Integrated industry and the future of smart factories

08 June 2017

Commonly known as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) or Industry 4.0, Integrated Industry is the concept of a fully connected manufacturing system, where there is communication at each stage of the production process, says Gavin Stoppel of Harting.

There are four key elements that lead to Integrated Industry within a manufacturing environment – modularisation, digitalisation, customisation and miniaturisation. 

A modularly constructed production plant offers a previously unattainable level of flexibility in production. Each section of the factory can be individually accessed and maintained, giving the flexibility to alter the individual production modules without disruption to other processes. For example, maintenance can be carried out on specific production modules without the need to shut down associated machinery unnecessarily. Another factor is the modularisation of products; the Han-Modular® industrial connector family, for example, allows users to combine various connector inserts in a single connector housing. This flexibility means that power, signals and data can be combined flexibly within one connector, saving space while performing more efficiently.

‘Digitalisation is the future’. Innovative products are flooding the market, providing smart solutions to integrate digital concepts into factories. These innovations allow for central machine monitoring and process optimisation, ensuring that production lines are operating more effectively and economically. Products such as the HARTING MICA Industry Computer can be retrofitted into existing factory set-ups, removing the need for costly refurbishments while implementing the changes needed to bring existing machinery up to date and meeting the requirements for a smart factory. 

Industrial production is becoming more flexible and more intelligent. It is, therefore, important that individual production requirements are met, as customised solutions solve problems that standardised products cannot. Customisation is a key part of creating an Integrated Industry environment because the systems can be tailored to specific requirements: to provide an increased level of power, for example. These bespoke components help to create a ‘smart’ factory which manufactures more efficiently.  
A key theme within Integrated Industry is the growing trend of miniaturisation, specifically with regards to connectivity. In particular, saving space is crucial while still providing the same amount of power, signal and data. HARTING strives to provide solutions that deliver maximum performance, and the introduction of three major new connectivity developments – the ix Industrial, M8 D-coded and T1 Industrial - represent a big step forward in this direction. 

The ix Industrial is set to replace RJ45 as the industry standard, combining compactness with robustness for harsh industrial applications. Providing a standardised interface according to IEC/PAS 61076-3-124, this product is cost-effective and gives users investment security as well as providing the correct contact point for future applications in the IoT. Likewise, the M8 D-coded is pushing the boundaries set by the traditional M8 connector, which only transmits signals. The M8 D-coded avoids taking up further space with additional power interfaces by simultaneously supplying data and power to field equipment with its PoE-capability in D-coding. Unlike its M12 counterpart, it occupies 30% less space on a circuit board, adding to its space-saving benefits.

Future developments
Even more exciting is the T1 Industrial – a single-pair Ethernet solution that increases the ease of implementing Ethernet whilst remaining cost-effective. 

While normal Ethernet requires either 2-wire pairs or 4-wire pairs, the T1 will create a new standard for the industry which defines a transmission channel over an unshielded twisted-pair cable with a length of up to 15 m for on-board passenger car networks and shielded cabling up to 40 m for use in automation and in the rail and aviation industry. An IEEE working group are already developing the 10Base-T1 Extended Reach Standard. This standard could replace all conventional field buses with Ethernet through the extension of transmission distances to a planned 15,500 m. 

The development of these Ethernet standards shows that the practical realisation of Integrated Industry concepts of is becoming ever closer. For HARTING, Integrated Industry and ‘smart’ factories are not just a futuristic concept but are already a reality. The HAII4YOU factory demonstration unit is made up of three production cells, each with their own control system. The unit shows individually customised Han-Modular connectors being manufactured in a conceptual mass production environment. The implementation of HARTING’s products within the manufacturing system shows how they can be integrated on a larger scale to create a fully functional ‘smart’ factory from product through to complete solutions.

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