Tackle the Future Challenges of Fabrication and Assembly

Many years have gone by since the term Industry 4.0 was first used at the 2011 Hannover Messe trade show. However, self-optimizing production facilities are still few and far between. Here, I explain how COPA-DATA’s zenon software platform enables businesses to combine their production equipment to form automated end-to-end production facilities.

To adapt to unpredictable market requirements and changes in an agile and dynamic way, the manufacturing industry needs maximum flexibility, even while it is under immense pressure from global competition to achieve cost reductions.

To meet these challenges, companies should take advantage of the benefits of the end-to-end automation of the manufacturing process. By deriving the required instructions for machines, handling devices, transport facilities and testing equipment direct from product and contract data, the aim is to centrally control and monitor all activities.

Highly integrated production facilities with unified control concepts come with benefits in terms of efficiency, process stability, reporting and traceability. By including building technology and energy supply in their monitoring and control activities, manufacturers can further enhance the overall equipment efficiency of a production facility.

Cross-Industry: A blend of requirements

In cross-industry segments of the manufacturing industry this operational comprehensiveness is not as widespread due to the complexity of the products and the diversity of the individual processes. Further causes include the in-house transport between individual production steps and the requirement for human labor.

Within individual production machines, a high degree of automation already yields excellent productivity rates. By contrast, the interplay between the existing production equipment in cross-industry operations often shows significant potential for improvement. The challenge is that the equipment on the shop floors of manufacturing companies has typically been organically developed over many years, perhaps even several decades.

An independent software platform

Process control systems communicate with the control equipment of the individual machines involved in the production process. This enables them to monitor the overall process and control the entire process chain. All major manufacturers of industrial control systems also offer process control systems. Many of these, however, are optimized for the needs of certain industries or restricted to use with hardware made by their manufacturers.

By contrast, the zenon software platform is a product of COPA-DATA, an independent Austrian manufacturer. zenon has been developed and continuously improved by COPA-DATA over several decades. With an exceptionally high degree of automation, it eases the handling and operation of complex facilities. Furthermore, zenon also simplifies engineering and maintenance. This enables companies to better cope with unpredicted operational situations.

End-to-end automation for existing facilities

zenon facilitates the integration of legacy devices and systems. The software platform comes complete with an integrated soft PLC. This greatly simplifies integrating machines, handling equipment and manual workplaces with comprehensive overall automation solutions.

To facilitate this, zenon implements unified control concepts. This eases the control and operation of complex facilities with a high degree of automation. It also makes it possible to integrate energy supply and building technologies. zenon thereby improves overall efficiency while minimizing energy costs and helping to conserve resources.

Engineering without programming

Using zenon, implementing projects with complex functionality does not require in-depth software skills. System integrators can create projects without programming, purely by setting parameters. Engineering can be further simplified and accelerated by assembling Smart Objects. These micro projects can be saved in libraries for on-demand reuse. zenon additionally provides prefabricated Application Sets including the “Line Management” set used to create intelligent fabrication, assembly or packaging lines.

Creating automation projects not only eases the implementation of comprehensive control systems, but it also simplifies their maintenance and later modifications. Furthermore, it also minimizes the effort required to implement end-to-end control concepts throughout an entire facility. This in turn reduces the requirement for operator training and improves safety.

Spanning locations and languages

Using HTML5 visualization in zenon renders the monitoring and control of individual machines or entire lines independent of the HMI hardware used. The cloud-based zenon Service Grid IoT solution enables the monitoring and control of entire production lines or factories across locations. The use of user-specific languages and formats facilitates the cost-efficient and stable operation of several facilities, even those in different countries, working autonomously from one central location.

Security is key

As the manufacturing industry continues to digitalize its processes, access protection and data security are becoming critical issues. zenon utilizes central data storage and management using contemporary encryption methods and multi-level authorization and authentication mechanisms. This securely protects production facilities and their parameter sets against unauthorized access.

Rejuvenation through data and digitalization

zenon enables the manufacturing industry to rejuvenate production facilities and tackle future challenges. There is no silver bullet for this, and each case needs to be adapted to fit varying requirements and individual circumstances. Therefore, zenon offers unparalleled flexibility and industry experts in the member companies of the global COPA-DATA Partner Community can assist in leveraging zenon’s strengths to build holistic production systems.