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Smart Factory Journey Goes Through the Cloud

Smart Factory Journey Goes Through the Cloud

Sept. 25, 2017
It's not easy to package the cloud as some super sexy game changer, but it can yield some pretty fine packaging efficiencies, so there's that.

In about five years, or whenever your bosses are satisfied your factory can be deemed" smart," you can sit back and finally reap the benefits this digital industrial revolution promises, monitoring a never-ending cascade of efficiency improvements on your tablet or pair of smart glasses. Maybe you can even do it from your virtual home office.

Technology is changing faster than ever, so it's possible. But that's the end of this idyllic narrative, which is at least a few years away. The journey is where you're at now, and the path probably seems long, winding, and frustratingly tedious.  For you, a digitized factory might seem light years away, what with execs, consultants, and salespeople telling you how far behind you are.

You're not alone, and because automated solutions can be deployed rather quickly, you're probably not as far behind as you think.

That's one of the messages Delta Products hopes to send this week at PACK EXPO 2017 this week in Las Vegas (Booth  #C3400).

"When we talk about this journey to manufacturing, we recognize everybody's at their own spot and some have progressed further than others," says Bill Faber, Delta's Industrial Automation Team Leader.

The automated equipment manufacturer is launching nine new technology enablers for packaging applications to immediately harness the Internet of Things and "tie everything together to enhance efficiency," Faber says.

"Delta is introducing new automation technology that enables machine builders to make smarter and greener packaging machinery and production lines," says M.S. Huang, president of Delta Americas. "The wide breadth of features embedded in every product and platform solution translate into real value for machine builders in terms of design flexibility and supporting plant-wide digitization initiatives."

And the technology, even when cloud-based, doesn't have to be esoteric, requiring a Master's in computer programming to understand.

For trade shows such as PACK EXPO, Delta offers an electronic "passport" for visitors to use at the booth for hands-on demos. Much of the change its new products offer can't be seen as easily as hardware improvements to a machine spindle or robotic cell (though you will be able to play around with these).

And if you'll pardon the redundant message when it comes to smart factories, data leverage is at the forefront of this digital initiative. Where there's data, there's the cloud. I really wish it was something much cooler and exciting to explain, like cyborg accountants, but the collection of servers holding (and kind of not holding) all your data will yield more efficiencies than a whole floor of number-crunching, waste-reducing terminators.

It starts with how you access and disseminate the data.

The DIACloud platform at least makes the tangential storage system somewhat understandable.

This is Delta's description:

Each user can connect and see device status online or through Delta's DIACloud phone apps (iOS and Android). Delta's DX-2100 3G GSM Cloud Router/Gateway, DX-2300 Ethernet Cloud Router/Gateway and DX-3001 Ethernet/3G VPN Router) can easily connect legacy and standard non-Delta devices to DIACloud. Monitoring is simplified with SMS and email alarms, while Delta's worldwide server network eases connectivity. Delta’s patented technology for authentication, authorization, and data encryption ensures that devices are secure end-to-end.

"With this solution, you can store data off-site and do calculations on the cloud rather than the server or some other box device on the edge," Faber says.

This will stop potential deployment bottlenecks.

"Plant managers [and other authorized users] don't have to go through security measures to get to the data," Faber explains. "The security measures are already put in place, so you don't have to call somebody and try to get authorized access."

When deploying a new dispensing unit, for example, the cloud will collect the signatures from one cycle, along with torque, speed, and other parameters, and remember that as your production scales up and you increase factories for a reference point. If the machine or process isn’t behaving correctly you can easily troubleshoot.

"Why this is really important is because consumer pressure is driving the trend towards personalization of packaging," Faber says. "Now instead of it being in centralized locations, we're starting to see it move out to regions so they can better the consumer preference. And not just meet them but meet them faster. So you have to change product out to deliver it quicker."

And herein lies the true reason you want to double time to the smart factory finish line. Your customers will be demanding goods customized based on geography, and packaging is a huge part of that, each with distinct language to compliance requirements. Faster deployment means happier customers.

"That's where we're at in our journey," Faber says. "We're doing the same kind of thing: taking in Delta's own plans and putting in different regions. We're actually seeing the benefits of using this cloud technology to help another cycle get up faster."

Here's more of what Delta will be showing off this week:

EtherCAT Platform for Complete Machine Control

Delta’s EtherCAT platform, a controls solution for machine automation, leverages the fastest, most efficient, open network available today. To provide complete control over the EtherCAT network, Delta is launching its AH10EMC integrated motion and PLC control module for the AH500 rack-based mid-range PLC platform. With this new Delta complete solution, it is now possible to control machines with remote I/O, induction motors, spindle motors, and up to 32 axis of synchronized servo motors on one network. The EtherCAT platform also allows for control of third-party EtherCAT devices, expanding design options for machine builders.

"EtherCAT has the fastest search rates," Faber says. "Even though it's 100 megabits per second, it is still twice as fast as the next fastest one, CIRCOS 3, which is Ethernet Based. Not only that, it's efficient in terms of its cost, because the deployment of it doesn't require a special chip in a master. The slaves can take care of everything."

EtherNet/IP Platform for Industrial Automation Connectivity

Delta has expanded its connectivity options to include EtherNet/IP at the platform level, upgrading the AS300 series compact modular mid-range PLC, the DVP-ES2-E series PLC, the AH500 advanced CPU, and the new AH10EMC integrated EtherCAT motion & PLC CPU for the AH500 series mid-range rack PLC. This supports an even stronger system configuration when combined with other Delta industrial automation products and increases information connectivity with other manufacturers’ automation devices.

"A 32-axis machine might have a more powerful controller to achieve the same level performance even though it's got more axes," Faber says. "Instead of having to go up to four or six milliseconds on a 32-axis machine, we can still maintain a 1-millisecond update rate for all the axes. That means you can do a lot more applications at a higher performance, run the machines faster, and introduce more product."