Fully realizing the vision of smart manufacturing requires massive change. Connectivity requirements alone demand that hundreds of smart devices be introduced, as well as reels of network cable. And that is just the beginning. There is a learning curve to overcome, requiring a degree of experimentation. Unprecedented amounts of new data will be accessible, which will require organization and standardization to become useful information. In its entirety, smart manufacturing is a mountainous task.
Fortunately, you don’t have to climb it all at once.
What is Progression?
The concept of progression is promoted by the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition. Jim Davis, Vice Provost of Information Technology at UCLA, stresses the importance of starting small and working smart manufacturing as a progression.
“Many possibilities that have already been considered cost-prohibitive now become doable. Progression enables manufacturers to grow into using big data for new operational insights.”
The evolution to integrated architecture is a progression, not a leap. If implemented properly, modernization efforts will increase efficiency thereby increasing ROI and reducing operating and production costs. This will ultimately help to offset initial investment dollars.
Progression is taking small steps today toward a fully enabled tomorrow. Start with less ambitious objectives, working with a more contained set of data and devices. Individual lines, machines or cells can be used as test beds to experiment and develop in a controlled manner. Experimenting at these levels is a great way to “contain” the scope and learn about possibilities.
The concept of progression begins with planning and specifying for connectivity. The process requires time, where smart devices are systematically introduced. As existing devices fail or require upgrades, this specification can be distributed to ensure that a better choice is made for replacement.
The basics are fairly straightforward:
- Establish a standard for networks at field (device), control (PLC) and MES levels.
- Define standards for smart devices, those enabled with information and diagnostics.
- Develop a plan for systematic introduction of these devices, including upgrades as legacy products fail.
A progression plan typically spans multiple years and should define standards for actual device replacement for both large projects and incremental repair opportunities. Once the specification and plan is in place, additional purchases can be made toward a smart manufacturing system.
The key to progression is smart devices, which we will explore in our next post.