Proposal1 "Connected factories"

3. Manufacturing industry collaboration models and standardization issues (First published in Japanese in June, 2014)

 In order to realize “Connected factories”, it is indispensable to standardize manufacturing beyond the companies. In particular, when conducting business collaboration or manufacturing process collaboration using the Internet , It is necessary to have discussions in advance on what level and what data should be connected as ICT, and what should be connected based on a standard model.

 IEC 62264 is an international standard for models that integrate FA (factory automation), information control systems, and management systems in this field. As shown in FIG. 1, the entire manufacturing system is defined by dividing into level 1 to level 4 here. At what level does “connected factories” connect to other factories or outside ?

 Let’s divide the collaboration into three types: intra-company vertical cooperation, intra-company horizontal cooperation, and inter-companies cooperation at first. Intra-company horizontal collaboration at Level 1 and Level 2 is largely based on ICT at present, and many standards including international standards are being carried out in this area. In addition, in level 4 business management, business linkage is achieved by an information system such as ERP, and data linkage such as EDI is also realized between companies.

 With the above discussion, a new challenge with “Connected factories” will be vertical collaboration of the site management that connects the top and the bottom at level 3, enterprise horizontal cooperation, and business-to-business cooperation in the field management level. The manufacturing sites in the factory, for the manufacturing industry, can be positioned as showcases by eliminating wastes thoroughly through 5S and KAIZEN activities. However, the manufacturing sites are the most difficult objects to be standardized actually, because various information is exchanged there.

 The strengths of manufacturing sites in Japan include engineering skills such as production technology and production preparation. In Europe and the United States, such engineering and manufacturing operations are completely divided by engineers, and so-called balancing technology at the manufacturing site cannot be established. On the other hand, there is a culture in Japan with which process design and production technology are tailored to the characteristics of each site and are built together with the site. It is highly likely that a new leap will be triggered by using ICT effectively on manufacturing sites as functional centers to link processes in the engineering chain such as design, manufacturing, and maintenance.