Top 5 Roadblocks to Digital Factory of the Future

Alexander Wolfe

October 24, 2011

1 Min Read
Top 5 Roadblocks to Digital Factory of the Future

I've been thinking a lot about the "Digital Factory of the Future," the term Siemens has been using to telegraph the increasingly hurried-up product to production cycles that design engineers need to support via flexible automation setups.

PLCs and PACs with higher capabilities for programmability and intercommunications are the cornerstones of factory automation. The other linchpin is easier and more global programming capabilities.

In plainer English, this means two things. First and foremost is enabling engineers to sidestep command-line programming -- something most aren't fluent in -- and instead use some kind of graphical or drag-and-drop paradigm. (Secondarily, despite the fact that hardcore software types will always frown on what they see as a "for dummies" approach, the salient point is that today's visual tools are finally for real.)


The other underpinning of the digital factory is the ability to deploy that software globally to all PLCs/PACs within a factory, extending out to remote or wirelessly connected production operations. Here, a collateral but significant outgrowth of such tight interconnectedness is the ability it gives plant engineers to route sensor data back to a centralized location. From there, they can monitor operations more closely -- and quantitatively -- than ever before. This enables tighter control, minimization of failures -- or, more correctly, quicker fixes -- and a host of subsidiary benefits like better compliance. (It should be noted that sensor angle is perhaps even more of a benefit in the process automation arena.)

About the Author(s)

Alexander Wolfe

Alex is Content Director of Design News. Previously, he was Editor-in-Chief of In his more than two decades in the electronics and mechanical engineering sectors, he has served as Managing Editor of Mechanical Engineering magazine and written for, McGraw-Hill's Electronics magazine, and IEEE Spectrum. He spent the 1990s at UBM's Electronic Engineering Times, where he broke the nationally known story of Intel's Pentium floating-point division bug in 1994. Alex has appeared as an industry analyst on CNN, CNBC, Fox News, and MSNBC. He's a frequent panelist and moderator at industry conferences and holds a degree in electrical engineering from Cooper Union. He can be reached at [email protected].

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