Higher Demands Call for Intelligent Automation Systems
By Dan DeYoung, Market Development Director, Integrated Architecture, Rockwell Automation
Companies eager to capitalize on the promise of smart manufacturing are moving to a Connected Enterprise. However, an influx of connected devices into the industrial zone introduces greater complexity in the form of programming, connectivity and security requirements.
This added complexity, if not properly managed, can limit the potential of smart manufacturing and introduce risk. For example, greater capacity or bandwidth is needed to fully capitalize on smart devices or new technologies. Machine and process data also must be delivered to workers in a way that helps them make better decisions. And greater industrial security is needed to help protect intellectual property, physical assets and workers.
Implementing a smart manufacturing approach requires an automation system that can keep up with these demands – a system that integrates all smart devices on a single network with one control platform. When designed and configured in one software environment, the latest automation and control technologies can help manufacturers design, operate and maintain a high-performing system more efficiently.
Consider some of the key capabilities and benefits that an integrated, intelligent automation system brings to manufacturing.
Increased Capacity and Bandwidth
A smart operation introduces more devices, more connection points and increased information sharing. Your automation system should have the necessary application capacity and communications bandwidth to handle these requirements.
The latest controllers, for example, support faster system performance and the growing adoption of smart devices. They offer up to 45 percent more application capacity and 1-gigabit Ethernet bandwidth to support high-speed communications, I/O and applications with many axes of motion. Also, new distributed I/O systems with dual 1-gigabit Ethernet ports can scan up to 10 times faster than existing I/O systems.
This higher capacity and bandwidth can help limit the need to add more hardware even as device and data requirements increase.
Better Decision Making
An abundance of data can hinder rather than help if it isn’t properly managed. The latest human-machine interface (HMI) software is designed with this in mind. It can present operators with easy-to-understand graphical displays and provide quick access to alarming. It also can report, route and store event data, providing systemwide diagnostics for troubleshooting and determining root cause.
The HMI also is physically evolving to support the growing use of data. Graphic terminal screens are available in larger sizes than ever, with higher resolution displays and widescreen formats to help operators see and react to more complex and information-rich dashboards. Plant managers and executives also can use mobile HMI software to monitor and manage operations whether they’re in the office, at home or on the road.
The traditional approach to designing machines and systems requires using multiple design tools. This forces designers to jump between the tools and to learn the different programming languages, menus and commands for each tool. A lack of interoperability between the tools can also result in redundant programming, which is unproductive and can increase the likelihood of coding and data-entry errors.
These problems are only compounded when designing smart systems that are more complex and require the support of multiple teams. Larger projects in particular often require the support of multiple design engineers and system integrators, who may be located across countries and time zones.
Integrated development software can eliminate the need for separate tools by bringing multiple design functionalities together in one environment. This creates a simpler, more seamless development experience that can help improve design productivity.
The integrated environment also helps improve productivity after a smart system is operational. It creates a central location from which operators and maintenance technicians can reconfigure devices, troubleshoot issues and access system information.
More devices and data are naturally going to create more complexity. Hardware that supports these demands can help contain or reduce this complexity.
The controllers offering 45 percent more application capacity, for example, can cut the amount of control and communications hardware required in a system. This in turn can reduce overall system complexity and panel-space requirements.
New servo drives also combine servo and vector motor control into a single platform to help reduce complexity, while reducing cabinet-space requirements by up to 70 percent. They also allow motor-power, brake and feedback wires to be packaged into a single cable, which can help reduce motion wiring requirements by as much as 60 percent.
Streamlined Troubleshooting and Maintenance
The emergence of self-aware and system-aware devices offers significant maintenance benefits. Self-aware servo drives use self-diagnostics to detect resonant frequency and can then automatically make tuning adjustments on their own. This can help optimize machine performance over time and reduce the need for regular tuning maintenance.
Mobile HMI software also can help simplify maintenance. The software can give technicians access to real-time and historical information right on their smartphones if a problem arises.
A smart manufacturing operation is not without risks. More connection points create more vulnerability for security threats, both malicious and unintentional.
Network infrastructure plays an important role in any industrial security program. For example, an infrastructure using industrial firewalls and managed switches can help bridge IT and OT more securely.
But the control system also plays a crucial role. Controllers, drives and other devices used in a smart operation should have security built into their design. The latest controllers, for instance, incorporate advanced security technologies and software features, such as digitally signed and encrypted firmware, change detection and audit logging. Development software also now incorporates more built-in security features, such as user authentication and access control.
Built for the Future
A modern, intelligent automation system can help you meet today’s smart manufacturing goals, while also preparing you to take advantage of greater connectivity in the coming years.
More connected devices will continue to create more opportunities but also put new demands on your operations. And the security threats targeting industrial control systems will grow in parallel with the connection points themselves.
The right automation system can help future-proof your operations and prepare you for these changes, allowing you to more easily expand and take advantage of new control, information and security technologies as they come to market.
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