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Connectivity Key to Industry 4.0

Bruce Morey
By Bruce Morey Senior Technical Editor, SME Media

During a virtual open house by GROB-WERKE GmbH & Co. KG, Hanover, one of the key and interesting discussions was the Brownfield concept discussed by Emil Nigl, Product Sales Manager for GROB. “The base layer of Industry 4.0 is a connectivity layer, connectivity in total,” said Nigl. “As it easy as it sounds, connectivity is really difficult to achieve.”

Why? Most factories that could use smartening up are existing Brownfield sites. “[Each one] has a different infrastructure,” he explained. This means their existing systems include a mix of ERP, MES, and machine data connects, hubs, and data bases as well as a mix of Software-as-a-Service functions mixed in. “There are different tasks to be done on the shop floor, such as production support, work orders, production feedback and NC programs,” said Nigl. With the additional introduction of today’s more automated systems onto shop floors that have legacy machines that might be decades old the problem gets even more complicated. Most shops have a mix of controllers from Siemens, Heidenhain, and Fanuc. Older machines may have no NC controllers at all and provide little data to feed a Smart Factory.

GROB offers two solutions to help in this mixed and confusion situation.

The first is the GROB-NET4Interface, that handles data from NC and PLC, maintenance data and performance indicators. GROB-NET combines a series of modules to help collect, analyze, simulate and view data from the shop floor. “We developed this because we could not find a solution in the marketplace that could fulfill all of our needs,” explained Nigl.

The other solution that GROB offer is a custom solution of micro-computers (think Raspberry PI) with sensors, IPCs, or data loggers that can be mounted in the machine cabinet. “This provides a simple installation, lower expenses with effective data transmission,” he said. This data could be used for standby service during off-hours, applied to evaluations or used in OEE calculations.

“The costs and expenses for this are relatively low to get an open and flexible platform.”

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