The economic pressure on replacing human personnel with automated devices in production, combined with the limited flexibility of automation technology, have defined, so far, an approach toward automation which relegates the human as servant of protected “automation islands”, with only big red button to press when something goes wrong.
Automated islands vs. collaborative automation
Automation islands are capable of performing autonomously added-value tasks, but in an environment kept separated from human workers by physical barriers. Safety consideration has been of paramount relevance, but the result was to create also a logical separation between autonomous tasks performed by machines and human activities.
On the other hand, collaborative automation is an approach to introduce equipment and devices capable to perform autonomous added-
The novelty is not only related to the elimination of safety barriers thanks to improved sensors and data processing algorithms, but also to the capacity to interact with the tasks executed by automatic machines in order to understand what they are executing and to modify safely their course of action with a higher degree of granularity.
Towards more flexible and integrated workplaces
Collaborative automation will lead to new opportunities to improve integration and reactiveness of shop floors. The increased “awareness” of automation devices will improve the possibility to work together with other actors, human or artificial, in an integrated workplace. Moreover, absence of barriers or fences will lead to the possibility to adapt organization, layout or logistics flows according to mutated production requirements and goals.
Reactiveness in the discrete production domain means the capacity to adapt the production plan almost in real time to cope in line with the evolution of the production context. This requires reducing work in process, balancing and synchronising logistic flows and, thus, reducing lead time up to effective “one-piece flow” implementation.
These can lead to an unprecedented level of flexibility, supporting smooth transition of different part types along the different stages of their life cycle, from prototypes, to maturity, to spare part production.
But the ultimate goal is to create near-future shop floors as socio-cyber physical systems, capable to optimise
Giuseppe Fogliazza, Director Machining Centers Engineering S.r.l.
Graduated in Pisa in Information Sciences, he started the collaboration with MCM S.p.A., a company that realizes machining centers and flexible production systems, with the task of developing its supervision software. Since 1994 he has been responsible for MCM for relations with academia, and for the coordination of research activities. In this role he has coordinated the participation of MCM in various national and European research projects. Giuseppe is the Director of Machining Centers Engineering S.r.l., a software division of MCM S.p.A., which with a staff of 15 people develops software services to support manufacturing production and factory integration.