MechChem Africa

Talking at Omron’s Innovation Conference at the CSIR earlier this year, Driaan Coetzer, field application engineer and product manager for control and visualisation, opened the proceedings with a talk about i-Automation, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and Omron’s vision for the smart factory.

Welcoming delegates at Omron’s Innovation Conference, Victor Marques, Omron’s country general manager for South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa introduced some of Omron’s new developments: the new Q2A series VSDs; the FQ range of smart vision systems for quality inspection; the NX1 series of machine automation controllers; the TM5/12/14 robot series being developed in alliance with Techman (TM) Robotics to foster machine-human collaboration; and Forpheus, a robot designed to play ping pong against all-ability humans – it can adjust the difficulty of its return shot based on the predicted skill of its human opponent.

Introducing Driaan Coetzer, Marques says that this control and visualisation specialist has been with the company since 2013 and sets out to “implement solutions that exceed customer expectations”.

“With respect to industrial automation, big data, smart factories and the IIoT, today we hope to focus attention on what customers really need. We will be talking about our world-first AR motion controller and about how to improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), reduce waste and downtime, improving traceability and starting to realise opportunities offered by the modern trend towards integration,”
says Marques before inviting Driaan Coetzer to the podium.

What is a smart factory? Driaan Coetzer

“I am here to talk about why industry is talking about smart factories, connected manufacturing and overall equipment efficiency,” begins Coetzer. “What is a smart factory?” he asks.

Omron i Automation smart connected factory Driaan Coetzer

“Everything we have been doing since the 1970s falls under Industry 3.0. But now the talk is of a fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. Do people actually want this? Or are all of us simply looking for better ways of doing what we have always done?” he asks.

Omron Industrial Automation has come up with the term i-Automation to help simplify and clarify the new technologies and capabilities associated with smart factories. “This phrase includes three ‘i’s that describe the key features of the smart factory: integrated; intelligent; and interactive. These are the three pillars on which we believe smart factories will be built,” Coetzer tells us.

“Are they talking about products? In this complex environment, nobody can claim to have the one solution anymore. Omron has produced the very first controller with embedded artificial intelligence (AI), but even this is only a small part of the bigger smart factory picture,” Coetzer notes.

“This industrial revolution is pushing us into providing more than just smart products, more than automated production lines and more than intelligent SCADA systems that can monitor and log progress being made. The smart factory is much bigger than the sum of all of its individual equipment systems,” he notes.

The first ‘i’, integration, is about the connection between the automated production processes and the IT systems, getting information from the shop floor and into ‘the cloud’ – which is really just a server somewhere – where it can be processed and analysed. The results can then be fed back, either directly into production processes or to operation managers – and it can also be used in a host of benchmarking and reporting processes,” Coetzer explains. Read more.

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