There is an opportunity, through Industry 4.0, to make the data derived from barcodes more useful across industrial value chains, says industrial automation provider Omron South Africa product manager Khotso Majoe.
“We need to work as a collective to integrate barcodes in our information technology systems so that companies know what to do with data. One aspect which seems to be lacking currently is that organisations have bits of information that seemingly do not to tie in together. Industry 4.0 can solve that challenge and that is what we are geared for as a company.”
Although there have been challenging factors preventing a more rigorous uptake of Industry 4.0, to suggest that South Africa is behind with its implementation would be false, he points out.
“One of our pitfalls as a country is thinking that, if we improve on technology, we are taking away jobs. Industry 4.0 simply entails understanding information and using it to your advantage. We are on par with Industry 4.0; however, financial limitations and socioeconomic factors – such as inadequate education and skills development – are currently holding us back,” he tells Engineering News.
Meanwhile, Omron partners with clients to offer holistic solutions where production processes are integrated in one house. With the data available to them, companies can make their production processes more efficient using Omron barcode systems with sophisticated lenses, serialisation, communication, lighting and symbology.
For instance, the Omron barcode system uses liquid lens technology that makes use of water and oil for auto focusing. It enables managers and operators to send instructions from a remote area without having to be on site.
“As most companies do not have the money to invest in multiple production lines, liquid lens’ aim is to optimise one production line to run different products. This benefits clients, as they can invest in one product that can be used multiple times,” Majoe explains.
Additionally, companies enforce serialisation to assist clients with, for example, health and safety, especially in terms of identifying counterfeit goods. Serialisation allows for tracking the history of every product so that consumers know its source.
“If anything goes wrong with a particular product, you will know where exactly in the production chain it went wrong and how to fix it. It reads information from the barcode to the root cause,” he points out.
Subsequently, Majoe highlights that communication with existing infrastructure is part of what sets Omron apart in the barcoding sector.
Omron works closely with global trade and standard development organisation ODVA, which designed the Ethernet/IP industrial network protocol. The protocol adapts the common industrial protocol to standard Ethernet, through which Omron can subsequently communicate protocols to the outside world.
Further, with lighting being a key element in production lines, Omron tries to control the light to avoid processing incorrect measurements and labels during the packaging process. Through symbology, the company is also able to tap into virtually any industry within the packaging sector.
One can start from field devices such as a simple sensor, a barcode reader, and collective robots, as well as machine vision sensors. All the information gathered by these devices can then be processed and elevated to an enterprise resource planning system, where a nonexpert can also access that data to make better decisions, explains Majoe.
“For example, a person in the accounts department will be able to know what is happening on the factory floor based on the information you get from the sensors,” he adds.
Omron services the product solutions, packaging, and food and beverage sectors, besides others. As part of a global group, it is aiming to move into other sectors in 2020 and diversifying into the sub-Saharan African market.