This week’s SPS IPC Drives Expo 2016 in Nuremburg has seen Mitsubishi Electric showcase a portfolio of integrated automation components and services developed to help customers realise their individual business objectives.
Under the banner ‘e F@ctory, your journey to Industry 4.0’, Mitsubishi Electric gave visitors the opportunity to explore new application solutions that enable the automation and digitalisation of industrial processes and also exchange ideas with the respective technology experts.
Nowadays, companies are facing a wide range of challenges - growing global competition, customer requirements changing more frequently than ever and an ongoing digitalisation of our world. To keep pace, decision makers within manufacturing industry must consider new approaches in order to keep their business models relevant. The crucial factor for success is to remain competitive by reducing the cost and time-to-market for new products by using faster, more flexible and efficient production systems.
“As for Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation, we have recognised the growth potential offered by new technologies, digitalisation and the increasing pace of change. Our business model has been updated accordingly, with the changes consolidated and represented by the e F@ctory concept.” reported Hartmut Pütz, President Factory Automation EMEA at Mitsubishi Electric. “We have also learned that close cooperation with other companies from different industry sectors speeds up development and introduces valuable new ideas. For this reason the e F@ctory Alliance has been established, a partner network of more than 300 companies working together on a worldwide level. These companies represent different backgrounds within the value chain - from devices and system integration to software providers. Together, we are more competitive as we are able to provide our customers with better solutions for their individual requirements.”
Mitsubishi Electric’s booth space was dedicated to showcasing technical innovations which address different application demands on a production level, alongside specific sector solutions for automotive, food and beverage, water utilities and life science. All exhibits were aligned with meeting increased overall efficiency and cost reduction targets, while providing the answers to specific challenges such as traceability, quality, safety and sustainability.
Addressing the challenges of Industry 4.0 today
Many of the solutions that were on show have been developed together with partner companies from the e F@ctory Alliance, such as Auvesy, Datalogic and Eplan. These solutions comprise the latest developments for smart PLCs, robots, servo systems, single platform PLC-based CNC control and network technologies.
A particular focus was a preview of the linear transfer system with Smart Carriage technology from Mitsubishi Electric and APT Automation. The Smart Carriage delivers on-board intelligence and integrated power for on-board carriage equipment. It also supports the ability to switch between parallel tracks on production lines, allowing multiple operations on different products. “When it is officially launched in 2017, the Smart Carriage technology will have an important role to play in boosting the flexibility of production lines, enabling manufacturers to meet customer demands for smaller batch sizes and greater levels of customisation,” said Hartmut Pütz.
This need for increased flexibility is one of the defining challenges for manufacturing that Industry 4.0 helps to address. The Mitsubishi Electric booth at SPS IPC Drives offered further technology solutions for increasing flexibility, as well as for improving productivity, overall equipment effectiveness and production agility.
As an e F@ctory Alliance member, Schaeffler has also produced an online solution for preventive maintenance based on a smart condition monitoring device and Mitsubishi Electric developed software. The solution provides a convenient and easy to install package that connects seamlessly to factory automation and management systems. Users gain independent visibility of the health and maintenance status of rotating equipment such as motors, gearboxes, pumps and fans, enabling them to reduce down-time and increase production efficiency with a short ROI.
The model variant FR-A800-E is a new introduction to the recently launched FR-A800 range of drives. The ‘E’ version provides a dedicated Ethernet port which enables direct connection to increasingly popular Ethernet networks for control of inverters within a larger automation network. There is also a new iPhone App available with this model that provides flexible access and control while on the move.
Integrated production line control
A further challenge of Industry 4.0 is the wider integration of the production line to encompass not just standard control, but also aspects such as numerical control operations. The Mitsubishi Electric booth at SPS IPC Drives demonstrated how control over machine tool functions, integrated into the iQ-R automation platform, enables control of the entire manufacturing production line from a single point. The new C80 CNC CPU unit mounts alongside an iQ-R Series PLC’s existing modules, offering users the benefits of a common programming environment, easier installation and commissioning, and reduced hardware costs. “Offering improvements in productivity, ease of use, connectivity, functional safety and reliability, the C80 CNC Series brings added value to the production line control system and reduces Total Cost of Ownership,” said Hartmut Pütz.
Approaching the Internet of Things
Recent estimates already put the number of devices that are connected to the internet at about five billion and this is likely to soar over the next few years. Combine that prediction with the amount of data that is being generated and processed by a more connected factory, and access to fast as well as secure data storage is now crucial for effective automation deployment. In this context a solution for achieving safe, convenient access to Cloud connectivity at device level was always going to prove popular.
Mitsubishi Electric is therefore offering different options for manufacturing companies to make use of all the benefits resulting from Cloud Computing and secure data storage. The solution is called Edge computing and can be realised using different combinations of products and technologies provided by Mitsubishi Electric and e F@ctory Alliance partners Adroit Technologies or eWon. Together, they offer managed connections to existing cloud services.
Hartmut Pütz’s concluded: “Manufacturing is undoubtedly in the midst of a revolution; with the vision of achieving Industry 4.0 on the horizon and the IIoT already making a big impact on how companies invest in technology, there is now more focus on technology, communications and the future within industry than ever before. Together we are transforming the structure, systems and processes of the modern factory as we re-think business models and try to predict where best to direct our investment in technology to improve performance. Understanding how new and existing technologies will increase performance, while weighing the value of achieving that performance gain against the cost of the technology is a critical decision. This is why we brought together a range of new products, new solutions and practical real life demonstrations to share with visitors on our stand.”