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The introduction of a fundamental new technology in 2018 is poised to be the catalyst for the now long-awaited Industry 4.0 revolution. What is coming is not a single master Industry 4.0 solution as people may expect, but rather the opportunity for everyone in the industry to play their part, re-evaluating what can be done in their processes or products to take maximum advantage of the new CFX-fueled Industrial IoT environment. It’s time for everyone to get a serious heads-up.
If Industrial IoT were a transport infrastructure, we would look back on this time as when trails and dirt-tracks were replaced with paved roads and highways, enabling the development and evolutions of high-performance automobiles. Not everyone today buys or drives the same car. There is no single perfect model or configuration for all, but the one thing that we can rely on, is that all our cars work and co-exist on the same road network. This is the principle also for IoT solutions, though in the CFX world, there are no toll roads, no competing commercial options that we would have to pay subscriptions and have to select what road network vendor we wish to use.
No matter what the intent, scale budget or capability, many individual IoT solutions are going to be developed to support specific business needs, which will run through the same IoT infrastructure. As we have seen with automobiles replacing horses and carts, the expectations are changed, for example in terms of distances that can be covered, the time taken for journeys and the amount of baggage or freight that can be carried. With the CFX Industrial IoT solution, we are not simply seeing a horse that can run a little faster, or a cart with a couple more wheels, this is a real revolution and a fundamental change to what can be achieved.
The IPC Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) standard specification defines all three major components of a “plug and play” IoT communication solution. These comprises of the protocol, which is the secure connection (AMQP v1.0), the encoding method, which is the way in which the data is represented in messages (JSON), and the message content definition. CFX is uniquely created in this way to bring genuine inter-operability across machines on the shop-floor, with no licensing or middleware required. Companies will be able to pick and choose CFX-based Industry 4.0 solutions from machine vendors, solution providers, and will even find it easy to augment solutions with in-house development.
There is something for everyone with CFX. Machine vendors will replace the need for the support of many different data customer-dependent outputs, and will be able to satisfy all customers with just one CFX interface. Not only that, vendors also get the opportunity to obtain data from all other production machines and stations, as well as factory level information through the same CFX interface. Each machine process now has an unprecedented “digital visibility” that includes changing factory work-assignments, the line status and condition both upstream and downstream, materials availability and assignment, the digital product model, resource availabilities etc. For example, instead of hearing the phrase, “if only I had known,” when materials arrive with different supply forms and rotations than those expected, or the line stops for maintenance when nothing was prepared, or an unexpected change-over happens which causes extensive setups of materials and inefficient machine programs, CFX makes all of the information available to each machine, so that unprecedented levels of optimization can be achieved through the use of that performance information. Machine options will undoubtedly appear in the form of added value digital Industry 4.0 solutions for higher mix optimization, active quality management, enhanced flexibility, faster new product introduction etc. As well as commercial machines, other processes such as, bespoke functional testers, manual assembly, inspection, test operations and transactional operations, etc., are supported by CFX. In-house jig development teams would easily include interfaces into machines that they create or processes that they execute. The IPC CFX SDK makes integration of CFX possible with the minimum of development overhead.