With the times that are running, thinking in a term of five years gives frankly vertigo. The technological development, to the heat of the Industry 4.0, advances so fast that it can be pretentious to assert 100% how the machines of the future will be. However, we can say where the trends are going and where to go. What also seems evident is that we can not look the other way, waiting for developments and innovations to come from others. The competition does not stop and it is essential at this moment to be able to predict what will be the role and behavior of the different actors in the digital transformation of the industry (machines, software, platforms, communication protocols), in order to , to be protagonists and, even, to lead the change of paradigm in front of which we are.
Given this premise, what should be the machine of the future? Let's do some history. The pillars of the First Industrial Revolution were to make more and cheaper; in the Second came mass production; with the Third, electronics and the Internet modernize plants; and in the Fourth we are faced with hyperconnectivity and interoperability, where the machine has to exploit not only physical technologies, but also digital technologies. And it will do so in a sensorized environment, in which the machines are connected so that the information flows, is shared and stored in the cloud, and there to be analyzed thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning. This makes it possible to throw new data, this time, predictive and prescriptive, that help software applications and people to make better decisions.
For this, it is essential that the machines and software systems that program and plan them are understood and communicated with each other. At this time there is not yet a standard language, at least in the sheet metal industry, so sometimes we have to work machine to machine to incorporate them into the software ecosystem.
In any case, what is important is not so much the communication protocol, but the publication of services of what the machine offers as another element in the software solution. It is not about the machine throwing data, but answering questions, whether they are proposed as an MES or CAM solution, or a system for maintenance management.
In this sense, the management of manufacturing (MES) should be able to make the most of the machine in a connected system. For this, it will have to be verticalized to know what services the machine offers and how to use them. It is about asserting their ability to orchestrate the manufacturing of the plant from the services.
Regarding the adaptation of the programming software of the machines themselves (CAM), it should focus on knowing the result that the client needs, quality, costs, time, and all those elements that could have an effect on the manufacturing process.
Another characteristic of the intelligent machine is that it works with total autonomy and, as far as possible, it should not be stopped. However, to be able to use and make the most of the technological capabilities to solve problems, it is necessary to raise part of the processes to the cloud. There are already initiatives in which it is categorizing what part of the software and its associated data should remain close to the machine, what data in local or private networks and what part in cloud. This mixed architecture is what should ensure the machine with high productivity and at the same time solve problems in a more effective way thanks to new technologies.
In summary, the machine of the future will be intelligent thanks to the new technological enablers of Industry 4.0, which converge in the cloud universe and which will facilitate a more efficient production, anticipating peak demand or stock problems, for example, and, in consequently, costs will be reduced, which will result in greater competitiveness of the factory and the company in its sector.
Asier Ortiz is CTO of Lantek