Emerging Requirements for Future Manufacturing: the role of the new IoT/CPS based technologies

Internet of Things Applications in Future Manufacturing

The book chapter “Internet of things Applications in Future Manufacturing” is part of the 2016 IERC-European Research Cluster on the Internet of Things book (Digitising the Industry – Internet of Things Connecting the Physical, Digital and Virtual Worlds). This book is published by “River Publishers Series in Communications” that is a series of comprehensive academic and professional books which focus on communication and network systems. The book chapter is the result of a collaboration between John Soldados (Athens Information Technology), Sergio Gusmeroli (Politecnico di Milano) and MANTIS partner: Pedro Malo and Giovanni Di Orio (UNINOVA). You can download the book chapter in the Dissemination section of the web as well as the entire book by using the following link:



Introduction — Future manufacturing is driven by a number of emerging requirements including:

  • The need for a shift from capacity to capability, which aims at increasing manufacturing flexibility towards responding to variable market demand and achieving high-levels of customer fulfillment.
  • Support for new production models, beyond mass production. Factories of the future prescribe a transition from conventional make-to-stock (MTS) to emerging make-to-order (MTO), configure-to-order (CTO) and engineer-to-order (ETO) production models. The support of these models can render manufacturers more demand driven. For example, such production models are a key prerequisite for supporting mass customization, as a means of increasing variety with only minimal increase in production costs.
  • A trend towards profitable proximity sourcing and production, which enables the development of modular products based on common plat- forms and configurable options. This trend requires also the adoption of hybrid production and sourcing strategies towards producing modular platforms centrally, based on the participation of suppliers, distributors and retailers. As part of this trend, stakeholders are able to tailor final products locally in order to better serve local customer demand.
  • Improved workforce engagement, through enabling people to remain at the heart of the future factory, while empowering them to take efficient decisions despite the ever-increasing operational complexity of future factories. Workforce engagement in the factories of the future is typically associated with higher levels of collaboration between workers within the same plant, but also across different plants.

The advent of future internet technologies, including cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), provides essential support to fulfilling these requirements and enhancing the efficiency and performance of factory processes. Indeed, nowadays manufacturers are increasingly deploying Future Internet (FI) technologies (such as cloud computing, IoT and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) in the shop floor. These technologies are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution (Industrie 4.0) and enable a deeper meshing of virtual and physical machines, which could drive the transformation and the optimisation of the manufacturing value chain, including all touch-points from suppliers to customers. Furthermore, they enable the inter-connection of products, people, processes and infrastructures, towards more automated, intelligent and streamlined manufacturing processes. Future internet technologies are also gradually deployed in the shopfloor, as a means of transforming conventional centralized automation models (e.g., SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)) on powerful central servers) towards more decentralized models that provide flexibility in the deployment of advanced manufacturing technology.

The application of future internet technologies in general and of the IoT in particular, in the scope of future manufacturing, can be classified in two broad categories:

  • IoT-based virtual manufacturing applications, which exploit IoT and cloud technologies in order to connect stakeholders, products and plants in a virtual manufacturing chain. Virtual manufacturing applications enable connected supply chains, informed manufacturing plants comprising informed people, informed products, informed processes, and informed infrastructures, thus enabling the streamlining of manufacturing processes.
  • IoT-based factory automation, focusing on the decentralization of the factory automation pyramid towards facilitating the integration of new systems, including production stations and new technologies such as sensors, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and 3D printing. Such integration could greatly boost manufacturing quality and performance, while at the same time enabling increased responsiveness to external triggers and customer demands.

Within the above-mentioned categories of IoT deployments (i.e. IoT in the virtual manufacturing chains and IoT for factory automation), several IoT added-value applications can been supported. Prominent examples of such applications include connected supply chains that are responsive to customer demands, proactive maintenance of infrastructure based on preventive and condition-based monitoring, recycling, integration of bartering processes in virtual manufacturing chains, increased automation through interconnection of the shopfloor with the topfloor, as well as management and monitoring of critical assets. These applications can have tangible benefits on the competitiveness of manufacturers, through impacting production quality, time and cost. Nevertheless, deployments are still in their infancy for a number of reasons including:

  • Lack of track record and large scale pilots: Despite the proclaimed benefits of IoT deployments in manufacturing, there are still only a limited number of deployments. Hence manufacturers seek for tangible showcases, while solutions providers are trying to build track record and reputation.
  • Manufacturers’ reluctance: Manufacturers are rather conservative when it comes to adopting digital technology. This reluctance is intensified given that several past deployments of digital technologies (e.g. Service Oriented Architectures (SOA), Intelligent Agents) have failed to demonstrate tangible improvements in quality, time and cost at the same time.
  • Absence of a smooth migration path: Factories and production processes cannot change overnight. Manufacturers are therefore seeking for a smooth migration path from existing deployments to emerging future internet technologies based ones.
  • Technical and Technological challenges: A range of technical challenges still exist, including the lack of standards, the fact that security and privacy solutions are in their infancy, as well as the poor use of data analytics technologies. Emerging deployments and pilots are expected to demonstrate tangible improvements in these technological areas as a prerequisite step for moving them into production deployment.

In order to confront the above-listed challenges, IoT experts and manufacturers are still undertaking intensive R&D and standardization activities. Such research is undertaken within the IERC cluster, given that several topics dealt within the cluster are applicable to future factories. Moreover, the Alliance for IoT Innovation (AIOTI) has established a working group (WG) (namely WG11), which is dedicated to smart manufacturing based on IoT technologies. Likewise, a significant number of projects of the FP7 and H2020 programme have been dealing with the application and deployment of advanced IoT technologies for factory automation and virtual manufacturing chains. The rest of this chapter presents several of these initiatives in the form of IoT technologies and related applications. In particular, the chapter illustrates IoT technologies that can support virtual manufacturing chains and decentralized factory automation, including related future internet technologies such as edge/cloud computing and BigData analytics. Furthermore, characteristic IoT applications are presented. The various technologies and applications include work undertaken in recent FP7 and H2020 projects, including FP7 FITMAN, FP7 ProaSense, ECSEL MANTIS, H2020 BeInCPPS, as well as the H2020 FAR-EDGE initiative. The chapter is structured as follows: The second section of the chapter following this introduction illustrates the role of IoT technologies in the scope of EU’s digital industry agenda with particular emphasis on the use of IoT platforms (includ- ing FITMAN and FIWARE) for virtual manufacturing. The third section is devoted to decentralized factory automation based on IoT technologies. A set of representative applications, including applications deployed in FP7 and H2020 projects are presented in the fourth section. Finally, the fifth section is the concluding one, which provides also directions for further research and experimentation, including ideas for large-scale pilots.