Global supply chains, market fragmentation, mass customization and shorter product life cycles have scaled up competition among companies which give rise to the need for introducing cognitive abilities through flexible and easily reconfigurable production systems. In this sense, there is unmined potential for the European manufacturing industry to be more innovative, productive and competitive whilst using fewer resources and reducing environmental impact. The emerging cyber-physical system (CPS) presents a significant opportunity to implement smart manufacturing in the Industry.
This project, called Social Network of Machines (SOON), proposes to investigate the impact of the use of autonomous social agents to optimise manufacturing process in the framework of Industry 4.0. In this context, “agents” are process, data, things, and people. "Social" means that cyber-physical entities will act autonomously in order to optimize an industrial process following behaviours models inspired by human social networks. Currently, in Industry 4.0, smart entities do exist. However, intelligence is localised and intelligent heterogeneous entities cannot communicate together even inside the same shop-floor. Our motivation comes from the observation that, if we want to create a real Internet of Everything that brings together processes, data, things, and people, all these entities have to be connected and follow a shared, easy to understand paradigm.
To address this point, SOON proposes a holistic multi-agent framework that encompasses machines and humans. The presence of human operators is therefore crucial both to teach to and to learn from software agents, via deep learning and data mining algorithms. Agents will take decisions merging and analysing big and heterogeneous data produced by sensors, automation and information systems (such as enterprise resource planning and manufacturing execution system), and human actions.
The design and evaluation of the SOON system will be performed through predictive maintenance scenarios in collaboration with three different industrial companies (in Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland). Such collaboration will enable the project consortium at assessing the application of the developed solution on concrete industrial scenarios. The three selected scenarios cope different problems within the industrial manufacturing. The first scenario pays attention to the reliability of the data provided by sensors that are key inputs in other process models and calculations (width, thickness, temperature, etc.) and whose measurement is very difficult because it is influenced by noise, distortions, etc. Errors and deviations entails quality problems that will result in nonconformities. The second scenario is thought for manufacturing environments requiring extreme accuracy (tool machines with precision requirements in the order of 1 µm) and with intrinsic and extrinsic tolerances. Finally, the third scenario is more focused on equipment reliability. These different scenarios will assure that the results will be exploitable beyond the project (e.g., portability to different industrial environments). In the three cases, the project is focused on the specific task of predictive maintenance.
In agreement with the industrial partners, the valuable data acquired during the project that are not confidential will be published in open repositories and made available to the scientific community.
We believe that the arrival of Industry 4.0 revolution combined with recent improvements in machine learning, and the application of autonomous multi-agent architecture can finally bring disruptive innovation in industrial process optimization and modelling.