Innovation in Industry Processes; PLC & Beyond
Published on : Monday 30-11--0001
For decades, industries deployed assembly line production processes to increase output. While this was a major improvement over manual production of goods, nevertheless, there was a cap on the number of goods that could be produced per hour, per day.
But the introduction of the first PLC or programmable logic controller by Modicon in the US in 1968 transformed the dynamics of machine manufacturing. The saga began when Richard Morley founded Bedford Associates in 1968, along with a core group of engineers. The group then established the company Modicon – the name denoting Modular Digital Control – in the same year. The tremendous success of the device led to the rise of global industry, boosting its expansion significantly during the past three decades. In essence, PLCs embedded machines with intelligence and automated the processes deployed in infrastructure, industry and buildings.
Modicon systems have future ready Cyber Security embedded in processors, easy to engineer and program for most complex and critical application needs. Reliably installed since last 50 years in various plants, it has highly enhanced features on Industry 4.0 platforms to deliver solutions for Smart Factories and Machines.
In 1969, Modicon introduced the ‘084’ PLC, so named because it was Bedford Associates’ project number 84. Within a few years in 1973, the ‘084’ was upgraded and reintroduced as the ‘184’. Its success saw the company’s workforce soar from 80 to 170 employees, even as sales touched $5 million while offices were opened in Los Angeles, Cleveland and Rochester. In 1975, Modicon introduced the ‘284’, the first controller with a microprocessor and distributed control. After this, the ‘384’ was introduced – the first PLC with digitised process algorithms for continuous control.
In 1979, the company introduced Modbus – the first industrial communications network, enabling users to interface computers to controllers. Thanks to its reliability, Modbus emerged as an industry standard. In 1990, the introduction of the FIP communication network and FactoryMate Plus industrial workstations followed. These industrial control platforms put graphic operator controls on the factory floor for alarming, trending, data logging and reporting. Till 1994, Modicon introduced other products, including the Quantum range in that year, which was the first truly open approach to automation control.
The year 1997 was a turning point of sorts when Modicon became Schneider Electric’s fourth master brand. The year 2000 saw the creation of Web automation for the remote supervision of automated production processes. The solution integrates programmable logic controllers and other components in an open architecture using Ethernet and Internet protocols to connect to the Web.
The introduction of IoT-enabled infrastructure and equipment offered faster, better, cheaper and more energy-efficient solutions. Quite clearly, anything that is automatically monitored and measured can be controlled completely during the cycles of demand, supply and consumption.
Thanks to the above innovations and breakthroughs, the process of manufacturing was completely transformed with the advent of automation and connectivity. In the manufacturing domain, the interconnection of devices with one another and the Internet led to the rise of smart factories. Here, all devices and machines deploy data while manufacturing and moving, reporting and learning – at exponential rates and done extremely efficiently.
Augmenting Industry 4.0
The changing phase of process automation and design led to what’s now termed Industry 4.0, which is steered by smart technologies. The smart systems include robots, drones, 3D printers, autonomous vehicles, etc. Worldwide, Industry 4.0 is transforming the manufacturing industry irrevocably via its efficiency, reliability, safety and accuracy, among others. The interoperable, interconnected devices of Industry 4.0 technologies are leveraging all IoT-enabled systems, such as Cloud and mobile computing, by accessing real-time data and analytics, thereby driving manufacturing into a new epoch where greater efficiency, optimum productivity and better safety are the norm.
Everything, however, comes with pros and cons. Industry 4.0 is no exception. In the present scenario, the rise of smart technologies has meant that workers have had to learn new skills or relearn other ones. Increasingly, the need for periodic skills training is becoming the norm across the world as workers are having to learn how to operate new systems and technologies.
In this process of innovations that have disrupted the industry process through automation, Modicon has played a key role during the past few decades. In fact, it was the Modicon ‘048’ (introduced in 1968) that transformed process design, moving from complex hardwired relay systems to the automation system, in this way reducing the time, effort and costs earlier linked with modifying a process. In 1969, Schneider Electric facilitated the expanding reach of Modicon technology globally.
The next future-ready launch from Modicon was that of the first PAC (programmable automation controller) in 1996. In 2003, Modicon released the first Web-embedded PAC, symbolising innovation at its best by offering a complete range of solutions in meeting customers’ automation needs. From HVAC/pumping to small automated machines to advanced machine automation, its time-tested, trusted automation solutions are now enhancing machines and processes across industries.
Today, Modicon offers a comprehensive line of innovative PLCs and PACs. In the coming years, more future-ready innovations can be expected to continue augmenting the manufacturing processes of Industry 4.0, simultaneously scaling new heights in smart manufacturing as Modicon completes 50 years of its innovative existence.Captions
Pix1: Richard Morley (left) and his team poses with the first PLC, the Modicon.
Pix2: The journey of Modicon.