Home>Plant, Process & Control>Industry 4.0>Smart manufacturing trends to watch

Smart manufacturing trends to watch

03 February 2019

HARTING looks at some of the key focuses of smart manufacturing in 2019.

The rise of 'Big Data'

From a manufacturing perspective, much of the key technology is focused on the rise of ‘Big Data’, which is complex information that traditional data-processing applications are unable to manage effectively. Smart factories use industrial internet and the cloud to connect the real and virtual worlds, allowing the whole production process to be monitored. Therefore, the ability to gather and analyse data and transfer it to an intelligent management system is vital. 

Our solution is the HARTING MICA (Modular Industry Computer Architecture), which is a compact and rugged industrial computer designed for use in production environments. MICA can be easily added onto machines and equipment, even within harsh industrial environments. The intelligent hardware provides direct data processing at machine level and decentralised collection and analysis of data, enabling benefits such as predictive maintenance, flexible production methods and energy measurement.

One key advantage of MICA is that the communication functionality doesn’t need to be built into the machine. Instead, legacy or un-digitalised machines can be retrofitted with MICA, essentially turning them into connected, digitalised devices. By adding digitalisation capabilities to older machines, you can improve efficiency and extend machine lifetimes. 

As we move forwards, industrial computers like MICA will be utilised across the manufacturing and intralogistics environment, from the receiving of goods through to shipping. Used in conjunction with UHF RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) systems and transponders, it will be possible to implement thorough stock control, locate orders and track goods as they are shipped. By optimising the flow of materials and automating processes in this way, organisations can become more agile, cost effective and productive. 

Increasing flexibility

Another ongoing trend within the arena of smart manufacturing is the move away from rigid production schedules and facilities. In order to improve flexibility and offer their customers modular manufacturing processes, companies need the ability to change the configuration of their connections quickly and efficiently. What’s more, this process needs to be an efficient and straightforward process as unscheduled downtime in production can be extremely costly for businesses.

HARTING has over 70 years’ experience of producing robust industrial connectors and we use this expertise to ensure our ever-expanding product portfolio meets the demands of the modern production facility. For example, the Han-Modular range allows customers to produce bespoke connectors by combining individual modules for different transmission media, such as signals, data and power.

Our latest innovation, Han-Eco B, not only allows quick change machine configurations, it can also rear mount inserts, simplifying cabinet assembly and saving time and money. In addition, the Han ES Press module, which is fully compatible with the Eco B, allows multiple contacts to be bridged directly at the connecter, resulting in an assembly that is up to 50% quicker to install than using traditional methods. 

All these modular components can be easily disconnected and reconnected, allowing future-proofing upgrades and extensions to be completed quickly and with minimum disruption to production schedules.

Ongoing miniaturisation

Another driver towards smart manufacturing is the ongoing miniaturisation trend, which is a direct response to consumer demands for smaller, more compact electronic and industrial equipment. Devices such as sensors, cameras and automation equipment are rapidly decreasing in size, whilst displays and screens are becoming thinner and flatter than ever before. In addition, as these components get smaller, they simultaneously need to become more powerful in order to meet the increased data, signal and power requirements of equipment. 

As a result, it stands to reason that device connectors themselves must also decrease in size to ensure they don’t take up too much of the limited installation space available on new, miniaturised equipment. Device manufacturers are therefore redesigning products in ever shorter cycles to ensure they are both future-proof and tough enough to cope with demanding environments.

With the ix Industrial, HARTING has designed a robust, space-saving Ethernet connector to replace the traditional RJ45. It has a 70% smaller PCB jack, enabling manufacturers to use it in much smaller devices and a high current-carrying capacity that supports both existing and future Power over Ethernet (PoE) applications.