Interview

e-F@ctory: Smartly paving the way towards Industry 4.0

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“e-F@ctory, which helps the end-users collect basic data from small equipment, control systems, and create meaningful reports out of that”
Anil Bhise, Senior Manager – Sales (End User Vertical), Factory Automation and Industrial Division, Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd

Flexible framework, which recognises the unique needs of individual businesses and supports them through high-speed connectivity, reliable data and precise control, is the need of the hour. Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation business unit has, for that, come up with e-F@ctory – an approach to the increasing digital transformation affecting business. Here, Anil Bhise, Senior Manager – Sales (End User Vertical), Factory Automation and Industrial Division, Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd, shares his views about the company’s participation in Automation Expo 2018 and about e-F@ctory, the technological solution for enhancing the integration of the business and production environments.

Mitsubishi Electric’s participation in Automation Expo 2018
It’s has been a great platform for all automation players to showcase their latest products and solutions. The end-users and OEMs visited this exhibition to keep tabs on the automation market. We showcased the concept of e-F@ctory, which enables smart manufacturing.

Idea behind e-F@ctory
Smart manufacturing, digitalisation, Industry 4.0 and IoT projects are the buzzwords in the industry today. In all these scenarios, data captured from the control system is helpful to generate various reports, which can be used by top managements to make necessary decisions.

To support these initiatives, Mitsubishi Electric’s Factory Automation & Industrial Division (FAID) has come out with a concept called e-F@ctory, which helps the end-users to collect basic data from small equipment, control systems, and create meaningful reports out of that.

e-F@ctory: Plays an imperative role in Industry 4.0
Yes, definitely! The concept provides whatever the Industry 4.0 requires; how to collect data, how to create meaningful report out of the collected data, and how it would be helpful for Business Intelligence. e-F@ctory uses the same concept, which provides the necessary assistance in smart manufacturing as per Industry 4.0.

A key driver behind revolutionising the industries
Many of the European industries are trying to follow Industry 4.0. Meanwhile, in the US, they believe IIoT is the perfect solution for industries, and in China, they have Manufacturing 2020. But, if you dig deep, it talks about the same thing — how to create a meaningful report. e-F@ctory is one of the concepts that support these activities.

Response so far for e-F@ctory
e-F@ctory is about efficiency of data collection. Under the e-F@ctory umbrella, we have about 3,000 alliance partners, who are distributed all over the world. We collaborate with them and guide them about what kind of information they can expect from particular equipment or machine and how it will be communicated to the control systems. We have been implementing e-F@ctory since 2004 and the response has been really good. People appreciated these projects.

About MELIPC product range
MELIPC is a new product range that Mitsubishi Electric has launched. It is an industrial-use computer that realises edge computing, utilising production shop floor data. It is a high-performance processor series lineup for models available according to the application, including high-end models that utilise CC-Link IE Field Network for real-time data processing and compact (low-range models) with limited functionality.

It utilises edge computing to collect and process production shop floor data. Additionally, analysis, diagnosis, monitoring, and other functions can be executed after installing applications.

People try to collect data and store it at cloud level or central server level. But, nowadays, data being captured exceeds the capacity of the storage, which is also a costly approach. So, we have come out with a concept of storing the data at the intermediate level or factory level. MELIPC is based on this concept. Here, we can store data and do some basic analysis, and only the important data will be transferred to the cloud or to the central servers, for efficient data management.

Other complete automation solution provider
e-F@ctory concept offers a complete automation solution in partnership with many other vendors who provide its components at various layers. The first layer comprises of sensors and other compatible equipment. At this initial level, we ask our vendors to develop devices, which may effectively communicate with the control system of our client, and we share every client’s specific needs and requirements with them. The second is the control layer where Mitsubishi Electric has a stronghold, but we also explore options for making an interface of various control systems in different networks. The third is the IT layer where solutions are provided in association with leading IT service providers. So, the complete system solution mainly depends upon an organisation’s need, purpose, and data bank. This is what we are trying to achieve with the
e-F@ctory concept, where about 3,000 partners from across the world are already associated with us.

Paving the way to future
The future is definitely Edgecross – it is a software platform of the edge computing domain developed in Japan that enables FA and IT to work together. Members of the Edgecross Consortium are from a variety of companies and industries, allowing the promotion of borderless collaboration that will result in the expansion and dissemination of both. The main features of Edgecross includes, a real-time diagnosis and feedback, model production shop floors, utilising a wide variety of applications in the edge area, collection of all data on the production shop floor, and seamless cooperation with IT systems, to name a few. It is the platform where the consortium members work together building the edge domain. We are utilising Edgecross as one of the element of ongoing e-F@ctory development. By collaborating in Edgecross, it is possible to collect data from various field networks and protocols, and link with many diverse applications, and we believe that this will enable us to better answer the needs of more customers.

Usually, IT operation teams expect some data from control systems, whereas control systems are meant to perform the operational tasks. So, we have come up with a new Microsoft Windows based hardware, which has multiple protocols or drivers (collectors) that make communication easier between control systems and the operational people. With the adaptation of this hardware, data sharing is no more a problem – all relevant data like productivity of the machines, breakdown, etc., can be shared and retrieved very easily between the concerned departments. These new Edgecross industrial computers – MELIPC Series collect information, perform analytics, synthesise the data, and then send it to the cloud or the central server.

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