As we transition from Industry 3.0 to Industry 4.0 one essential part of these manufacturing systems the PLC, or ‘Programmable Logic Controller’ will continue to play an integral part. The PLC was first introduced into Industry in 1969; it was developed by Modicon as a relay re-placer for GM and Landis. Today in the Automotive Industry companies like Allen Bradley have standardized their PLCs for the majority of production line operations. Moving forward, PLCs in use today can be upgraded, i.e. software takes over control of the PLCs inputs and outputs functionality, and with significant benefits due to the maximization of error-proofing and the reduction of costs contributed to integrating and maintaining PLC systems.
The future of manufacturing control is software/web browser based plant floor management. Manufacturers no longer have to rely on experts or third-party companies to maintain or re-program PLCs when changes are needed, e.g. when a new product is added to the line, or a product specification is changed; all circumstances where downtime and labour expenses are incurred due to the complexity of integrating, and re-programming code in PLCs. Progressive assembly manufacturers are leading in this new thought movement of using software to not only control the PLCs, but the whole production process; putting the power of the system into the hands of Production Engineers, the key people who are most knowledgeable of the ‘manufacturing process’.
Production Engineers are the experts who truly understand the assembly line process and its strengths and weaknesses, and therefore they are the most qualified to make changes to the assembly line, and now they can. Innovative software development company PINpoint Information Systems has brought the ultimate power of production control to the customers fingertips; now the Production Engineers themselves can ‘re-program’ the assembly line from a user-friendly, intuitive web browser, essentially giving them the ability to make changes in real-time, to drag-and-drop new products into the line, adjust tolerances, set rules; and to configure the actual production schedule (see Figure 1.):
Figure 1. PINpoint Manufacturing Execution System ‘Scheduler’ feature screen shot.
Partnering with World leading Automotive, Heavy Machinery, and Aerospace manufactures and their Suppliers since 1997, PINpoint Information Systems has established itself as the leader in production optimization software. PINpoint’s up and coming launch of its’ latest SmartBuild and SmartScreen Software Version 4.0 is a testament to their commitment to manufacturing excellence, and continuous improvement through full-accountability manufacturing practices. PINpoint has perfected a user configurable product that allows for the expansion of any plant floor strategy simply by opening a web browser.
Management can use a simple web browser to see all the information about production, although the system goes beyond the function of just distributing information: at heart, it is an error-control system. For example, when an Automotive assembly line worker arrives at the workstation they have to log into PINpoint’s SmartScreen client application, which then checks firstly with the production database to see whether the worker even has the certifications necessary to operate the equipment at hand, and whether they have the necessary training on the product being assembled. If not, the system will not allow the worker to perform the assembly. If they are qualified the system then provides the worker with the information needed for producing that day’s orders. As work commences error-free the assembled products move down the assembly line to each subsequent workstation, with bar-code or RFID scanners ensuring this progress and mistake proofing along the way. SmartScreens display the information about the order, which parts the worker needs, where the fastenings and joints are and so on. SmartScreens tell workers the number of parts needed, where the fastenings should be and the torque required on every screw. If anything is missed, the software will not allow the part to move out to the next stage on the assembly line.
The SmartScreen terminal also communicates back to the production database. This keeps management up-to-date in real-time, but also provides an audit trail for the customer. Management can use a simple web browser to see all the information about production because all the data is tracked and easily accessible in the client database. In the case of Automotive manufacturing, the vehicle identification number (VIN) can tell you precise information about the components manufactured; it can tell you who built every part and every assembly, and whether that person was certified to do the work they did.
The use of software to command the PLC and assembly line as a whole is a value-added proposition, not only for the manufacturers, but also for the machine builders who integrate and program the PLCs into the production lines for those customers. Machine builders now have a means to bring added-value to the manufacturer, to simplify the process, save costs, reduce errors and make changes quickly; to easily adapt their assembly machinery regardless of the product being assembled or its changing specification. By upgrading PLCs to be controlled by PINpoint’s SmartBuild and SmartScreen software the assembly manufacturing industry as a whole gains value. Full-accountability in Manufacturing leads to the production of the highest possible quality products; it increases competitiveness, builds team morale, and gives assembly manufacturers a true means to achieve their goals of continuous improvement. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information and a demonstration of SmartBuild and SmartScreen.
PLC UPGRADE RELATED LINKS
Production Analytics Demo (Video):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inDK_yAuGgs