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APRIL 2022 I SMT007 MAGAZINE 59 Interoperable Specialization vs. Domination Both soware and hardware companies in the assembly manufacturing industry have their own areas of expertise and focus. In any factory, there will naturally be the need to use "the best tool for the job," with overall solu- tions made up from many different vendors and each selected for their specific capabilities to perform in their required roles. e attempt by larger companies to seek domination in this environment, which allows them to provide wider solutions extending far beyond their core competence, is a far weaker and unsustain- able solution than allowing individual hard- ware and soware solution providers work- ing together in an interoperable environment. Solution vendors who commit to providing everything that is needed are oen having to develop bespoke solutions that are specific to each customer to fill in the gaps between their current capabilities and customer expectation. e gold rush pioneers have been caught out by this in many cases, an issue which is rarely satisfactorily resolved, and in fact increases in scope as manufacturing requirements and solution technologies change. To many, explanations of IPC's Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) standard may appear to be "just another standard" with which to exchange information around the factory, but when broken down into its fundamental values it is an excellent example of how it is becom- ing a complete game-changer. It is establish- ing the way in which all companies can now take a very much less expensive and risky path toward smart manufacturing. Hardware ven- dors that take their value to their customers seriously are embracing CFX and other initia- tives that promote interoperability in the digi- tal factory, with the forward-thinking soware vendors also learning to do the same. Each pro- vides a complementary value. Is the industry yet in the situation that smart manufacturing is available at a low cost and risk to the operation? It is definitely on the way. solutions through code-sharing integration, either with different point-solutions that each provider had acquired, or by APIs with close partners. e costs for this development and ongoing dependency continue to be extremely high; it is duplicated repeatedly in slightly dif- ferent ways for each customer. e use of IIoT messaging, however, espe- cially when defined by open standards, means that data is exchanged without any form of code dependency. Data can be freely exchanged between authorized parties and managed through standard security and access proto- cols. It should be noted that IIoT is very resil- ient to cybersecurity incidents, as there is no commonality of code or databases that would otherwise allow cross-contamination. Where an open standard is adopted, there is only one interface needed to connect everything, there- fore avoiding costs of duplication and variation between use-cases. Plug-and-play vs. Middleware ough the use of IIoT allows for the open exchange of data, an equally important aspect of that data exchange is the mutual definition of the data content, that is, the language of com- munication. e principle of plug-and-play is to provide assurance that there is no need for the translation or conversion of data, which for the gold rush solutions proves extremely chal- lenging and expensive to resolve. In the event of a slight change in any system behavior or specification, renewed development and test- ing could be required, which oen results in lost operational time. e use of third-party technology to bridge the communication gap further complicates things as they are called in to fix sudden urgent issues for which they feel no responsibility—thus, justified premium rates to support. True plug-and-play requires an industry standard that aligns the meaning of all types of data into one language, such that there is no need for translation or conversion, bringing a massively reduced risk of failure throughout the life of any related solution.

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