Molex announced continued development in driving major advances across its Industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing initiatives. These advances and the introduction of Flexible Automation Modules (FAMs) further extend Molex’s Industrial Automation Solutions (IAS4.0) by empowering supply chain stakeholders to build software-defined machines, robots, and production lines that meet escalating demands for connected, secure, scalable, and efficient operations.
According to a June 2021 survey commissioned by Molex on the “State of Industry 4.0,” more than half of those surveyed expect to meet their Industry 4.0 goals within two years. However, nearly all the participants, representing robot, machine/production line, and device or control systems manufacturers, reported significant technology challenges. Among the biggest impediments identified were barriers caused by separate IT and OT network infrastructures, restrictive communication protocols, limited remote access, poorly aligned cloud infrastructure, and data solutions as well as inadequate security capabilities.
As the core building blocks of IAS4.0, the FAMs offer highly configurable and customizable connectivity, distributed control, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) apps to speed the development of flexible, modular, and connected manufacturing machines. Pre-certified and custom FAM functionality encompasses distributed control, embedded safety and security, multi-directional communications, provisioning, and device management, as well as remote configuration and programming services.
Critical manufacturing data can be collected and shared seamlessly—from sensors or complex devices, as well as between devices, machine-to-machine (M2M), or edge devices and the cloud. Feeding this data to artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics solutions will help expedite the delivery of actionable operational insights. Additionally, real-time data capture can help pinpoint potential issues to elevate predictive maintenance and decrease downtime while seamless integration with critical business systems and services supports effective decision-making.
The opportunity to eliminate manual steps and reduce hardware dependency leads to a lower total cost of ownership, improved margins, and greater agility in meeting emerging digital manufacturing demands. The use of pre-certified and custom apps, as well as libraries, also helps equipment manufacturers shorten design cycles by speeding the development of the control requirements of individual machines.
Molex IAS4.0 and FAM are ideally suited to transform industrial automation supply chains in the automotive, food & beverage, and material handling industries. By reducing rigid hardware dependencies, manufacturers can reconfigure production lines to support the manufacturing of custom products. In an automotive setting, for instance, this allows various car models to be manufactured on the same production line while automating changeover of different features and trim levels, boosting supply chain resiliency as material and component availability shift.
For manufacturers of complex machines and production lines, Molex’s IAS4.0 solutions, including software-driven FAM distributed control and embedded functional safety, can reduce overall cabinet requirements. By transitioning to these more flexible architectures, industrial automation stakeholders can advance their digital manufacturing strategies while increasing production-line innovations and operational efficiencies.
Future applications of Molex’s advanced industrial automation solutions include the deployment of ruggedized IP67 devices to simplify wiring while improving reusability and portability; the deployment of advanced sensors, such as motion safety, required for collaborative robots; and zero-touch provisioning and asset management services that update devices, machines and systems automatically or on-demand.