Wireless Factory Automation: Where to Start

CoreTigo

| 8 May, 2024
Wireless Factory Automation: Where to Start
By understanding the basics of wireless automation, carefully planning your approach, and staying adaptable, you can ensure a successful implementation.

The industrial landscape is undergoing a significant transformation, thanks in large part to advancements in wireless technology. Wireless factory automation is a major step toward streamlining manufacturing efficiency, operational flexibility, and scalability.

But for many manufacturers and factory owners, the question remains: Where do you start?

Let’s take a closer look at the importance of wireless factory automation, its role in your business operations, and the steps for getting started. 

What Is Wireless Factory Automation?

Wireless factory automation refers to the use of wireless communication technologies, with IO-Link Wireless leading the way, for control, monitor, and optimize processes within a manufacturing environment. This can range from simple applications, such as remote monitoring of equipment, to more complex systems like fully automated production lines.

The key advantage of wireless systems is their flexibility. Unlike traditional wired solutions, wireless automation allows for easier scalability and adaptation to production needs without the need for extensive physical infrastructure changes.

Why Do You Need Wireless Industrial Automation?

The case for wireless industrial automation is compelling. Here are some of the reasons why manufacturers are transitioning to wireless systems:

  • Reduced Downtime: Wireless systems facilitate real-time monitoring and control, enabling quicker responses to any emerging issues.
  • Cost Savings: Eliminating the need for extensive wiring reduces initial setup costs and ongoing maintenance expenses.
  • Increased Flexibility: Easily reconfiguring production lines and processes without the constraints imposed by physical wiring.
  • Improved Safety: Remote monitoring and operation can help reduce the necessity for human presence in potentially hazardous environments.
  • Enhanced Data Collection: Wireless systems can collect vast amounts of data from across the manufacturing process, offering insights for operation optimization and predictive maintenance.

The multiple benefits of wireless industrial automation caused many factories across the globe to adopt this approach. This means that failing to implement it at least partially could cost you your market share. 

Types of Wireless Factory Automation

Several wireless technologies are available for factory automation, including:

  • Wi-Fi: Ideal for high-throughput applications and areas with existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.
  • Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): Suitable for short-range communication and low-power applications.
  • Zigbee and other mesh networks: Best for creating flexible and scalable networks of devices that can cover large areas through the principle of mesh networking.
  • Cellular (LTE, 5G): Suited for applications requiring wide coverage and high reliability.

Each of these technologies comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. This can include costs, implementation complexity, interference issues, and more. 

IO-Link Wireless for Remote Control and Monitoring

IO-Link Wireless is a robust industrial wireless communication standard designed specifically for factory automation. It offers a unique combination of the reliable, real-time capabilities of IO-Link with the flexibility of wireless communication. IO-Link Wireless is particularly suited for applications needing high levels of data integrity. It’s highly effective in places where cables cannot be used due to environmental conditions or when mobility is required.

Steps to Factory Automation

Transitioning to a wireless automated factory involves several key steps:

  1. Assessment and Planning: Start by assessing your current processes and identifying areas where automation could bring the most benefit. Develop a clear plan outlining your goals, required technologies, and implementation phases.
  2. Technology Selection: Based on your assessment, select the appropriate set of complementary technologies, such as IO-Link and IO-Link Wireless to best align with your operational needs.
  3. Pilot Testing: Before a full-scale rollout, conduct pilot tests on selected processes or areas. This will allow you to identify any potential issues and make necessary adjustments.
  4. Training: Ensure that your team is adequately trained on the new systems. Adequate training is vital for smooth operation and maximization of the benefits of automation.
  5. Implementation: Roll out the chosen technologies according to your plan. Monitor the implementation closely to ensure everything is proceeding as expected.
  6. Continuous Improvement: Wireless factory automation is not a set-and-forget solution. Same as in a wired system, continuously monitor performance and look for areas of improvement. New practices emerge frequently, so staying informed and adaptable is key.

Once you complete the transfer to partial or full factory automation, measure the productivity and compare the data. If you aren’t seeing the expected ROI, you may need to make adjustments to the technology, 

Taking the First Step toward Wireless Factory Automation 

The transition to wireless factory automation can seem daunting, but the benefits it offers in terms of efficiency and cost savings are undeniable. By understanding the basics of wireless automation, carefully planning your approach, and staying adaptable, you can ensure a successful implementation.