Prof. Ir. Dr. Tan Chee Fai emphasised the importance of common standards in all layers of interconnected and inter-communicating Industry 4.0 devices and software systems to avoid a proverbial situation of chickens trying to talk to ducks.

The base of the manufacturing system topology is the device level comprised of sensors and devices such as pumps, fans, drives, motors and robots. Above them is the control level which controls machinery in assembly lines, manufacturing cells, work centres and programmable logic controller (PLC) controls. Above that is the manufacturing execution systems (MES) level which coordinates production, factories and global operations. Above that is the enterprise resource planning level which provides responsive and a dynamic cross-industry value network between the enterprise and its partners. These layers communicate and interact with each other to provide management with insights and business intelligence into which direction to go.

There are a huge number of smart manufacturing standards worldwide but the Smart Manufacturing Map (SM2) framework which Prof. Tan focuses on comprises ISO and IEC standards for internationally accepted criteria involving processes, information and communication systems, industry sector, topic, life cycle and interoperability layer.

Smart Manufacturing Standards Landscape – Source – ResearchGate

The principle of the SM2 framework comprises the SM2 vocabulary which defines the characteristics of standards, the SM2 catalogue which gives value to the characteristics of relevant standards and provides information which in turn produces a representation of different viewpoints in different dimensions.

For example, China’s framework consolidates many of mostly ISO and IEC international standards into a National Intelligent Manufacturing System Framework, represented in a three-axis framework consisting of design, production, logistics, sales and service on the life cycle axis; equipment, unit, workshop, enterprise and cooperation on the system hierarchy; and resource elements, interconnection, information fusion and sharing, system integration and new business pattern on the intelligent characteristics axis – all of which help avoid misalignment and miscommunication.

Generality, security & safety, reliability, inspection and evaluation form the foundation of this intelligent manufacturing standards system. Above it are several intelligence empowering technologies, intelligent equipment, intelligent factory, intelligent services and industrial Internet.

The ISO 22400 key performance indicator international standard covers 34 aspects related to efficiency, effectiveness, yield, energy consumption, capability, loss and so forth which are presented to factory management in a dashboard to help them make better business decisions, improve production sites, improve communication and the competence of all the factories.

Above this structure are different industrial applications and solutions which local companies can provide based upon their domain knowledge as part of a smart machine industrial ecosystem focused on specific industries.

Prof. Ir. Dr. Tan and his team have developed such and ecosystem which combines smart technology elements to provide prediction, compensation, smart parameter setting, automatic scheduling and so forth.

A proposed smart mechanical and electrical industry ecosystem would digitalise factories by applying smart machinery solutions on selected industries such as electrical & electronic, mechanical & electrical, metal work, agriculture, food & beverage, retail and so forth, as well as innovation, branding and customisation of products and services, thus connecting customer needs with industry applications.

Turning Industry 4.0 into reality

Founded in 2011, Elliance Sdn Bhd, based in the Batu Kawan Industrial Estate on Penang island, has been providing clients with consulting and systems integration services to help them adopt Industry 4.0 manufacturing systems and solutions.

According to its Chief Executive Officer and Director, Mr. Cheng Boon Seng, most of its clients are multinationals and large Malaysian corporations in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, though few which Elliance has encountered so far are small to medium enterprises.

This is because multinationals have been rushing to adopt Industry 4.0 and especially the semiconductor industry is most advanced because their operations have been based upon standard protocols for a long time already.

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry noticed them and entrusted Elliance to set up an Industry 4.0 technology centre in Batu Kawan which was launched by the Malaysian Productivity Centre on 29 February 2020, shortly before COVID-19 was officially declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. The centre provides Industry 4.0 solutions to its clients.

“We welcome industry players to drop by and look at Industry 4.0 technologies and applications”, said Mr. Cheng. Besides consulting services, the centre also trains client’s staff in the use of Industry 4.0 technologies, applications and systems.

Thanks to the restrictions human labour in factories due to COVID-19, some factories already enjoy some benefits of Industry 4.0 such as robotics, automation, AI, IoT and so forth.

“However, there’s more to that, such as the set of design principles for Industry 4.0 implementation, interoperability, interconnectivity and so forth between the whole production chain, such as between the hardware, software, people and processes involved in value creation”, said Mr. Cheng.

The information must be transparently exchanged between the various stakeholders in formats which they all can understand. Also, decision making will be decentralised and technical assistance should be provided by the system configuration and self-healing, rather than currently having to call a technician or engineer to resolve problems.

Realising the full benefits of Industry 4.0 technologies requires both vertical and horizontal integration. In vertical integration, the various layers of the system in order of ascending hierarchy, such as the sensors and actuators hardware layer; the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) layer, the proportional integral derivative (PID) controllers and the industrial PCs layer; the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) network layer, the manufacturing execution system (MES) layer and the enterprise resource planning (ERP) layer above them all must be able to communicate not only with layers above and below, but must also be able to communicate across layers.

Whilst vertical integration usually occurs with production facilities, so it is easier for them to have control over it. However, horizontal integration, such as between suppliers’ manufacturers’, distributors’ and retailers’ different information systems is much more challenging.

Greenfield vs brownfield.

As most of us would know, building a new house from the ground up is much easier than renovating an existing one. Likewise is building a new Industry 4.0 automated production facility from the ground up (or “greenfield”), free from the constraints of existing buildings, legacy production equipment or infrastructure.

However, 90% of Industry 4.0 implementations will be brownfield, with system implementers having to take account of existing legacy machines and equipment. Elliance has connected over 2,000 production devices in over the past two years and up to 70% of them are legacy equipment.

“Some of these machines have standard communication protocols but are not connected, whilst others employ non-standard protocols but have a log file. These include some PLCs, human-machine interface (HMI) devices and SCADA controllers”, said Mr. Cheng.

In extreme cases are legacy machines without a communications port, some are PC-based with no log file or communications port, and some PCs still run on DOS, which makes them very difficult to Industry 4.0-enable.

Whilst, lots of automated machine shops have moved from siloed automation to integrated automation to intelligent automation but the problem is non-standard protocols between machines, so Elliance has seen many roadblocks and no way to integrate these machines, which is the biggest pain.

“It’s also too late to put in standard protocols in these machines to get them to talk to each other, and out of 100 parameters, we could get between 20% and 30% of their data to be conveyed to the server, which is not very good”, said Mr. Cheng.

Semiconductor industry example

However, Mr. Cheng believes that other industries can learn from the semiconductor industry, where all its machines must comply with the industry standard SECS/GEM protocols, which also makes it much easier for this industry to adopt Industry 4.0 ahead of other sectors.

For some background to Mr. Cheng’s assertion, the semiconductor industry has been using over 1,000 standards and safety guidelines developed by the Milpitas, California-headquartered Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) industry association since 1973 and SEMI now has regional offices in North America, Europe, South-East Asia, India, Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan.

SEMI’s membership comprises companies involved in the electronics design and manufacturing supply chain. They provide equipment, materials and services for the manufacture of semiconductors, photovoltaic panels, LED and flat panel displays, micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), printed and flexible electronics, and related micro and nano-technologies.

Source – Semantic Scholar

Amongst SEMI’s many standards are the GEM (Generic Model for Communications and Control Of Manufacturing Equipment) which generally speaking, defines messages, state machines and scenarios to enable factory software to control and monitor manufacturing equipment, and the HSMS (High-Speed SECS Message Services) protocol is a standard transport protocol for communication between computers in semiconductor factories using TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocols/Internet Protocol) based Ethernet connections and is intended for a high speed.

For example, SECS/HSMS connections feed data from production equipment to the I-GEM equipment integration server within the data acquisition layer, which connects to shopfloor applications such as Recipe Management System, Statistical Process Control, Integrated Yield Management, Preventive Maintenance and so forth, and the I-GEM host server presents these as information for management on a dashboard.

In their paper, A Review on SECS/GEM: A Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Communication Protocol for Industry 4.0, researchers Shams A. Laghari, Selvakumar Manickam, and Shankar Karuppayah at the National Advanced IPV6 Centre Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), highlighted various limitations and deficiencies of M2M communication protocols, i.e., SECS/GEM, DDS, OPC UA, and MQTT within the Industry 4.0 scenario.

However as Mr. Cheng pointed out, the very fact that the semiconductor manufacturing industry players are leading in the development and adoption of common industry standards not only enables them to adopt Industry 4.0 standards more easily than their counterparts in other industries, but the semiconductor industry also serves as an example from which other industries can learn in adopting Industry 4.0 standards, production facilities, protocols and processes.

“So having standard protocols for machine connectivity in other areas is very important”, he concluded.

In Part 3, we will look at China’s Smart Manufacturing System Architecture, professional standards and talent development, as well as discussion between the panellists and their conclusions.