Digitalization is a major trend for the modern manufacturing industry. Companies are investing in areas such as the IoT and smart factories to improve productivity of their factories and to build unmanned factories. They use digital technologies to address increasingly severe labor shortages. However, digitalizing existing equipment that has been in use for decades is no easy task.
This is why Toshiba has begun offering the Toshiba Digital Solutions Equipment Manipulation Control Package. This solution, which focuses on existing equipment, automates routine operations and advances digitalization by simply attaching a dedicated device without modifying equipment. Let's learn more about the Equipment Manipulation Control Package, together with some of use cases.

Equipment Manipulation Control Package solves a problem in manufacturing industry.

Even if companies want to digitalize their manufacturing sites, when it comes to existing production lines, visualizing equipment operation conditions and optimizing and automating operations are no easy matters. Existing equipment that has been in use for 10, 20, or even 30 years or more is often manually operated. The labor and time intensive nature of the equipment makes improving productivity difficult. When equipment is modified in order to automate it, there's no guaranteed that the modified equipment will function correctly in the same way that it used to. Making changes to equipment that has been operating regularly for years is a risky proposition.

Furthermore, while state-of-the-art equipment makes it easy to collect data, it is also extremely expensive, and therefore cannot be easily replaced. In some cases, new equipment cannot be used with existing molds. Companies therefore need to digitalize their operations while continuing to use their existing equipment. That's why Toshiba saw a need for technologies that enable companies to use their operating equipment while deploying digitalization technologies.

Toshiba Digital Solutions' Equipment Manipulation Control Package ("Equipment Manipulation Control") does just that. Equipment Manipulation* Control functions by reading screen signals from equipment and then sending operation signals, which are based on pre-defined equipment behavior patterns, back to the equipment. It operates and controls the equipment in place of a human operator. This solution makes it possible to automate the operation of existing equipment.

* Manipulation: Manipulation technology controls device by acquiring image signals for information shown on-screen, using the signals to determine equipment state, generating pre-defined operation instructions, and sending the device using human interface device (HID) signals.


Deploying Equipment Manipulation Control is easy. There's no need to make any changes to the existing equipment. Instead, simply install an Equipment Manipulation Control Box next to the equipment and connect the cables that will carry the input and output signals. There are also no equipment OS or version restrictions, so it can be used with a wide range of equipment.

The equipment is controlled using "manipulation scenarios" based on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate operation. The process of making these scenarios is like linking blocks in accordance with routine operation procedures, so customers can easily create and modify scenarios on their own, right from the start. Of course, support is also available from Toshiba Digital Solutions (Fig. 1).

Equipment Manipulation Control has another important function -- it reads the equipment's screen and converts it into data form. For example, values shown on equipment's screen during production, such as operating status information or product and component serial numbers, are read by Equipment Manipulation Control using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This helps improvement and digitalization of factory operation.

Equipment Manipulation Control automates existing equipment operation and converts information shown on-screen into data. It can be deployed in less time than it would take to modify equipment, and at less risk.).

A package of technologies developed by Toshiba Corporate Manufacturing Engineering Center

The manipulation control functions offered by Equipment Manipulation Control were developed by Toshiba's Systems Engineering and Technology Center, which for years has supported the manufacturing activities of the Toshiba Group through its innovative technologies, developed by conducting manufacturing technology and system R&D. The Manipulation Control technologies were originally used to automate routine operations performed by workers on semiconductor plant production lines. This technology has been already applied to more than 250 equipment in Toshiba’s factories and provides significant benefits.


For example, automating equipment operation has helped eliminate production losses caused by human error. A single operating mistake during semiconductor production can cause loss in the millions of yen, and complex operation can become highly dependent on individual personnel, which places a psychological burden on them. Toshiba adopted Equipment Manipulation Control to automate operations with the aim of eliminating human error.

When it comes to hiring manufacturing personnel, training new employees is also a major issue. Automating routine operations using Equipment Manipulation Control helps reduce the amount of manual operations that need to be performed. This makes it possible to train people to full operation mastery level faster than before, so new employees can be rapidly put into action. Experienced personnel can therefore dedicate themselves to more value-added work, leading to higher productivity.

Contributions to productivity improvements, as seen through usage cases

Below are three case studies of Equipment Manipulation Control use.

The first is a semiconductor factory. Normally, when they first place the object in the manufacturing equipment they process, they then enter and confirm various information such as the worker's ID and process parameters, and then the actual processing starts. This involves a great deal of routine work and takes certain time, but manipulation control technology can automate part of this process. This enables the operator to immediately begin other operations after putting the work piece in place, cutting the amount of time spent in front of the equipment by 90%. It completely eliminates human error and contributes dramatically to cost reduction. (Fig. 2).

The second is an equipment emergency stop. In the event of an earthquake, for example, many factories must immediately shut down their equipment for safety purposes. However, when an earthquake strikes, it is difficult to manually shut down a large number of devices at the same time while also ensuring the safety of the factory's workers. If equipment is shut down without following defined procedures, it can cause tremendous damage to production lines and can make the restarting of the equipment a lengthy process. That's why Equipment Manipulation Control has been combined with an earthquake detection system to automate equipment shutdown operations. This enables multiple devices to be safely shut down simultaneously in an emergency, and promises to greatly reduce equipment restart times. For example, resuming production has been estimated to take just 10 days, as opposed to the 90 days that were required before Equipment Manipulation Control was deployed.

The third is one of using Equipment Manipulation Control to provide online access to equipment which cannot, itself, be easily brought online. Some equipment that has been in use for many years cannot be connected to internal company networks. This makes it difficult to gather and use data such as operating status data. The equipment gets left behind by data platforms and monitoring centers that perform central management for entire plants and companies. Equipment Manipulation Control can be used to read information off device screens, convert it into data, and register data such as equipment operation status data and errors to data platforms or send it to monitoring centers. Equipment Manipulation Control can be securely connected to internal networks, making it possible to manage and monitor equipment which previously were not network-accessible.

The ongoing evolution of the Equipment Manipulation Control Package

Toshiba Digital Solutions is now deploying Equipment Manipulation Control Package at the worksites of customers who want to digitalize their operations. This solution helps address the issues of securing and training personnel -- issues shared by the entire manufacturing industry -- and improves productivity. It achieves all of this quickly, as an add-on solution, and involves little risk, so in the future an even wider range of production sites will enjoy the benefits it has to offer.

To ensure that it can be used in diverse workplaces, the CP30 model 300 has been selected as its recommended computer. The CP30 model 300, a Toshiba Infrastructure Systems & Solutions product, is an industrial computer that offers a high level of environmental resistance, robustness, and ease of maintenance.

Toshiba will continue to add functions and make improvements based on customer needs so that the Equipment Manipulation Control Package can evolve even further.

Our goal is to use the expertise, experience, and technologies of the Toshiba Group to assist our customers.

Implementation hurdles and the decoy-state protocol

As the explanation above shows, the principles of quantum mechanics guarantee the security of quantum cryptographic communication. However, implementation presents its own challenges. The light sources that are currently available probabilistically send multiple photons at once. If multiple photons containing the same bit information are sent out at the same time and only one of them is intercepted, the recipient would not be able to detect that eavesdropping had occurred.

This problem is solved by mixing in decoy signals. Decoy signals are special signals that do not contain bit information, but instead are used purely for detecting signal interception. The eavesdropper cannot tell them from photons bearing bit information, so even if they intercept single photons from groups of simultaneously sent photons, they will also receive decoy signal photons. These decoy signals make it possible to detect the presence of eavesdroppers.

  • The corporate names, organization names, job titles and other names and titles appearing in this article are those as of December 2021.

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