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).