Manufacturing Interoperability: Why It’s Important and How to Achieve It

Manufacturing has seen significant advancements in technology through the years. As a result, manufacturers can now produce goods faster, with greater precision and less waste. But these benefits are possible only if the equipment and systems used in production can communicate and work together efficiently. This is where manufacturing interoperability can help.

Interoperability is defined as the ability of different systems, equipment, and devices to connect, communicate, and exchange information. While many manufacturers are exposed to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), they don’t always have the systems in place to exchange data seamlessly. Do you?

What is manufacturing interoperability?

Manufacturing interoperability refers to the ability to share business and technical information throughout an entire manufacturing enterprise across the value stream.

Traditionally, information sharing has been linear and direct — a production report emailed to management or a phone call to the production floor to prompt a line change. Now, thanks to Industry 4.0 innovations, information moves in a much more decentralized way. There’s push and pull to and from various systems, each of which uses data in its own capacity to achieve a specific task or objective.

Interoperability is the ability of data to move seamlessly to and from its many destinations while maintaining its integrity across every transaction. It allows hardware and software to support each other and enables manufacturing partners — including customers, suppliers, and other departments — to share information quickly and accurately. The result is more effective, reliable, and flexible operations.

The impact of poor interoperability within the IIoT

Simply having IIoT technologies doesn’t guarantee interoperability. Unless they’re part of a cohesive ecosystem, many IIoT platforms struggle to communicate across the factory without customized integrations or layered transaction rules. Manufacturers can’t assume the systems will play nice.

Poor interoperability in today’s digitally connected world leads to communication and collaboration problems, making operations inefficient and ineffective across the factory floor. What happens when sensor data isn’t properly received by a reporting system? How is a production workflow supposed to moderate itself when the data it aggregates isn’t formatted properly? These types of foundational errors can hamper production operations rather than streamline them.

Solutions to manufacturing interoperability challenges

Adopting any overarching approach to day-to-day operations can be challenging for manufacturers, no matter the size of their enterprise or the products they create. From technical to financial barriers, and even security and standards compliance, producers face several roadblocks as they embrace interoperability. The question is, how can manufacturing managers pursue interoperability across the factory floor?

The answer starts with understanding where communication barriers exist and exploring solutions for allowing the consistent exchange of data. In some cases, it might be as simple as configuring an application programming interface (API) between two or more systems. In other cases, it may mean rethinking how you architect your digital factory operations (on-premise vs. cloud). In still more scenarios, it might involve creating a process map vetted by a software engineer to show where interoperability challenges are present.

Ultimately, interoperability is a critical goal requiring proper investments of time, energy, and effort to solve. The good news is, the results will pay dividends in the form of an IIoT network working as seamlessly as intended.

Interoperability goes beyond machine-to-machine communication. You also must ensure people are communicating in the same manner. You can always count on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
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