Siemens Automation & Drives took a huge leap into the future with an idea machine builders and systems integrators have dreamed about—and until now, believed it to be another 20 years away. The software concept, called "Automation Designer," aims to do no less than design a complete automation scenario, such as an automobile manufacturing line, from basic data about what the car manufacturer wants to do. It collects data from a variety of sources, such as parts lists, PLC programs, and HMI visualization, and puts these into templates, which are combined to form libraries. It then links the templates with CAD drawings of the automation line to configure the complete production line—including all the details from material flow to emergency stop circuits. Siemens' Rita Schultz, director of product & systems management, says it can reduce ramp up times for the automobile industry by 40 percent.
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
Both traditional automation companies and startups are developing technologies to improve processes on the factory floor, while smart sensors and other IoT-related technologies are improving how products are handled during transport and across the supply chain.
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