Networking, Digitization, Big Data, Industry 4.0 – Three Steps to Achieving the Target


Networking, digitisation, big data, industry 4.0 – these buzzwords are on everyone’s lips at the moment to the point where some people no longer want to hear them. Reluctance like this is easily caused by constant use, abstract handling and individual interpretation of these industrial policy terms. Even for those who should actually be implementing them.

There is another perspective, if you look at the actual targets of medium-sized German manufacturing companies as your starting point; there you generally find priorities such as the strengthening of the company through appropriately increased yield and efficiency improvements. And right alongside these, a meaningful association with the terms mentioned above can be established.
The slogan “Made in Germany”, for example, is still synonymous with quality products. Traceability and quality management systems are essential in carrying this forward. This is at least the first step in approaching these buzzwords.

Germany continues to only really handle small volume manufacturing due to the constant relocation of large volume production to the Asiatic region. This trend is particularly noticeable in the production of electronic assemblies. One approach here is intelligent production management with MES, possible even with lot sizes of “one”.

Finally, a third point, is the continuing expense of resources which further diminishes any residual yield. This can only be counterbalanced by efficient utilisation based on integrated production data and application across the entire production line. PDA (Production Data Acquisition) or OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) are the key words here, closely related as they are to networking, digitisation and industry 4.0.

■ Figure 1. Networked manufacturing of electronic assemblies

The first step: Collect quality data centrally


The easiest step, and to a certain extent the foundation, consists of central quality data collection for every production stage. A seamless process for the identification of the product in each production step is a prerequisite. Traceability is also talked about a lot, but not actually implemented everywhere or in every machine on the line. Even when there is a comprehensive quality management system, it is often still the case that not all steps in the process offer the required interfaces. In addition, appropriate standards are still missing. The ZVEI [German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association] had a good initiative a number of years ago but unfortunately it had limited authority. There is, however, a new glimmer of hope at an international level with the imminent CFX standard (Connected Factory Initiative from IPC).

Bidirectional integration: Imperative for small batch sizes

As indicated above, “Made in Germany” is seen as a sign of quality but it is only the first step in terms of global competitiveness. Efficiency, even with small batch sizes, can only be achieved with an integrated and established Manufacturing Execution System (MES). In order to get the work tasks of each production stage allotted in real time, seamless identification of the product is absolutely essential. But here the onus is on plant manufacturers once again – bidirectional data exchange with process interlocking is in demand. This communication should not be confused with the Hermes interface launched by initiatives from ASYS and ASM. In the medium to long term it will replace the almost antediluvian SMEMA interface. Hermes offers an excellent foundation as, at each stage in production it “combines” the product with, for example, its serial number and other parameters, such as printed circuit board width or transfer speed, for example.

■ Figure 2. Bidirectional communication at every production stage.

The third step: Efficient use of resources

The points outlined so far have covered seamless collection of quality data and product specific control but have not taken the use of machines and production lines into account. Efficiency rates can be sent through the floor by downtime caused by very different cycle times in individual production stages, waiting times due to missing material, or instrument defects. The continuous collection and evaluation of data concerning the operational condition of the components in the production line can really help with this. BDE and OEE should already be familiar in some locations. MES often provides the option of collecting and evaluating this data. But this often presents individual machine manufacturers with quite a challenge as all reports about changes in the condition of the machine have to be sent to the MES via Ethernet (typically using xml protocol). This is less of a problem for all PC based actions within a system, but data exchanges like this tend to be difficult with SPS modules. Sometimes it can require the rethinking of system designs and the creation of internal communication methods.

■ Figure 3. Intelligent networking with PILOT Connect


Central, flexible and universal: PILOT Connect communication software

With the PILOT Connect communication software, GÖPEL electronic has made it possible to intelligently network all the inspection systems on a production line. As well as uniform data management for system information and test results, this high-performance tool also offers a central interface to high-level quality management or MES. This communication is only required once; all further exchanges take place at a deeper level. The data exchange can either take place purely at a results level (unidirectional), with product specific control (bidirectional), or through production data acquisition. Naturally, there are also comprehensive statistical analysis options available, such as, central repair and verification locations with display options for all related inspection results. The AOI, SPI and AXI systems from GÖPEL electronic can be integrated into PILOT Connect, as well as machines from other suppliers and electrical test systems.

■ Figure 4. SPI, AXI and AOI systems by GÖPEL electronic



Intelligent networking and industry 4.0 starts at the lowest level. And even there, many manufacturing service providers are way behind the times. Whilst media-savvy plans to expand digitisation in all regions of Germany are important, smaller but no less effective steps should also be considered.

Appropriate communication modules could significantly reduce the time and costs involved in networking a production facility and, at the same time, offer extensive options for data collection and evaluation. However, the general expense of resources for establishing an efficient overall system should not be ignored. Experience with inspection systems has shown that the time required to connect to MES increases exponentially with the local distance from the manufacturer. “Made in Germany” also shows its qualities at this juncture.


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