Real vs. ideal: The PROXIA brownfield approach
Convert grown machine parks to smart factories
The digital transformation and the networking of production is the goal in the new Industry 4.0 age. Ideally, production plants are designed and built from zero to one hundred, as the greenfield approach describes. In this case, all machines and systems are equipped with sensors for monitoring, work items are "smart objects" that can provide information about their current processing status. The data management enables in-depth big data analyzes, on the basis of which processes can be improved and adapted. The reality is usually different - the brownfield approach. Here, machine parks that have grown over time have to be "converted" into smart factories. The PROXIA MES solution kit with its OPC-UA and XI-Gateway modules enables this to be designed as practically and efficiently as possible.
Greenfield approach: The wish as the father of thought
The subject of "digitization of production facilities" is currently inspiring experts with almost visionary concepts. In the explanations, we speak about high-tech production resources that interoperate with a cloud-based system and with other production resources. We refer to the "cyber-physical systems", which make decisions on their own, based on recorded data. The ideas of this “greenfield approach” are brilliant. There are prototypes of such 'perfect' factories in which research institutions, together with industry, test these concepts in practice. However, these production facilities were mostly built on the "green field" and never had to take into account "contaminated sites" such as existing machinery.
Brownfield approach: Digitize established structures
However, the reality, especially in medium-sized manufacturing companies, is different. Here we encounter machine parks that have grown over the years. The focus in the procurement of the systems was (and still is) on the technology. The systems that produce as efficient as possible were procured. We are often still far away from thinking about interfaces and process networking. But now companies are discovering another interesting "output" of their production: the data. You will see how you can optimize processes, increase output and reduce costs through the targeted use of this data. Suddenly, data is worth something and comes into focus. How can companies that have no “digital chatterboxes” in production still play in the “professional league” of data processors?
OPC UA as the basis for shop floor communication
True to the motto “you take what you can get”, production companies should strive to record all the data from their machinery. It is important to unravel the "protocol network" of the various control and system types. The aim is to transfer the data into a uniform communication strategy as close as possible to the place of origin. This communication strategy should not only describe the data semantically and enable bidirectional communication, but it should also take care of the aspects of IT security. Experience has shown that the security gaps in shop floor communication are often considerable. PROXIA OPC-UA is the ideal solution as the basis for shop floor communication, as all of the requirements listed above are met. Once communication is “normalized”, a wide variety of systems can consume this data. Unified communication makes real interoperability of the different process participants possible in the first place.
PROXIA XI Gateway – smart & universal networking
For the purpose of this interoperability, PROXIA has brought a communication gateway onto the market. The PROXIA XI gateway has made it its business to convert the various protocols and interfaces of the “shop floor world” into the OPC-UA communication strategy. For example, generally applicable protocols such as "MT Connect" or control-specific communication such as "Heidenhain DNC" can be provided directly via OPC UA. Current MES and ERP systems are able to process this data directly. All data, from simple status information, which is provided via digital IO modules, to complex process data, which is taken from the system controls, can be provided company-wide. This means that every company can give its machine park a "communication retrofit" and position itself correctly for future requirements with regard to the digitization of production.