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Taking the leap into smart manufacturing

Author : Paul Taylor is Manager for Machinery Safety at TÜV SÜD Product Service

05 May 2017

Now widely accepted as the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, Industry 4.0 includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing.

Industry 4.0 will enable smart factories to digitise processes that improve both efficiency and quality, while reducing manufacturing costs. 

IoT connects people and machines, enabling bidirectional flow of information and real-time decisions. Its diffusion within manufacturing is now accelerating with the reduction in size and price of sensors, alongside the increasing need for the exchange of large amounts of data. This will support highly flexible, automated ‘plug and produce’ manufacturing, taking just-in-time manufacturing to a new level.

Currently, approximately 90 percent of machines in factories are unconnected. However, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) systems connect and integrate industrial control systems with enterprise systems, business processes, analytics and people. This means that the connected world of Industry 4.0’s smart factories adds a new level of complexity and consequently, new challenges for machinery safety

In the world of Industry 4.0, adaptive and dynamically configurable machines and machine modules allow unique combination of machines for higher efficiency and productivity on the shop floor. The digital transformation of production equipment and production lines will impact the communication between machine modules (M2M) and between products and machines (P2M). However, in today’s static machinery environment, the configuration of machines and machine modules in the production line is completely known at the starting point of the system design. However, if substantial changes are made, a new conformity assessment may be required. 

It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that all machinery meets the requirements of the Machinery Directive and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER), of which risk assessments are an essential ingredient. Therefore, if a machine has a substantial change made, a full CE marking and assessment process must be completed before it can be returned to service. Any configuration change in the production line may also require re-certification of the whole facility

However, under Industry 4.0’s easily configurable machinery, production lines can be instantly changed with a simple press of a button. As the current approach relies on the original configuration to be risk assessed, such instant updates to machinery mean that the time-hungry, traditional approach of ‘risk assessment as you make changes’ will become obsolete. 

Industry 4.0 takes safety assessments into four separate domains – the smart factory (cyber-physical production systems), vertical integration (automation), horizontal integration (with other systems outside the main production environment) and human-machine integration. The risk assessment process therefore needs to be modified to meet the demands of the more dynamic Industry 4.0. 

This would mean that all possible configurations of machines and machine modules would be dynamically validated during the change of the production line. Each new configuration would be assessed in real time, based on digital models of the real behaviour of each configuration, which would be based upon the machinery manufacturer’s correct (and trusted) data about the cyber physical system. The result would be a rapidly issued digital compliance certificate. 

This modular certification approach will enable machinery safety practice to keep pace with technological change by reducing complexity based on customer-specific modular approaches. This will create a circle of continuous learning, where 95 percent of validation runs in real time, with modular certification software running as a type of assistant system, while new questions and problems continue to be solved by human experts. 

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