The next wave of manufacturing is upon us, and it is changing the way our factories and people do business. Industry 4.0, the 4th industrial revolution, channelizes the power of automation, data and analytics to enable machines to be the real decision-makers. Also known as ‘smart manufacturing’, Industry 4.0 is not as much about smart methodologies as about smart equipment.Sensors embedded into each component of manufacturing equipment give rise to a new class of smart equipment. While existing sensors in equipment help monitor various parameters, additional sensors are being embedded to transmit all possible data about the equipment and its condition, leading to uninterrupted machine-to-machine and machine-human communication.

Smart manufacturing applies the Internet of Things (IoT) to the manufacturing industry (IIoT). Combining the ecosystem of smart machines with processing of data from devices and sensors, big data analytics and automation, IIoT is transforming the manufacturing industry by successfully mining a larger volume of data at far greater speed. It creates a fully integrated, collaborative manufacturing system that uses real-time data to respond immediately to changing demands and conditions and to predict and prevent equipment failures.

Smarter Semiconductor Manufacturing

Unlike most other manufacturers, semiconductor companies have used smart equipment in one way or the other until now. Large semiconductor manufacturers have invested billions to make their factories smart. They have also mined data to reduce inefficiencies in the systems. However, the adoption of Industry 4.0 has not been as rapid as it could have been for a variety of reasons.

Adoption of Industry 4.0

The biggest push-back to smart manufacturing, ironically, stems from the same factor that is its USP – data communication. Data privacy and security is a big concern, more so in the manufacturing industry, leading to slower adoption of smart manufacturing. The second biggest challenge is the high investment in smart manufacturing, especially as the ROI is not immediate. Hence, cost-conscious manufacturers are wary of taking that first step towards a smarter future.

While cost and data security is a concern, manufacturers cannot overlook the long-term benefits of going smart.

Predictive Maintenance with Smart Equipment

The sensors embedded into the smart equipment keep track of the heath of the asset. They collect real-time data on the condition of the equipment, in order to predict when components need maintenance. E.g. In industrial robots that perform repetitive tasks, there is a gradual degradation over time. Sensors embedded in the robot will notice any wear and tear in the components and escalate it in the reporting system before it leads to a complete failure of the system. Remote diagnostics tools can do a root cause analysis to delve deeper and fix the underlying issue, if any. Predictive maintenance will help the entire assembly line stay on track and reduce unscheduled equipment downtime.

Data Analytics for Higher Efficiency and Lean Manufacturing

The huge volume of data collected from smart machines can be analysed in-depth to help identify and fix issues of inefficiency in processes more efficiently. Furthermore, performance deviations can be monitored in real time and addressed immediately, resulting in optimum utilization of assets. It also eliminates the need to maintain additional inventory.

Self-aware Equipment

Imagine a paradigm where machines could give you instant information about themselves when requested. Equipment modelling and self-awareness of devices is very much possible in Smart Equipment through implementation of standards defined in EDA (Interface A) like SEMI E120, E132 or similar.  A basic use case would be upgrading firmware.  To carry out an upgrade, you first need to identify the devices that are running the older version of the firmware. Smart equipment will be able to identify their firmware versions and communicate the same back to the factory technician to enable a seamless upgrade.

Smart Interaction through Augmented or Virtual Reality

Augmented reality integrates digital information with the user’s environment in real time. In a truly smart factory, technicians will be able to look at the equipment and get live information about its status and desired parameters through augmented or virtual reality-based wearable devices or mobile apps. The information will be in the visual format, easy to understand and will help technicians perform maintenance tasks, if needed,remotely with the click of a button. Smarter equipment will also reduce human intervention on the manufacturing floor, enhancing the experience as well as safety of the floor technician.

Make your Manufacturing Equipment Smarter with Quest

Smart manufacturing is THE future; adopting smarter equipment is now the only way forward to bring down costs, increase efficiency, and improve productivity. The four pillars of IIoT – increased connectivity, information sharing, data analytics and remote monitoring, have to be adopted by manufacturers if they want to remain competitive. Therefore, the challenges associated with smart manufacturing have to be addressed collaboratively by automation solution providers and the manufacturers. Data security needs to be managed by taking into account,business requirements and country-specific regulations. It also requires periodic review to ensure protection from emerging threats.

QuEST provides engineering services to semiconductor manufacturing equipment companies, including three of the top ten equipment companies.  It has frameworks for equipment automation and factory automation, which reduce the time-to-market for their customers. For the last two decades, QuEST has been helping equipment companies automate their equipment and take them to fabrication plants with reduced time to market and help pass Factory Acceptance Tests with ease.  With semiconductor manufacturing industry progressing to Industry 4.0, we are developing and deploying solutions using SMACT stack to transform the equipment to be smarter and integrate well into the smart manufacturing world. Click here to know more.

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