What is Needed for Smart Factory Capabilities?
Not every manufacturing system is considered a Smart Factory. To have smart automation technologies, systems will need to focus five major areas of concern:
1. Real-World, Industrial Training Equipment and Smart Sensors
While all the research in the world can prepare learners for how to act on the job, nothing beats real-world experience. A computer can virtually mimic troubleshooting steps; but until learners physically touch the equipment, they might experience a disconnect.
Fortunately, Amatrol thought of that, and offers industrial-grade training equipment that supports hands-on skills, and gives students a first-hand look at what they may encounter in the field.
The training devices, called Learning Systems, come in two sizes: full-sized and tabletop.
The full-scale training devices feature heavy duty, industrial grade components similar to what learners will see on the job. Amatrol’s Learning Systems teach skills on a wide variety of industrial components, including FANUC robots, Allen-Bradley PLCs, smart sensors, and more.
The tabletop training devices deliver the same dynamic level of training and industrial-grade components as the full-sized systems. However the tabletop version provides an option for when training space is too limited for the full Mechatronics line, but Smart Factory training remains necessary.
2. Industrial Networking
A crucial component to the Smart Factory process, Industrial Networking allows machines to communicate through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
In order for learners to connect with a fully-functional production system, industrial protocols - like Ethernet and Profinet protocols - provide real-time control, program transfer, data collection, and immediate program edits.
Smart Factory capabilities are impossible without the machines communicating with each other in real time, producing the critical data needed to understand the manufacturing process.
3. Data Analytics
As mentioned previously, one doesn’t simply add “smart” components to equipment and claim it possesses smart capabilities. In the real world, that would be like slapping a Mercedes symbol on a golf cart, and expecting it to possess the same power and proficiency.
Just because it has a symbol, four wheels, and moves doesn’t make it a Mercedes.
So while smart sensors play an important role in Smart Factory Technologies, they can’t do it alone. Instead, those sensors gather valuable information – known as Process Visualization Software – and communicate it to other machines via Ethernet & I/O Link.
That data is then input to the Manufacturing Execution Software, which offers a full-screen view into the real-time manufacturing process. With time, machines will understand so much about the process that they will begin predicting their own malfunctions, called Predictive Maintenance, limiting unexpected downtime and improving efficiency. Smart Product ID Tags help smart sensors track production history, sorting, inventory, and other valuable pieces of information to help a warehouse run as smoothly as possible.
Without data analytics, the information that smart sensors gather is useless.
4. Network Security
To ensure that communication is safe and free from unauthorized outside access, network security is essential.
Once data is available through the Cloud, or the IIoT, it can be accessible by anyone with Internet access, even those who want to cause harm. Not only does Network Security keep data safe and secure, but it protects data extended to suppliers and customers, as well as communications between plant-wide network and internet.
Without security, a cyber attack could be a click away, leading to a loss of data and potentially crippling damage to the Smart Factory. Network Security is the glue that holds a Smart Factory together. And with the growing threat of online hacking, it provides the smart systems the security it needs to function at its highest level.
You can’t build a house without a general understanding of architecture, and you certainly can’t run an effective Smart Factory without knowledge of its methodology and components.
So perhaps the most important component to implementing Smart Factory Technologies into an educational institute or business is how to teach these smart systems in a classroom setting.
Amatrol’s Smart Factory training is known worldwide for its competency-based, self-directed curriculum. Using eye-popping graphics, 3D simulations, videos and complete explanations, the curriculum offers strong technical content depth and skill development that mirrors instructor-led, classroom learning.
Thanks to Amatrol’s 24x7 eLearning access, training is no longer restricted to the classroom. Students can not only access their lessons online at any time, but can get the look and feel of using real equipment via their computer with Amatrol’s Virtual Simulators, which offer real-world outcomes and give immediate feedback for self-teaching.
Learners are able to convert from virtual trainer to industrial components in the classroom, ensuring they are prepared for whatever experience they might face in the field.
Not only does Amatrol’s curriculum and training equipment lead to industry-relevant certifications and credentials, but it also aligns with nationally recognized, industry-validated standards . These standards, which were designed by industry, for industry, encompass the skills employers are looking for in their hiring process.