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The Internet and Smart Factory technology share a lot of similarities.
Neither technological invention has a true inventor — instead, both have seemingly existed thanks to its evolution from a variety of responsible parties. In addition, both of them had their detractors prior to release, perhaps insinuating that the cutting-edge technology was too far ahead of its time.
But perhaps the biggest similarity between the two is that those who are using these technologies on an everyday basis couldn’t imagine their life without it.
Sure, Smart Factory is a new, budding technology that is just now making its way into various other sectors. And there may be hesitation to put so much faith into something that is so new. But that hasn’t stopped leaders worldwide from rushing to get their companies on the fast tract toward smart automation, including in the Educational sector, where high schools, community colleges, and universities are implementing Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory technologies into their everyday curriculum.
As Smart Factory technology continues to garner interest worldwide, it’s important for potential users to know the difference between what makes up Smart Technology and what doesn’t – especially in the field of student training and employee re-training.
That’s why Amatrol – which offers a state-of-the-art Smart Factory training system that features not only real-world Smart Factory components, but also Smart Factory application training for data analytics, industrial networking, network security, and manufacturing execution – has made it a priority to explain what Smart Automation training truly entails, and how it can properly be incorporated in a classroom or laboratory.
The Future is Here: Understanding Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory Technology
Industry 4.0, also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, can be summed up in one word:
In a nutshell, Smart Factory technologies communicate with each other – through the Industrial Internet of Things – to merge cyber-physical systems with advanced automation technologies. Combined, these “smart” technologies work to improve accuracy, efficiency, and productivity.
For example, logistic companies can track a package from the minute it arrives in its facility, to the moment it’s ushered out on a delivery truck using smart sensors and connected product identification. At the same time, connected machines on the facility’s floor can communicate directly with workers to provide detailed reports of virtually unlimited analysis, including production cycle times, mechanical breakdowns, and predictive maintenance.
With machines now sharing data in real time, it can be used to not only monitor production status, but can be programmed to identify possible problems and contact maintenance teams to find, fix, and resolve an issue before it occurs to avoid a complete shutdown. This same intelligence can also order more production materials when supplies run low, or allow it to react immediately to issues as they occur.
All in all, it takes more interconnectivity to pull off a Smart Factory training system than simply adding smart sensors to equipment. While the sensors play a crucial role in reporting data, they are useless without the other components needed for Smart Factory capabilities.
Want to Upgrade to Smart Factory Technology? Here is What You Need:
Not every manufacturing system is considered a Smart Factory. To have smart automation technologies, systems will need to focus on five major areas of concern:
1. Real-World, Industrial Training Equipment and Smart Sensors
While all the research in the world can prepare learners for how to act on the job, nothing beats real-world experience.
Fortunately, Amatrol thought of that, and offers industrial-grade training equipment that supports hands-on skills, and gives students a first-hand look at what they may encounter in the field.
The training devices, called Learning Systems, come in two sizes: full-sized and tabletop.
The full-scale training devices feature heavy duty, industrial grade components similar to what learners will see on the job. Amatrol’s Learning Systems teach skills on a wide variety of industrial components, including FANUC robots, Allen-Bradley PLCs, smart sensors, and more.
The tabletop training devices deliver the same dynamic level of training and industrial-grade components as the full-sized systems. However the tabletop version provides an option for when training space is too limited for the full Mechatronics line, but Smart Factory training remains necessary.
2. Industrial Networking
A crucial component to the Smart Factory process, Industrial Networking allows machines to communicate through the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).
In order for learners to connect with a fully-functional production system, industrial protocols – like Ethernet and Profinet protocols – provide real-time control, program transfer, data collection, and immediate program edits.
Smart Factory capabilities are impossible without the machines communicating with each other in real time, producing the critical data needed to understand the manufacturing process.
3. Data Analytics
As mentioned previously, one doesn’t simply add “smart” components to equipment and claim it possesses smart capabilities. In the real world, that would be like slapping a Mercedes symbol on a golf cart, and expecting it to possess the same power and proficiency.
Just because it has a symbol, four wheels, and moves doesn’t make it a Mercedes.
So while smart sensors play an important role in Smart Factory Technologies, they can’t do it alone. Instead, those sensors gather valuable information – known as Process Visualization Software – and communicate it to other machines via Ethernet & I/O Link.
That data is then input to the Manufacturing Execution Software, which offers a full-screen view into the real-time manufacturing process. With time, machines will understand so much about the process that they will begin predicting their own malfunctions, called Predictive Maintenance, limiting unexpected downtime and improving efficiency. Smart Product ID Tags help smart sensors track production history, sorting, inventory, and other valuable pieces of information to help a warehouse run as smoothly as possible.
Without data analytics, the information that smart sensors gather is useless.
4. Network Security
To ensure that communication is safe and free from unauthorized outside access, network security is essential.
Once data is available through the Cloud, or the IIoT, it can be accessible by anyone with Internet access, even those who want to cause harm. Not only does Network Security keep data safe and secure, but it protects data extended to suppliers and customers, as well as communications between plant-wide network and internet.
Without security, a cyberattack could be a click away, leading to a loss of data and potentially crippling damage to the Smart Factory. Network Security is the glue that holds a Smart Factory together. And with the growing threat of online hacking, it provides the smart systems the security it needs to function at its highest level.
You can’t build a house without a general understanding of architecture, and you certainly can’t run an effective Smart Factory without knowledge of its methodology and components.
So perhaps the most important component to implementing Smart Factory Technologies into an educational institute or business is how to teach these smart systems in a classroom setting.
Amatrol’s Smart Factory training is known worldwide for its competency-based, self-directed curriculum. Using eye-popping graphics, 3D simulations, videos and complete explanations, the curriculum offers strong technical content depth and skill development that mirrors instructor-led, classroom learning.
Thanks to Amatrol’s 24×7 eLearning access, training is no longer restricted to the classroom. Students can not only access their lessons online at any time, but can get the look and feel of using real equipment via their computer with Amatrol’s Virtual Simulators, which offer real-world outcomes and give immediate feedback for self-teaching.
Learners are able to convert from virtual trainer to industrial components in the classroom, ensuring they are prepared for whatever experience they might face in the field.
Not only does Amatrol’s curriculum and training equipment lead to industry-relevant certifications and credentials, but it also aligns with nationally recognized, industry-validated standards. These standards, which were designed by industry, for industry, encompass the skills employers are looking for in their hiring process.
Become Smart Factory Certified with SACA’s Nationally-Recognized Credentials
Once Smart Factory training is complete, what comes next?
As with many of its “smart” training courses, the knowledge covered in Amatrol’s Smart Factory eLearning curriculum aligns with nationally-recognized certifications and standards. For Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory certifications, the Smart Automation Certification Alliance (SACA) is the premier certification choice.
SACA’s certifications are offered in three categories:
The certifications are stackable in their dedicated areas, allowing learners to start with one certification, and add others to customize their documented skills. The learning is also occupationally-focused, preparing individuals for specific occupations and skills in the world of Industry 4.0.
All SACA certifications can be attained on two levels: Silver and Gold.
- SACA Silver Certifications: This certification is awarded to candidates who successfully pass the written knowledge exam. This certification level is ideal for those individuals who are seeking to validate online core achievement or when hands-on testing is not available.
- SACA Gold Certifications: This certification is awarded to candidates that successfully pass the written knowledge exam and successfully complete the hands-on performance assessments on approved equipment. Once the skills are demonstrated correctly and reported by the proctor, the candidate is eligible to receive the full Gold certification.
SACA’s program is also on the path toward an ISO 17024 certification, which provides a global benchmark for certification programs to ensure they operate in a consistent, reliable manner worldwide. That ISO certification also allows individuals to have skills that translate across national lines.
To assist in the curriculum’s implementation, SACA provides extensive training courses to equip teachers to promote Industry 4.0 certifications. These professional development opportunities are offered throughout the year at regional centers and last 3-5 days each. Upon successful completion of each course, teachers will be certified in the process of examining students for a given credential and administrating a certification preparation course.
Thanks to SACA’s Smart Factory certifications, once a student successfully completes a course, they will leave the program with an employer-preferred credential in hand. An industry-validated certification, not a certificate of completion, can help make the job search and interview process much more navigable thanks to its world-recognized standards.
In short, Smart Automation is here, whether companies are ready for the change or not. This revolutionary technology has the potential to change manufacturing as we know it – more accurate, more efficient, more cost-efficient.
However workers, both new and veteran, need to be trained to fully understand how the smart technology works. In order for that to happen, educational institutes and businesses need to offer the best training systems possible to see their trainees succeed.
Simply slapping on components, like a smart sensor, doesn’t give existing training systems Smart Factory capabilities. Nor does it provide the learner a full understanding of what these components, and the data they discover, actually do for the manufacturing process.
Having the correct equipment, and a strong foundational understanding of how it works, is the only way to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Fortunately, Amatrol can help prepare learners for their new career through hands-on training with Learning Systems, as well as industry-relevant, world-class eLearning curriculum. These skills can eventually be turned into a nationally-recognized certification through SACA, opening up an avenue for employee workplace success.
About Wes Scott
Wes Scott is a former public high school teacher and journalist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Wes on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.