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Factory Automation Solutions: Expectations Vs. Reality

18-Apr-2023
smart factory automation solutions industry 4.0 iot Photo credits: ST Electronics

In manufacturing, factory automation solutions are increasingly becoming the norm, while fast-paced industrial companies seek turnkey solutions to simplify their factory automation process. Turnkey solutions are complete systems that integrate hardware and software components designed and installed by an appointed vendor to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and improve safety in the manufacturing process. However, there can be major differences between the expectations of implementing factory automation solutions and the reality of implementing these solutions. When investing in factory automation solutions, clients must understand how the expectations can differ significantly.

1. Expectations with Turnkey Solutions

Turnkey solutions as a piece to fit into the puzzle Photo credit: Investopedia

Photo credit: Investopedia

One of the main expectations of implementing factory automation solutions is that they will be turnkey solutions, pre-engineered systems that can be installed and ready to use quickly, and thus, a cost-effective and efficient choice. While some automation solutions may be turnkey, it is more common for industries to require customization and integration with existing equipment. When the expected turnkey solutions require further customization, it can lead to additional costs and longer implementation times than originally anticipated. Understanding the capabilities and limitations of turnkey solutions before investing in them is important. However, it is also important to note that once these solutions are customized to meet a company's specific needs, they can be an excellent way to increase production efficiency and reduce costs.

2. Expectations with PLCs

Programmable Logic Controller Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

Turnkey solutions often use programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which are specialized computers that control the operations of machines, processes, and even entire factories, but another common expectation that we face with clients is that Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) will be the primary technology used for automation. While PLCs are widely used for automation, there may be better fits for some applications. For example, some applications may require a Genset Controller to manage power generation systems. Identifying the appropriate technology for an application can prevent mistakes causing inefficiencies and system failures. inefficiencies and system failures. Other than that, PLCs are computer-based controllers used to automate factory processes. While they can be highly effective in controlling machines and processes, they require skilled programming and maintenance, which can be costly. Additionally, clients may have missed out on the fact that PLCs are prone to cyberattacks and can only be protected if properly secured.

3. Expectations with Genset Controllers

genset controllers Photo credit: DEIF

Photo credit: DEIF

A genset controller is another important component of factory automation solutions. Genset controllers are devices used to monitor and control the operation of a diesel generator set with engines used to power up any equipment. The genset controller ensures that the generator it is paired with runs smoothly and that the power output remains within acceptable limits. They are often not connected with the PLC-powered factory system. In short, it’s a device for powering and controlling standalone equipment. They can be used to manage the startup and shutdown of a generator, as well as maintain optimal engine performance. The genset controller can also perform other important tasks, such as scheduling maintenance, monitoring fuel consumption, and notifying operators of potential problems. However, there are also cons to using these devices where clients must manage expectations in that they require regular maintenance and can be complex to operate.

4. Expectations with Modbus

Modbus communication protocol Photo credit: RealPars

Photo credit: RealPars

Modbus is another technology commonly used in factory automation solutions and is a serial communication protocol widely used in factory automation solutions to enable communication between industrial devices, computers, and machine equipment. It is an open standard that allows devices from different manufacturers to communicate with each other, proving to be a reliable and robust protocol widely used in the manufacturing industry. Modbus connects devices to a network, and data is transmitted using a common language. This common language in devices makes it easier for operators to monitor and control different aspects of the automation process. While Modbus is a widely accepted protocol for industrial communication, it is only sometimes compatible with all devices and requires skilled configuration and setup, which can then create integration issues and additional costs when implementing automation solutions

5. Expectations with Budget

office worker signing off Photo credit: Unsplash

Photo credit: Unsplash

Another final expectation is that clients may veer towards the cost-effective options of purchasing brandless or cheaper alternatives of the technologies mentioned above while forsaking long-term planning for the maintenance of these solutions/equipment. The problem with the cheaper alternatives is that frequently these products do not provide the kind of troubleshooting support and are usually one-off transactions with the product manufacturer and eventually end up needing more service, follow-up and scheduled maintenance. In the worst-case scenario, these cheaper alternative products are revealed to be product imitations that lack quality and proper system setup, which will lead to a massive headache once the arbitrary setup system fails. On the other hand, working with a solution provider such as Ultech Engineering would ensure that your factory receives continued service and troubleshooting support should there be a failure in one of its installed systems. Furthermore, Ultech Engineering is the authorized brand partner, distributor, and system integrator for recognized name brands known for their powering systems and factory automation products in various general and niche industries – SIEMENS, Mitsubishi Electric, Weidmüller, DEIF, and Allen-Bradley. Therefore, that would also make Ultech Engineering an excellent choice to work on your factory automation and power distribution needs.

The Reality of Implementing Factory Automation Solutions

expectations versus reality Photo credit: PowerChord

Photo credit: PowerChord

In conclusion, implementing factory automation solutions can bring significant benefits to a manufacturing facility to streamline factory automation processes, but it is important to understand the reality of the implementation process. Turnkey solutions may not be the norm, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be appropriate. They incorporate advanced hardware and software components, such as PLCs, genset controllers, and Modbus protocols, that work together seamlessly to improve production efficiency and reduce costs. It is crucial to ensure compatibility between all components so that expectations align with reality. Additionally, investing in skilled maintenance and training for these systems can ensure their continued effectiveness and lead to successful implementation and long-term benefits for the manufacturing facility. Only from these continuous efforts are companies expected to see significant improvements in their manufacturing operations, such as reduced downtime, increased output, and improved product quality.

Get in touch with Ultech Engineering today to help you manage your Factory Automation needs!

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