Digital Transformation: Data in the Life Cycle of the Automatic Machine

Throughout the life cycle of an automatic machine, data is becoming more and more valuable. Digitization allows users to integrate machine control with the company’s high-level management systems (Smart Control); to optimize the performance and life cycle of all machines (Asset performance) and to acquire more information for operators, making them more independent, proactive and supervisors of machine performance.

by Gruppo Meccatronica ANIE Automazione

Today the evolution of technology allows users to capture in a new way and on an unprecedented scale data that can be transformed and analyzed in order to offer decision making information and insight, accelerating innovation processes.
This phenomenon is very evident when one looks, for example, at the evolution in the industrial field of mechanics and machine construction. The past is made up of “screws and bolts” and the traditional mechanical skills needed by OEMs; gradually, with the increasing intervention of electronics, we have moved to a concept of mechatronic machine design that integrates automation and motion architectures.
Until yesterday, this seemed enough: the advantages of productivity, flexibility and reduced maintenance costs achieved through integration satisfied the end users. Today, however, we are facing another change, linked to connectivity and digitization that allow us to create smart machines that improve operational efficiency thanks to the integration of digital technologies. Machines that have smart control systems, that allow effective management of asset performance and that are used in new ways, that increase the capacity of operators, the strategic value of their work.

The three pillars of digital transformation
There are three milestones of digital transformation in machine construction.

  • Smart Control: machine control integrates with the company’s high-level management systems, data becomes a tool for making better decisions.
  • Asset performance: the performance and life cycle of all machines can be optimized; the data contribute to the achievement of overall operating efficiency (OEE).
  • Augmented Operator: smart machines provide more information for operators, making them more independent, proactive, supervisors of machine performance.
    All three of these cornerstones have in common the value of the data, multiplied by the integration of digital and operational technologies. The data enriches and innovates all the phases of the life cycle of the machine and of the work of the OEM: from the design to the commissioning, up to the maintenance and also to the management of the end of life of the machine.
    The same data becomes useful in several phases of the life cycle and, since the availability of the data profoundly modifies the way in which machines are conceived, managed, built and offered services, it is fundamental to guarantee their gradualness, usability, consistency and safety. Only in this way, ensuring that the information is available to the right people in the right form for them, is usable – for example through smart or portable interfaces such as smartphones or tablets – consistent and therefore uniform, safe and protected in a particular way through the appropriate cybersecurity measures, to be applied both at the level of machine components and at the level of the system.
    With smart machines, OEMs can now build machines for their customers that can innovate their business and achieve results previously unthinkable in terms of efficiency and effectiveness and savings.
    At the design level – once the specifications have been collected from the customer and translated into data to guide the development of the necessary functionalities – the OEM can create a virtual model of the line through emulation tools that allow the customer to give an initial validation of the proposed project; the next step is collaborative, with the manufacturer engaged in developing the hardware and software aspects of the line and the end user directly involved in the development of the user interface, using a set of data from CAD, logical simulation, HMI.

Collaboration OEM/end user from design to disposal
The collaboration between OEM and end user supported by the data is also reflected in the commissioning and tuning phase, through the comparison and verification of the functions on the basis of the information made available by the procedures and the performance measurement.
Once the machine is delivered, the smart machine opens up new business fronts for OEMs: in fact, thanks to innovative software and solutions powered by data, it is possible to create innovative digital services, for example for monitoring, control and predictive maintenance management. These systems also allow you to aggregate different data – such as energy consumption data – making them available in other processes.
Once it has reached the end of its life, the machine or line thus created also carries with it all the data on its characteristics of use, disposal and recyclability, for the individual components.
This responds to new trends and sustainability requirements, which lead to the creation of models that are ever closer to circularity and the reduction of their environmental impact.