Omron hosted its Innovation Conference on 24 August at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Tshwane, Gauteng. This was to introduce a newly developed platform which alleviates manufacturers’ pressures by focussing on three principles.
Integrated, intelligent, interactive and smart were the buzzwords at this year’s event. All are of equal importance in the development of Industry 4.0 initiatives. But what exactly does this mean for manufacturers and their customers?
‘While Industry 4.0 might be a hot topic, what a lot of companies are saying is just hot air,’ says Lucian Dold, GM of product and channel marketing for the EMEA region at Omron Industrial Automation Europe.
Although companies are interested in the adoption of automated technologies, it is not a new concept.
‘Omron has been working on manufacturing automation and data exchange for many years, both on its own and as part of working groups in Germany,’ he adds.
But could the concept be too broad and does it mean the same thing to everyone? While sensor networks, big data and artificial intelligence technologies are part of the Industry 4.0 concept, the results produced are what is important.
Networked, effective, agile and responsible or NEAR factory and i-Automation! are Omron’s advanced concepts. Having a NEAR factory means improved productivity in response to ever changing market demands. Within a networked factory there is a better connection between machines in a manufacturing line. This provides improved control and efficiency. Data and control of the line can also be managed remotely. These concepts are able to draw on additional data, such as market forecasts, to efficiently manage production schedules.
An effective factory is one with a high overall equipment efficiency (OEE). Raising OEE by one percent can deliver large gains. Smart, interconnected systems are able to detect and monitor potential issues to keep production lines running longer and allow maintenance to be scheduled at an appropriate time. This will help increase efficiency.
Omron’s i-Automation! concept enables the NEAR factory concept to be implemented. It transforms the elements of Industry 4.0 into tangible benefits for machine makers. In a way, it sums up the value provided by Omron’s solutions for improving manufacturing sites by focusing on the principles of integration, intelligence and interactivity.
Smarter machines help operators work effectively by monitoring processes and flagging any potential problems. This allows for processes to be adjusted, maintenance to be scheduled or for repairs to be made before the event of complete machine failure. It also helps keep manufacturing lines running longer, with less downtime and increased productivity.