Integrating Manufacturing Systems
Many facilities are purchasing automated production equipment from many manufacturers. Usually a PLC is used or a custom controller. These systems may have simple remote communication either via serial port or a network connection. Many controllers have many built-in or add-on advanced communications, such as DeviceNet, Profibus, Web servers or Ethernet TCP/IP.
Automated data collection opportunities are often overlooked due to lack of time to develop an application or lack of expertise within the facility. Information potential includes process, quality and SPC data, downtime, productivity analysis, production quantities and rates. Many software packages allow the automatic collection of this data which can inexpensively be placed on a computer network for analysis or summary by engineers or data analysts. Automating data collection this way improves data accuracy and can pinpoint problems before they affect product quality or delivery schedules.
The area of integration is the connection to shop floor scheduling and process setup / manufacturing specifications (recipes). If these exist in an ERP or MRP 2 system, the data can be extracted and displayed at operator workstations in real time. Usually recipe storage and selection is done at the machine for redundancy purposes. Additional product design information may be downloaded with the production schedule to assure that the operator has complete information on running the product. This information can be stored in a PC network server using a database package such as Oracle, MySQL or SQL Server.