What is the Internet of Manufacturing (IoM) and why should we care about it?
IoM, or the Internet of Manufacturing, is the part of IoT, or the Internet of Things, that impacts on manufacturing and the supply chain around it. It is the digital factory, automation and Industry 4.0 all wrapped up in a cloud of big data and tied up with a neat ribbon of traceability and manufacturing execution.
In answer to my initial question of why should we care about it, the answer is simple. It is becoming the accepted and expected minimum data requirement of most of our customers. And I mean minimum in terms of available data to provide visibility of a manufacturing process and a supply chain as well as providing a path to manufacturing improvement and all the benefits of cost saving and increase in quality and yield.
So, why IoM and not IoT or Industry 4.0?
That's simple really. Industry 4.0 sets a standard that most agree cannot currently be achieved. The ideal of every component being able to identify itself is a fine ideal but not currently practice (practical?). IoT is not really what we do in manufacturing. That is more about the entire world and how things interact and communicate with each other, like how your smart phone and your shoes interact with the store you are in or the advertising you see in public spaces. IoM is a term that brings this world of cyber physical systems specifically into a manufacturing environment.
With a IoM model many benefits drop out as a natural by-product, not least a great deal of traceability that should, by its de-facto nature, satisfy the need of even the most demanding customer or standards authority. Another benefit is that within such a system improvements in yield or quality are merely a matter of data mining and application. I say merely whilst understanding the enormity of this task. Clear the mining of big data is going to be key and those who have skills in this area have some good times to look forward to.
Are you IoM Ready?
Let's look at what IoM might mean for the various people in the system and what they might need to do to be ‘IoM Ready’.
You remember when TV’s were HD or 3D ready, even though HD and 3D wasn’t broadcast very much. This is the same. If you’re buying a machine for a line, factory or even supply chain that at some point will be part of an IoM environment, you’re going to want to know that purchase is IoM ready and as a result your investment is safe.
Firstly for equipment, what would define an IoM Ready machine, such as a screen printer, a placement machine, an oven, or an inspection system...
There are three basic requirements for a machine to be IoM Ready:
1) Recognize what is entering the machine. An IoM Ready machine will need to be able to recognize every piece of material as it enters the machine. This might be a component, which it might identify as being part of a batch or reel, it could be a PCB or sub assembly, or it could be a consumable, or even a stencil, feeder or replacement part.
2) Record its process. An IoM Ready machine would have to be able to record the process it performs including all relevant parameters, such as settings, operator, location and time and date of operation.
3) Relay or communicate openly. The third parameter, and perhaps the most important is the ability to provide that data in an open protocol that can be mined and used by the software application to improve, measure and track.
In simple terms an IoM must recognize, record and relay. The three Rs of IoM.
Having established the three Rs, we have a basis on which to develop systems that provide all kinds of data that could be required during the process to manage a quality issue, plan a production schedule, consider what-if scenarios, adjust volumes, adapt to parts availability, inform and influence the supply chain, manage inventory, in fact almost any manufacturing execution based discipline.
Once we’ve establish the criteria to be IoM Ready from a machine stand point we can then develop that machines relationship with the outside world, such as how it recognizes IoM Ready components, how it recognizes IoM Ready operator data, how it records processes and process influencers and finally how it communicates to the much larger world though open protocols and to software packages that turn data into intelligence.
IoM is open, collaborative and achievable, and surely that’s a good way to be. It is part of a trend towards something that might achieve the goals set out in an Industry 4.0 manufacturing environment, part of a trend that leverages enabling technology like RFiD and Big Data, and most importantly it’s part of a trend to ever improving manufacturing excellence.
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