Download Management and Your Production Line
The task of software upgrading and download management in manufacturing plants is a tad more complex than in the average office or home environment.
Behind the relentless hype of Industry 4.0 and factories of the future is the reality that manufacturers are slow to adopt information technologies. Oftentimes, they simply don’t need to. Why buy shiny new robots and connected devices when production is running fine with tried-and-tested machines and reliable staff?
It’s a big exaggeration that robots will take all production jobs. Robots are expensive and high maintenance—and nowhere near as flexible as humans. People can do one job one day and another job the next. A robot needs to be reprogrammed, and that takes time that holds up production.
The production line is still more automated than ever, though, which has caused a huge leap in production potential. Thanks to the computers behind the automation process, manufacturers can create a much wider variety of products and afford individual customization.
Ceramic production, in particular, has adapted dramatically in the past few decades and has been opened up to an endless variety of customized and assorted goods. In order to create these products, the average shop floor is equipped with controllers of various ages (often retrofitted with new software) alongside newer connected devices. These machines from different eras work together and create the desired end result.
Behind every machine in the automation process are thousands of pieces of software. In a lot of cases, this software is still updated with CDs and DVDs, and between 5-6% still use floppy disks. Updating software becomes a never-ending job, but a necessary one; to get the best out of the shop floor, machines need to be constantly updated and data logged.
The task of software upgrading and download management in manufacturing plants, given the array of different technologies in place, is a tad more complex than in the average office or home environment. Every PLC, PAC, smart sensor or industrial network device is made up of myriad individual software pieces, and all of those need to web together in unison in order for production to keep going.
Optimizing a production line can help manufacturers increase device output. This process often amounts to thousands of individual software updates, and hundreds of CDs and DVDs can be needed to accomplish the task. The updates also often need to be done in a certain order, or the systems won’t be compatible. Under every update are underlying operating systems, drivers, network interfaces and applications that compound any update issues, which means that updating a complex web of computers can take several months.
A patented electronic download management ecosystem has been developed that enables factories to log onto their automation provider’s website and see what software is needed, and then have the updates delivered via the internet.* The download manger integrates into the end user’s database and deals with the complications of firewalls, VPNs, entitlements, dependencies, low internet bandwidth, licensing, and customs and border issues. The intelligent entitlement management system knows the exact solutions that are allowed on the end user side, resolving the problem of export control and export compliance, so that the right software is delivered to the right countries.
The system bundles the needed software together and delivers those that are most important first, and downloads can be paused and resumed on request. Controls companies also have the benefit of having a direct access point to their clients, no matter where they are in the world. The ecosystem does all the work on both the client and customer side. The latest security patches can be delivered to shop floor machines as soon as possible, before a defect causes costly downtime. In addition, end users can get vital information about what other relevant products are available for download.
Computers will not take all jobs in the supply chain, but they should take the most complex, time-consuming and tedious ones. To use this ecosystem, no extra manpower is required from the automation provider or the end user.
The system’s lightweight and smart data transfer tool (just 200 kB on the client side) is so small that it does not even require installation. It lets users install and launch software sooner, even in areas of low bandwidth, which is often the case as large factories are usually on the outskirts of town, away from the faster internet connections.
For more information, visit www.nosltd.com.