• Comment:

    Manufacturing systems are often characterised by ‘silos’ of data which cannot be accessed easily horizontally, and by varied and incompatible data types. By utilising a single data bus for all data to be transmitted on, standards are more easily implemented and all data is accessible by all equipment.
    This is particularly important in this context where diverse sources of data (such as metrology systems, CAD data) must be analysed by software (e.g. data analytics, metrology software), and then used to adapt a process (e.g. robotic pathing, machining processes).

    When a manufacturing system is fixed and will repeat the same tasks, having hard-coded and non-dynamic data exchange may be sufficient. When a system is reconfigurable and flexible, being able to define data sources and destination in software is critical (so-called software-defined networking).


  • Comment:

    SMEs often have an advantage over larger companies by being agile and able to change to meet demands more easily. However, this is only possible with an agile and flexible data system. For many SMEs, this burden is carried by human workers, with manual and often paper-based data management and exchange systems.

    By implementing a common manufacturing service bus for data, this reliance on human data input (and the associated risk of error and time burden for skilled engineers) can be reduced, and data standards can be more easily implemented.


  • Comment:

    For flexible, reconfigurable systems where everything is connected together and must utilise a common data format, selecting the correct data format and a common structure for its use is key. B2MML worked very well for this application, but there is still scope for variation in the way terms and variables are defined, which must be settled on.

    Converting an agreed process plan for manufacturing into the B2MML has some degree of automation, but also required a large amount of manual processing. More time should have been spent on automating this process.
    Ideally, all components of the system would communicate directly with the service bus. Practically, not all devices will support the service bus, so use of an intermediary communication protocol such as OPC UA may be necessary. 

    Although process control may all be centralised with a manufacturing service bus, safety systems may not be. This can cause unexpected system behaviour when the system starts a new process unless the safety system is fully understood by the users. 

    Selection of flexible technologies and standards does not necessarily mean that any given implementation using those technologies will be flexible. A system implementation must be designed specifically to be flexible and future proof.