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Part III – Connectivity in electronics manufacturing: sorting practicality from hype
05 December 2019
Exploring the key elements to look for in a pragmatic smart factory solution with guest blogger Benoit Ouellet.

Part 3 of our series features Brian D’Amico, President of MIRTEC Corporation, as he shares his thoughts and vision for Industry 4.0 and why connecting all pieces of the manufacturing process is a critical first step.
Brian’s thoughts on the importance of connectivity for an IIoT strategy: “Connectivity is the critical first step toward the implementation of Industry 4.0 within the Electronics Manufacturing Industry. The ultimate goal is to achieve higher levels of productivity by connecting all parts of the manufacturing process through Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Integration and the Industrial Internet of Things. This requires the collection of data to a centralized platform which may then be analyzed.”

Benoit’s perspective: As Brian mentions it is absolutely imperative to properly connect all machines in the manufacturing process in order to have a successful smart factory strategy. The challenge arises when an equipment vendor is selling a new machine into a mixed vendor ecosystem. For example, if an equipment vendor sells their AOI to a new customer, that customer will likely be interested in connecting the defects and measures detected at SPI to this newly acquired AOI machine. The challenge arises when the SPI machine is made by a competitor… what’s the best way to get data then? From my humble perspective, a neutral connectivity, vendor-agnostic solutions provider like Cogiscan.

Brian shares his concerns related to the challenges of connectivity: “… the ability to provide seamless connectivity between such a wide variety of assembly equipment. The fact is that different vendors use different communication protocols, data formats, and standards.”
Benoit’s position: Trying to fit all of the information available from every different machine on the market into a single and common data set is not a promise to get more data, it’s a way to get what’s common. In order to allow access to machine-specific data, the manufacturer must make it available using a different mechanism, outside of the standard, often using a proprietary protocol. This is why we will likely never see a universal adoption of a single standard.

And how Brian plans to address these connectivity challenges: “Rather than ‘re-invent the wheel’, we at MIRTEC have chosen to strategically partner with companies like Cogiscan that specialize in M2M communication. These partnerships allow us to effortlessly connect to virtually any machine within the manufacturing line without tying up valuable engineering resources. This also overcomes the hurdle of working with some competitive systems.”
Benoit’s thoughts: Since we don’t sell any machines at Cogiscan, we’re not competing with any machine vendor. This is the main reason we have been able to develop strong partnerships with so many companies, for both equipment and software. Once a machine brand or model has been integrated into Co-NECT using its existing communication protocols, or once an enterprise MES is supported, it becomes easily accessible to everyone in the M2M ecosystem. The integration work does not have to be done for every project, which greatly reduces the effort and cost.

Brian’s perspective on industry standardssuch as CFX and HERMES: “While there is certainly a trend toward standardization, we must consider the fact that there are a host of communication protocols that are used throughout our industry… In my estimation, however, there will still be the need for middleware in order to bridge the communication gap between standards.”

Benoit’s closing note: Remaining flexible and agile is key – it’s no longer enough to rely on only one standard. For customers and suppliers alike, the best strategy is to ensure your toolbox is well equipped to handle various types of integration scenarios. And of course, if you need help with connectivity, we have the expertise to integrate all types of communication protocols in a wide variety of manufacturing ecosystems.

Read Brian’s full interview on EMS NOW.