Press Release

Oct 23, 2018

Flexible Factory Partner Alliance
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology
October 23, 2018

FFPA Unveils Draft Specifications to Stabilize Various Wireless Communication Systems Co-located in Manufacturing Sites

- Wireless communications energize flexible factory -

Flexible Factory Partner Alliance (FFPA), a non-profit organization formed by seven business corporations and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), unveils the draft specifications aiming to stabilize various types of wireless systems co-located in manufacturing sites. NICT proposed Smart Resource Flow (SRF) wireless platform*1 which has been adopted as the architecture for the specifications. FFPA has worked further to add necessary functions and interfaces for commercialization.

The draft specifications feature that Field Manager (i.e. Controller) manages multiple wireless systems with policy settings and monitoring, which is a framework for coordination and co-existence of wireless systems with different standards, of different generations and by different vendors in the same site of a factory. It promotes extensively use of ICT for improving productivity through visualization of information and total management in the factories.

The draft specifications will be presented at the FFPA's "Wireless Commutations Energize Flexible Factory" seminar, held on October 30 in Tokyo. A white paper will be open to public at the same time, which shows market needs and benefits to vendors, system integrators and operators, also describes technical aspects of the specifications.

[ Background ]

In the manufacturing sites, use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is increasing to enhance productivity under recent constrains like shortage of skilled workers and change of work style. The following needs are really raised.
·Monitor precise status of manufacturing equipment and results of inspection whether each process correctly completes for quality control.
·Ensure stable commutations among workers and production facilities including automated feeders and automated guided vehicles (AGVs).
·Enable flexible layout of machines and order of manufacturing processes to adapt to variable-type, variable-volume production and mass customization.

Wireless communication is one of the effective solution to cover these needs. More and more wireless systems have been introduced accompanying with manufacturing equipment for status monitoring, product inspection, process management, environment sensing, machine control, and so on.

Instabilities of communication are already emerging concerns. Due to interference among non-license required wireless systems operated independently, applications sometimes cannot keep enough bandwidth for communication quality. To address the issues technically, NICT has proposed SRF wireless platform that defines functions and information exchange protocols among them. FFPA established in July 2017 to promote SRF wireless platform into implementation for use in industries and to define the practical specifications for wireless communications in the manufacturing sites.

[ Achievements ]

FFPA has defined the draft specifications enhancing functions and interfaces for commercialization, based on the architecture of the SRF wireless platform proposed by NICT. In the draft specifications, Field Manager (i.e. controller) takes the role of managing and controlling multiple wireless systems consisting of gateways and wireless terminals (global control).

The features are:
·Radio resources of frequency, time and space assigned to each system by setting control policy,
·Management with cognitive ways of both wireless communications and factory applications,
·Monitoring wireless environment on the SRF wireless platform.

In addition, each system is allowed to have autonomous internal control based on the control policy to adapt to rapid local change in wireless environment (local control).

The framework adopted for the specifications enables to work with wireless systems and devices in different standards, of different generations, and by different vendors with existing wireless devices. For wider deployment, a part of the specifications refers IEEE 802.1*2 standards.

The specifications enable to provide:
·Reliability: No system interruption even in congested and dynamic wireless environments.
·Capacity: Supporting large numbers and large variety of wireless applications for improving quality and productivity.
·Stability and Maintainability: Management of data flow and wireless environments without IT experts.

The draft specifications will be presented in the FFPA seminar, "Wireless Commutations Energize Flexible Factory" held on October 30 in Tokyo. A white paper will be open to public at the same time, which shows market needs and benefits to vendors, system integrators and operators, also describes technical requirements of the specifications.

[ Future Prospects ]

FFPA continues to refine the specification in details and will finalize FFPA specifications (version 1.0) in the middle of 2019. Furthermore, by enabling visualization and total management of networks and the connected facilities in factories, FFPA promotes to utilization of ICT for improving productivity.

For further information on FFPA seminar

http://www.ffp-a.org/news/jp-index.html#20181003 (in Japanese)

About Flexible Factory Partner Alliance (FFPA)

FFPA is a non-profit organization to promote the standardization for coordination control technology, ensuring stable communications in an environment where various wireless systems coexist in manufacturing facilities. Members are OMRON Corporation, the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), NEC Corporation, Fujitsu Limited, Sanritz Automation Co., Ltd., Murata Machinery, Ltd, and Siemens K.K. , at the end of September 30, 2018.

 

Glossary

*1 SRF Wireless Platform
System architecture to stabilize various wireless systems with connected facilities. SRF (Smart Resource Flow) is a concept to manage resources (e. g., human, facilities, equipment, materials, energy, and communications) using multilayer system analysis to achieve optimal performance by ensuring smooth flow of resources. Development of SRF wireless platform had been supported by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Japan for the project entitled "R&D on Technologies to Densely and Efficiently Utilize Radio Resources of Unlicensed Bands in Dedicated Areas" since 2017.

*2 IEEE 802.1
The IEEE 802.1 Working Group is chartered to concern itself with and develop standards and recommended practices in the following areas: 802 Local Area Networking (LAN) /Metropolitan Area Networking (MAN) architecture, internetworking among 802 LANs, MANs and other wide area networks, 802 Security, 802 overall network management, and protocol layers above the Media Access Control & Logical Link Control layers. IEEE 802.1 interim meeting (January 14-18, 2019) will be in Hiroshima, Japan hosted by FFPA.

July 26, 2017

Flexible Factory Partner Alliance
OMRON Corporation
Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International
Sanritz Automation Co., Ltd.
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology
NEC Corporation
Fujitsu Limited
Murata Machinery, Ltd.
July 26, 2017

Formation of Flexible Factory Partner Alliance to Accelerate Use of IoT in Factories

Promoting the spread of coordination control technology to ensure stable communications of various wireless systems

OMRON Corporation, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR), Sanritz Automation Co., Ltd., National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), NEC Corporation, Fujitsu Limited, and Murata Machinery, Ltd., today announced the formation of the Flexible Factory Partner Alliance (Chairperson: Professor Andreas Dengel of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI)) to promote the formulation of standards for coordination control technology. This will work to ensure stable communications in an environment where various wireless systems coexist, as well as to promote their use and further accelerate the adoption of wireless systems in manufacturing facilities.

Through the initiatives of this alliance, the partners will seek to meet expectations for a new industrial revolution accompanying the spreading use of IoT in manufacturing facilities.

1. Background and Outlook

In response to fierce international competition resulting from increased globalization, as well as labor shortages and a reduced number of skilled workers due to falling birthrates and aging populations, utilizing ICT in manufacturing to improve productivity is seen as a critical issue. Given that ‘visualization’ in production equipment and production status is moving forward to improve productivity, and as product development cycles have shortened in recent years, there has been a demand for greater flexibility in the configuration of production facilities equipment and in modifying the production line construction. As a means of achieving greater flexibility, there are rising expectations for wireless communications as an important technology. In fact, there has been an increasing trend of manufacturing facilities deploying wireless communications on a trial basis, and then based on these trials, fully implementing such wireless systems.

At the same time, a major issue in wireless communications in factories where various wireless systems coexist is communication instability due to interference between wireless systems and the impact that has on equipment operation. There had previously been few efforts, however, to resolve this sort of wireless communication issue in manufacturing facilities.

To find solutions for the above issues, OMRON, ATR, Sanritz, NICT, NEC, Fujitsu, and Murata Machinery have been conducting trials of wireless communications and evaluating the wireless environment in factories. These companies and organizations have at academic conferences and other venues broadly proposed coordination control technology that would enable stability in communications. This would work by controlling independent wireless systems for each piece of equipment, with specific use cases in actual manufacturing facilities in mind.

Now these companies have come together to form the Flexible Factory Partner Alliance to promote the formulation of standards for coordination control technology. This will thereby ensure stable communications in an environment where various wireless systems coexist, as well as promote their use and further accelerate the adoption of wireless systems in manufacturing facilities. Professor Andreas Dengel of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) has been appointed the chairperson of this alliance.

Through the initiatives of this alliance, the partners will work to meet expectations for a new industrial revolution accompanying the spread of the use of IoT in manufacturing facilities.

2. Goals

The goal of this alliance is to contribute to the standardization of technology to stabilize various wireless systems with coordination control, promote the application of wireless communications in manufacturing factories that are expected to accelerate wireless-connected devices to increase productivity, and disseminate the standards.

3. Summary of Activities

The alliance will take the following actions to achieve the goals.

  1. Development of specifications relating to the technology to stabilize various wireless systems with coordination control
  2. Activities to standardize these specifications
  3. Activities to promote the application of wireless communications in manufacturing factories
  4. Activities necessary to achieve the goals of this alliance
4. Member information

OMRON Corporation (Headquarters: Shimogyo-ku Kyoto, President and CEO: Yoshihito Yamada)
Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (Headquarters: Souraku Kyoto, President: Toru Asami)
Sanritz Automation Co., Ltd. (Headquarters: Machida Tokyo, Managing director: Kazuya Suzuki)
National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (Headquarters: Koganei Tokyo, President: Hideyuki Tokuda)
NEC Corporation (Headquarters: Minato-ku Tokyo, President and CEO: Takashi Niino)
Fujitsu Limited (Headquarters: Minato-ku Tokyo, Representative Director & President: Tatsuya Tanaka)
Murata Machinery, Ltd. (Headquarters: Fushimi-ku Kyoto, President & CEO: Daisuke Murata)

Related Links

Flexible Factory Partner Alliance website: http://www.ffp-a.org/