With real-time access to shopfloor data, there are tremendous possibilities to improve manufacturing efficiency and quality and lower costs. Industrial processes are implemented with multiple types and brands of equipment, often with disparate, legacy interfaces that are difficult to maintain. Collecting data can be labor-intensive and possibly delayed and unreliable. 

Monitoring equipment condition, measuring performance, and determining the impact on manufacturing processes requires access to multiple data sources with varying protocols. Informed, predictive, and prescriptive processing is possible with the right connectivity technology. 

For organizations and solution providers that want to optimize access to varied equipment data to enable process improvement, Amorph’s SMARTUNIFIER provides an easy-to-use, robust, scalable, and cost-effective connectivity platform.   

Solution 

SMARTUNIFIER combines multiple data channels for a holistic view of an entire process or various processes. User-definable data mapping simplifies interface creation, and numerous pre-packaged, reusable protocol converters (adapters) are available to collect equipment status and condition data. High-volume and high-speed, real-time protocol conversion enables high-speed production monitoring and control. 

The diagram below illustrates the SMARTUNIFIER solution. 

When it comes to connectivity for OT and IT, SMARTUNIFIER has some unique features. 

1. Connectivity anywhere 

Unlike other products that provide either enterprise connectivity, edge connectivity, or equipment connectivity, SMARTUNIFIER can provide connectivity anywhere. By having the unique capability to deploy small communication instances on virtually any computing resources, industrial connectivity can be implemented easily on-premises (e.g., directly on equipment, on industrial PCs, or other Edge Devices), in data centers, on the cloud, or on hybrid infrastructures and thus providing connectivity in multiple locations wherever required. 

2. Decentralized architecture 

With its decentralized architecture, SMARTUNIFIER provides virtually unlimited scalability. Unlike other platforms, no central communication infrastructure, like a message broker or database, is required. Moreover, the provision of connectivity can be done quickly, at minimal cost, and progressively expanded as required to implement an “Enterprise Nervous System” as shown below. 

In a large installation, a swarm of SMARTUNIFIER Communication Instances provides the required communication capabilities at any location within an enterprise IT network – on a server, on an equipment PC, or on the cloud. Nevertheless, the configuration, deployment, and operation of all SMARTUNIFIER Instances can be managed centrally: 

  • central configuration of information models and mappings between different data sources and destinations 
  • central deployment management and operations monitoring of installed SMARTUNIFIER Instances. 

3. Reusable Information Models and Mappings 

In SMARTUNIFIER, Information Models describe the communication-related data that is available for a device or IT system to be connected. Once an Information Model for a device has been defined it can be reused for the same device type at other locations, thereby substantially reducing the integration time and cost. Mappings define when and how to exchange and transform data between two or multiple data sources and targets and are acting as a “universal” translator between the different Information Models. Information Models and Mappings add semantics to the data that is being exchanged, providing enterprise context. Thus, meaningful data can be easily exchanged between different communication partners. E.g., it is possible that different data fields from different sources are considered to have the same meaning when in fact there are differences. For example, one system at an airport may record the actual time of arrival of an aircraft to be the touchdown time, while another IT system will record the actual time of arrival as the time when the aircraft stops in its parking position. The time difference between the two is significant and it is important that the context of each is clear at the enterprise level. Within SMARTUNIFIER this is achieved by mapping information models of source systems to have a common, clear meaning in the information models of target systems. 

4. Low code interface implementation  

With SMARTUNIFIER, connectivity is implemented by configuration of Communication Channels, Information Models, and Drag & Drop mapping of data fields to be exchanged between different data sources and targets. This is far more intuitive and much quicker to implement than solutions that require coding of the interface components. In some cases, with SMARTUNIFIER, more complex transformation of data can still be coded within the Mapping configuration, but the net result is a minimal requirement for coding.   

5. High performance with decentralized architecture and integrated compiler 

SMARTUNIFIER provides high performance / low latency with its decentralized architecture consisting of small SMARTUNIFIER Instances. There are no central bottlenecks caused by middleware or a broker/database as is the case with many other products. Furthermore, SMARTUNIFIER features an integrated compiler that creates native bytecode for the interfaces to be executed within the SMARTUNIFIER Instances. This results in exceptionally quick processing that is orders of magnitude faster than a solution using scripting language or an interpreter to provide connectivity functionality. 

6. Multi-channel and bidirectional communication 

Within SMARTUNIFIER a Channel refers to a transmission medium and conveys information from one or several senders (or transmitters). The pathways for communicating data from one location to another are called Communication Channels, which transmit data according to communication protocols. Each Information Model can have one Channel or many assigned, and each model can choose which Channels it subscribes to. The information is transmitted through the Communication Channels in both directions: from the external system to the SMARTUNIFIER application and vice versa. By this approach, SMARTUNIFIER is able to build the bridge between any number of data sources and destination systems. 

7. Factory communication scenarios 

With SMARTUNIFIER it is possible to do much more than simply provide a Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP System), or an application in the cloud with access to equipment or device data. 

This is because SMARTUNIFIER makes it easy to implement entire communication scenarios and workflows between shop floor equipment and upper-level IT systems.  

These scenarios and workflows can cover all steps from identification, validation, order start as well as sending results and process data from equipment to MES, Cloud, or any other destination system. It is also possible to have control scenarios realized that include providing parameters or other control data (e.g., recipes, control programs, control commands) to equipment from MES, SCADA, or other facility control systems. 

8. Consolidated monitoring and management 

All the decentralized Communication Instances are centrally managed by the SMARTUNIFIER Manager, including real-time monitoring and logging of deployed Communication Instances.  

Conclusion 

SMARTUNIFIER is a decentralized connectivity platform that enables Manufacturing Execution System (MES), Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications to connect to equipment and other systems quickly and easily. Thereby enabled to measure, monitor, and control industrial processes, enterprise-level applications can provide the functionality to improve efficiency and quality and reduce costs.    

SMARTUNIFIER Advantages 

  • SMARTUNIFIER can be deployed on multiple platforms, on-premises, on the edge, in data centres, on the cloud. 
  • Virtually unlimited scalability through fully decentralized architecture (Swarm) that can be centrally managed. 
  • Rapid real-time protocol conversion enables timely and reliable access to high-speed production data. 
  • Reusable and versioned interface models for similar equipment- or device types. 
  • Virtually unlimited amount of communication connections, protocols, and information models (multi-channel capability). 
  • Configurable mapping means connectivity coding is minimized. 
  • Development and deployment of connections can be completed in hours or days instead of weeks and months. 
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