Setting New Trends

We will see a growing demand for increase in equipment operating rates, increased productivity and reduction in system construction costs... - Rajeev Sharma

Experts see four major areas of influence that are likely to determine business models in future factories: integrated enterprise ecosystems; sustainability; lifecycle assessment; and eco-efficiency analysis.

Driven by the need for greater productivity and efficiency it is not surprising to see that organisations have already started adopting technologies like Cloud computing, Cyber-security and Mobile communication and are coupling them with Asset management and Flexible manufacturing, to drive factory integration with enterprise.

We will see a growing demand for increase in equipment operating rates, increased productivity and reduction in system construction costs. The factory automation industry will be pushed into overdrive mode to develop new innovative and customized solutions to meet these demands. Thus, we see the emergence of new cutting edge models like the e-Factory and eco-Factory concepts.

The dawn of the age of e-factories

The e-Factory model: The e-Factory model is based on productivity improvement through ‘visualization’ of the manufacturing floor. The model makes complete use of leading-edge control and network technologies. It is now possible to visualize production information (both qualitative and quantitative data) and equipment information. This is then linked to higher manufacturing execution systems to be incorporated into production plans and ensuring quality traceability.

The Eco-Factory model: On the other hand, another model, the Eco-factory technology model allows ‘visible’ management of power usage. This is achieved through measuring equipment and technologies that support energy conservation by meticulously measuring power usage. It also provides for effective installation of inverters and other energy-saving devices to eliminate wastefulness and surges in energy consumption, thus reducing overall power usage.

Complete cost reduction model by merging concepts: To survive global competition, manufacturers must improve not only productivity but also energy efficiency in order to reduce production costs. Meanwhile, in emerging countries with high economic growth rates, automation of manufacturing processes is making rapid progress accompanied by increasing use of electric power, although sufficient power supply is not secured. Therefore, a new concept is also emerging which combines the e-Factory and eco-Factory models for realizing both production efficiency and energy efficiency.

While production efficiency and energy efficiency both aim at achieving the same goals of total cost reduction, merging the two models brings large advantages to factories from two perspectives as depicted below:

Keeping this concept in mind, Mitsubishi Electric’s offers a total factory automation solution called “e&eco-F@ctory”. This concept not only helps in improving productivity by using network technology and information systems, but also helps achieve energy efficiency and productivity simultaneously.

The module enables these actions by using measuring technology developed in the field of electric power receiving and distribution, which is one area of Mitsubishi Electric’s power distribution control equipment business.

With e&eco-F@ctory, energy saving is achieved in four steps: “measurement,” “visualization,” “reduction” and “management” of energy. An important factor of energy “measurement” is the collection of energy data in connection with production information such as quantity, not simply gathering energy use data from the shop floor. On the shop floor, the production information is stored in the PLC, and thus by providing the energy data to the PLC, it is possible to measure the energy that is interrelated with the production conditions and the operating status of the equipment.

In the “visualization” step, the energy and production information collected in the “measurement” step and provided to the PLC are analyzed using IT technology, and then that information is “visualized” in various ways such as by part, by product, and by equipment. The MES interface supports the “visualization” step by transmitting the energy and production information to the information systems. For the successful “reduction” of energy, it is necessary to introduce energy-saving equipment with high energy efficiency. One example is to optimize the energy consumption of the facility and equipment by using inverters, motors and other drivers with high efficiency. In the “management” step, which pursues improvement by interrelating energy information and production information, it is important to monitor the specific consumption and energy used by the facility and equipment. Specific consumption refers to the amount of energy consumed to produce one unit of a product. The e&eco-F@ctory provides various types of management solutions to improve productivity and energy efficiency by smoothly driving the Plan-Do-Check-Action cycle for better energy efficiency.

New indicators of factory optimization

Production equipment in factories is responsible for a particularly large percentage of energy consumption in manufacturing industries. For proper assessment of energy usage, precise measurements and the installation of numerous measurement points along the path from the power- receiving end to production equipment are required.

A new indicator of factory optimization should also be established based on the amount of energy consumption per product, or in other words, on specific energy consumption. The solutions lies in merging the control and network technologies with measuring technologies developed through energy conservation activities in the power receiving and distribution sector.

Manufacturing factories, as high-volume energy users, are required to promote further energy saving, and thus focus is placed on the Factory Energy Management System (FEMS), which manages the energy throughout the factory. The energy usage areas in the factory are largely divided into two categories: the “production system” where the actual production takes place using production equipment, and the “utility system” that functions as a part of the factory’s infrastructure.

In the production system, productivity improvement and energy saving are closely related to each other. Mitsubishi Electric’s Factory Automation (FA) energy solution is a subset of FEMS that contributes to energy saving in the production system. It is aimed at reducing the total cost of ownership and establishing a low-carbon society by integrating IT systems into production equipment to achieve higher productivity and energy saving in factories around the world.

Improvement of the equipment utilization rate reduces unnecessary energy derived from equipment waiting time and downtime, while reducing the takt time also saves energy by decreasing the equipment operation time while keeping the same production quantity. In addition, quality (yield) improvement helps reduce unnecessary energy consumed for producing defective products.

Examples of system configuration with e&eco-F@ctory

To better understand the application of the e&eco-F@ctory concept, the examples below describe system configuration with, for three of its four steps, namely: “measurement,” “management” and “visualization.”

Visualization system interconnected with production information.

For simultaneous achievement of the goals of e&eco-F@ctory, productivity improvement and energy saving, it is necessary to identify the improvement points for production and energy use. For this purpose, it is necessary to interrelate and manage information about the production and energy. As an example, by managing the energy consumption in response to the operating condition of each production equipment (operating, standby, or breakdown), wasted energy during standby and breakdown can be found, and the time spent waiting for parts and for set-up change resulting in standby time can be reduced. This type of management can be achieved by linking the MES that manages the production information and the EMS that manages the energy information. The production information as well as the energy information acquired by the energy measuring module is transmitted via the MES interface from each equipment to the MES and EMS. In addition, the energy information for the whole line is collected from the multimeters, MDU breakers, etc., in the power receiving and distribution equipment and on the panel board, and then transmitted to the EMS via the MES interface.

Visualization system for specific consumption

“EcoWebServer III” is an embedded data acquisition server that visualizes energy on a Web browser using its Web server function. The main functions of “EcoWebServer III” are as follows:

  • Measurement data acquisition (current, voltage, power, energy, leak current, etc.) from the CC-Link compatible measuring instruments (CC-Link is the global standard FA network “Control & Communication Link”).
  • In addition to the measurement data from CC-Link instruments, production information is collected from the PLC and accumulated in the built-in Compact Flash1 memory.
  • The embedded Web server function enables the status of energy use and specific consumption to be browsed via a local area network (LAN).
  • Without constructing a genuine EMS (Energy Management System) based on the server environment, a setting-only programless system can be quickly constructed.

Two aspects of a visible factory

Transforming a factory into an e-eco factory means optimizing the unit from an energy perspective.

In an e-eco factory, production and energy information is “visualized” and linked together for thorough energy management.

Furthermore, the different situations of energy use by different production lines are accurately assessed and analyzed to ensure factory wide optimization.

Once detailed measurements for each device and piece of equipment are available, the way to increased productivity is clear. The important thing to comprehensively “visualize energy” is, of course, to measure the amounts of energy being used in the shop floor in real time and collate the data, but also to keep an accurate grasp of specific energy consumption, with linkage to production volumes and other manufacturing information. E-eco-Factory aims to improve equipment working efficiency through detailed work analysis. It measures the specific energy consumption by production equipment and devices for every takt time, every product type, and every process. It links to work monitoring of production lines, preventive maintenance of equipment and improved productivity.

Visualizing the future

The “visualization” of energy and production information serves as an indicator of improvement. Solutions that make energy use ‘visible’ are powerful tools for an Energy Management Program. Real time monitoring of the equipment’s total and specific energy consumption is critical to linking production information and energy information and making improvements. This lets one discover problems and tune the system hence, focusing on reducing consumption.

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