The concept of Smart Factory is to revolutionise and enhance the role of human resources within the production plant, makes processes and operational sequences efficient and fluid, significantly improving the levels of productivity achievable, in particular in highly flexible contexts. The reliability of the plant and process and the maintainability, especially of complex systems, gain significant benefit as well.
The basic concept is that repetitive tasks with a low level of knowledge content are transferred from humans to machine, software, automation and collaborative robotics. Decisions that can be automated, for example, logic resulting from a defined state of the machine or the process sequencing, are no longer taken by the operator, whose sole role is therefore the supervision of the system.
In the Smart Factory, the operator focuses only on important tasks and issues, which can only be managed thanks to the uniqueness of the human contribution, through the integration and correlation of different sources of information in complex and structured contexts.
Flexible systems are complex by nature, and their efficiency and full usability depend on many factors. The processing of the huge amount of output information from a network of sensors and monitoring systems, which MCM plants are equipped with and which is generated at any time, is obtained through exclusive algorithms that generate, in a synthetic way usable by the operator, the indicators necessary for the diagnosis of the plant and the process. In the smart factory, this data flow is systematically organised. The operator always has an overall control of the situation, on the basis of which s/he can make immediate and conscious decisions, with both short and long term effects. All these elements together constitute the real driving force behind the high efficiency of systems and processes.
Since 2015, MCM has been a supporting member of the Cluster Tecnologico Nazionale Fabbrica Intelligente, an applied research project endorsed by the Italian government. The specific know-how developed by MCM is the contribution provided to pursue the overall goal of outlining a strategic guide to increase the competitiveness of Italian industries in the world.
Among the projects that the Cluster Fabbrica Intelligente presented to MIUR - National Technology Clusters (Axis II "Thematic Projects" - Action II.2 "Technology Clusters") we mention the High Performance Manufacturing project in which MCM has actively participated as industrial referent .
Smart maintenance uses every information system to manage and schedule routine maintenance in order to make it efficient and effective.
Smart maintenance uses all the sensors and monitoring systems already available in the machine, plus other exclusive MCM equipment, to generate a flow of information that is then processed using sophisticated algorithmic techniques. Once aggregated and synthesised, the information content is stored and compared with statistical data and critical thresholds, in order to identify any trends of system degradation. In this way, it is possible to obtain a prospect of the status of the plant and the process, which allows to plan maintenance with timely interventions, made in already scheduled steps. Typical examples of monitoring strongly suggestive for the detection of system drifts are: the comparison over time in the performance of typical cycles, the check over time of decreases in fluid levels, changes in absorption of the axes, the evolution over time of tool vibration phenomena, etc.
In MCM plants, the information flow crosses the supervision node of the production cell, which provides for data contextualization, and is sent to an exclusive cloud service. Here, automatic learning algorithms train statistical models, calculate synthetic indexes and control charts to which secure access to the customer organization is guaranteed, for the management of diagnostic processes and predictive maintenance.
The new industrial technologies are not intended to fully replace the human contribution, but must be aimed at transforming from a task-based organization model to one based on people who have full control of the process and technology.
In the smart factory, at the heart of MCM strategic vision, operators evolve from machine operators to plant supervisors. Therefore, they must be provided with tools that make some operations less demanding and repetitive. Traditional solutions for use of anthropomorphic robots are potentially hazardous when spaces are shared by men and robots.
For this reason, in recent years, MCM has developed the use of collaborative robots, i.e. robots able to operate safely by sharing space with the humans. These robotic partners, whose control is closely integrated into the overall control architecture of the machining cell, are entrusted with repetitive and low added value tasks, such as fixing systems for workpieces or equipment, or checking of loading conditions and presence of some machining features upon unloading.