… That has been happening for years with M2M. Nor is it about your fridge being able to order milk for you (although that may become part of it in the future). Neither is it just about factories running themselves  –  ‘lights out’ manufacturing has been a topic for discussion since the 1980s.
What it is, is a combination of ‘cyber-physical’ systems (computational elements merged into, and controlling, physical systems) with the industrial subset of the Internet of Things (IoT), the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) where intelligent industrial products, processes and services communicate with each other and with people over a global network. 

But why is Industry 4.0 different to what we have been talking about in the past?  John Browett, general manager at the CC-Link Partner Association (CLPA) Europe, believes that the key difference with Industry 4.0 is the Ethernet and in turn Internet based technologies that provide the connectivity for everything to communicate with everything else. “This has been approached in the past, but usually these attempts have stopped short somewhere, when incompatibility divides a project into islands or silos due to the networks and technologies being used.”

Become a reality
As Industry 4.0 becomes reality, for the first time it will be possible to connect almost any device (assuming it has an Ethernet port) with almost any other, regardless of where it is or what it is. For manufacturing, this means many of the science fiction scenarios that have been discussed for so many years could finally become reality. 

A good analogy would be the car, which is a network on wheels – multiple cyber physical parts (engine, transmission, dashboard, indicators, etc.) all controlled by software, communicating and cooperating with each other. In the same way that automotive manufacturers are considering the ideas of cars all over a city cooperating (think IoT) to reduce congestion and pollution, Industry 4.0 will allow production machines to provide more transparency and cooperate with each other to a much higher degree. It is claimed that this will eventually lead to intelligent factories capable of autonomous production changeovers, reassignment of production equipment and perhaps even scaling their capacity as demand increases. By extension, this will also take in the Internet and collaboration with vendors and customers to a greater degree than is possible now. 

Although some of this may still be a way off, what is clear is that none of this will happen without a network that is able to carry the information between all the places where it is needed, in real-time. Ethernet is the foundation for this infrastructure and being able to deliver the necessary performance will require technology with better capabilities than is common today. This is where the CLPA and its member companies, believes that CC-Link IE will make the difference.

With over 25 years experience in industrial communication, HMS should have a good insight into the industrial network market and it has identified that the need for connectivity to both industrial Ethernet and traditional fieldbuses is growing. “Today, we estimate that 34% the global networking market is Ethernet-based, while 66% use more traditional fieldbuses. However implementation of Industrial Ethernet is now growing faster than that of fieldbuses, even at the device level, and CC-Link IE is one of the emerging technologies in this area, especially for the Asian market,” said Christian Bergdahl, product marketing manager at HMS Industrial Networks.

Knut Dettmer, marketing manager at Renesas Electronics Europe, goes on to make the point: “As industrial automation companies strive to address Industry 4.0 needs, it has become evident that network throughput in real-time automation networks is increasing, due to the projected increase in M2M communication in reconfigurable cyber-physical-system setups.  Being the only relevant industrial Ethernet standard with Gigabit Ethernet technology already in place, CC-Link IE is already well set up to address these needs today.” 

One of the many goals and visions of Industry 4.0 is the so called ‘Smart Factory’ which will be fast, flexible and efficient. “To achieve this goal, devices in the plant need to be much more intelligent than they have been in the past,” explained Stephan Langer, networking product manager at CLPA board member Balluff.  “We are seeing increasing volumes of data within the lowest communication levels of the production process. Devices have to be able to generate the necessary information and seamless communication between devices and the Internet is required. We also need the infrastructure for seamless transportation of the entire data over all communication levels.”

Balluff has also identified a trend in the automation world away from classic fieldbus systems towards Ethernet-based communication systems. “One reason for this is speed and data volume,” said Langer. “To achieve the Industry 4.0 vision we need more high performance networks and Balluff sees the absolute benefit in the Gigabit technology of CC-Link IE. We are convinced that it is perfectly placed to support the requirements of Industry 4.0 and can make the vision real.” To this end the company is currently developing CC-Link IE I/O-modules, which are planned for release late in 2015.

Proactive decision-making
“From the factory floor to the MES level, manufacturers need real-time accessible data to support proactive, rather than reactive, decision-making when it comes to production scheduling, diagnostics and maintenance.  Plant floor equipment, devices and sensors are producing more and more data to be gathered, analysed and stored,” said Damien Leterrier director of industrial communications at CLPA board member Molex.

“These enormous quantities of data need to be moved quickly from the plant floor to operations managers and executive offices and it is the speed of transmission possible with CC-Link IE’s gigabit Ethernet that makes it advantageous in helping to meet the demands of this data deluge. 

“However, designing a smart network configuration requires collaboration between IT and manufacturing,” continued Leterrier. Equipment is becoming increasingly intelligent, which can help make the job easier. Leterrier offered an example of this: “Machines and software tools are now able to predict many of the potential problems that can lead to failure, and are able to trigger preventative maintenance processes to minimise costly downtime or equipment damage.  Technologies already exist within CC-Link IE, for example the SeamLess Message Protocol (SLMP) which makes it easier to link and access equipment without the need for hardware changes, while critical processes still operate on a real-time gigabit Ethernet backbone.”

Rick Roszkowski, senior director marketing at CLPA board member Cognex, also believes that CC-Link IE is a good fit with Industry 4.0. He said: “It provides a high performance, deterministic interface solution from the enterprise level right down to the device level. I believe it is critical to have a protocol that can do this to leverage the benefits of a digitised enterprise. In terms of material flow it is vital to have a communication protocol that can bridge the gap from the device level all the way up to the enterprise system.

“CC-Link IE allows the device level and the enterprise to, effectively, share a common protocol – with different physical characteristics as to how fast it communicates in the field – but architecturally with common wiring, cabling, connectors and programming interface across the enterprise.”

In conclusion, Greg Hookings, senior manager - strategic business development at CLPA board member Mitsubishi Electric, said: “Industry 4.0 incorporates a number of manufacturing trends such as IIoT, big data, cyber security and seamless communication.  The result of these technologies coming together is something that we recognise today as the ‘smart factory’.  CC-Link IE introduces a number of primary capabilities that can help achieve this smart factory vision. These include high level data speed transmission and simplified data handling; standardisation on Ethernet based technologies; interfacing with legacy CC-Link fieldbus technologies; extensive connectivity between Mitsubishi Electric control devices and other vendors; and finally seamless communication between the enterprise and shop floor.

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