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What Does Industry 4.0 Really Mean for Manufacturing and Intra-Logistics?

Artikel | von MPDV | 20. Januar 2016
Electronic kanban board in the MES HYDRA: The worker can see here at a glance the statuses of the individual cycle processes. A central intervention is not necessary. Electronic kanban board in the MES HYDRA: The worker can see here at a glance the statuses of the individual cycle processes. A central intervention is not necessary. BILD: MPDV Mikrolab

Decentralization often starts off small-scale

It is becoming more and more clear that making processes more flexible must be accompanied by decentralization, because otherwise the complexity of a central controlling system would be unmanageable. Therefore, a different light is shed upon an element of Industry 4.0 – the demand for more decentralized structures: it is about smart processes and more decentralized freedom of choice – technology itself is only secondary. Looking at the connections and the relevant examples pays off.

By Markus Diesner, MPDV Mikrolab

Markus DiesnerMarkus Diesner Contrary to the widespread practice of hierarchic production control, more and more self-regulating systems and smart control mechanisms are being used in modern factory halls. Therefore it is not only about smart machines but also often about smart processes, to give manufacturing workers more freedom of choice. An important foundation for this is all the relevant information being available decentrally. The local instance can be enriched with its own information and can make decisions based on that. Decentral technologies in the dimensions of cloud computing or CPS are not absolutely necessary for decentralization on a small scale.

Decentralized applications of intra-logistics close to production

A simple example of a decentralized and self-regulating application is kanban. A short reminder: Kanban is about only producing respective parts when they are needed – and then, only in a pre-defined quantity to prevent excessive stocks. This principle is also called the pull-principle or supermarket. In the classic version, kanban is so decentralized that a central intervention would considerably disturb the process. By adding an electronic component, procedures become transparent, thus making it possible to synchronize them with other processes. This is called eKanban. The decentralized character, in which initiation to produce the article comes from the field and not from central planning, is also an important characteristic of eKanban and guarantees the efficiency of the method.

Modern transport management can be organized decentrally too. Therefore, it is possible for a worker using a machine at his workplace to generate transport jobs: for example, that a full pallet should be picked up and stored. As soon as the transport task is created (including sources, destination, and the goods that are to be transported), the next free forklift driver can reserve the job and carry it out. The transport of raw materials at the beginning of a production task or the delivery of a tool to setup the machine is also possible with such a decentralized approach. Through smart distribution processes and the transporters’ freedom of choice it is assured that no central intervention is necessary. However, the central system knows which transport jobs are currently done and which are still due.

Combination of decentralized systems

With eKanban as well as at decentralized transport management, companies profit from reduced effort for planning and coordination as both systems perform these actions automatically. Combining eKanban with transport management results in further reduction of efforts: a transport job is generated automatically when a recently emptied or refilled container must be moved. Therefore, it is ensured that every kanban container is put back into the correct cycle. In parallel, the eKanban board always shows the correct status of all containers in the cycle. In addition, for example, re-writable RFID-tags can be used to decentrally save information concerning the kanban cycle. Alternatively, labeling the containers with barcodes is possible, and all relevant information is then saved in the system centrally.

Taking this scenario one step further, the transport management could be linked with a driverless transport system via an interface. Then, transport jobs would be put into an efficient order with route optimization before they are executed automatically.

An alternative would be the support by mobile applications to assure smooth operation and to increase flexibility when generating transport tasks. Using a mobile app, a transport task can be generated as soon as, for example, a transport vehicle breaks down and the due tasks have to be covered by another transporter.

Central synchronization with an MES

Regardless of the application and its degree of automation, continuous synchronization with a central system is indispensable – on one hand, due to transparency reasons, and on the other hand, to identify critical situations early and to mitigate them if possible. A system that has to synchronize many decentralized processes must obtain a wide range of information but also needs to be able to work in real-time in order to make use of the gathered information. According to the VDI-guideline, a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) meets all these requirements and is therefore well suited to be the central information and data hub in manufacturing. Knowledge regarding machines and tools, as well as the materials, the jobs, and the production workers, qualifies a MES for central synchronization tasks. However, such a system can also monitor decentralized planning scenarios and synchronize them. After all, the task of summarizing all data collected in the production in a way that can be sent to a superordinate ERP- system remains the same. By now, it is clear that a decentralized organization can be a big advantage, but at a central instance is indispensable.

Conclusion: Decentrality in production and intra-logistics?

In summary, it can be ascertained:

  • Decentralized intelligence and freedom of choice significantly reduce the effort of planning as well as the complexity of a central position.
  • The synchronization with a central instance – for example, a MES-System – is vitally important.
  • The technology used often plays just a minor role and only supports the decentrally organized processes.
Letzte Änderung am Mittwoch, 20 Januar 2016 10:38