Smart manufacturing: bandwidth and security

Smart manufacturing: bandwidth and security

The first of a new series of articles from ATS Global's Mike James on the opportunity of Industry 4.0

Caspar Herzberg |

This article first appeared in the Winter issue of The Record.

MESA International is a non-profit organisation for manufacturers and solution providers globally. It has been a major proponent of manufacturing operations management systems. Through the Global Education Program, MESA is the go-to place to learn and become certified in this important area.

MESA also has a Smart Manufacturing Committee tasked with thought leadership. The committee output of white papers and presentation material is then used to share knowledge and provide a basis for discussion. Critically, the committee enjoys membership from global manufacturers, solution providers and standards organisations. As chair of MESA International, I decided to hold workshops at the last board meeting to engage members in the discussion with some fascinating results. While the big thinkers were predicting a future without people in plants, it was clear that the manufacturers themselves were tied down with much more mundane tasks.

For instance, a global player in the food and confectionary business and a niche petrochemical plant were both taking steps to upgrade their internal networks. After taking a look at the opportunity which Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing offers them, they both concluded that their IT infrastructure on the shop floor needed strengthening. Not only did they need more bandwidth but also more security. Bandwidth is needed for intelligent machine/robot operation with heavy requirements upcoming for machine to machine and product to machine, augmented reality, and so on. Security is the Achilles heel of networked systems and examples now abound of hackers penetrating security barriers and upsetting production. My own company, ATS Global, regularly receives warnings and examples from the US Homeland Security helping us to build secure systems.

MESA does not create standards but does recommend the use of standards. That makes sense but already we have standard proliferation which increased the cost of complexity of delivering the self-organising plant. Our own solution to this problem is a manufacturing service bus, which supports the various communication protocol standards and provides in-built security at very high transaction speeds. It’s called the ATS Bus and may offer a way forward in this complex world.

Mike James is president of the Manufacturing Operation Management Institute

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