We have all read stories of robots taking over our jobs – from Flippy, the hamburger-flipping robot (aka an “AI-driven kitchen assistant”) at a restaurant in California, to Pepper, a humanoid robot from SoftBank Robotics, that can recognize human emotions and has been employed in stores around the world. But smart manufacturing is actually much more pervasive and already making a huge difference to all our lives, more quietly and, as in Flippy’s case, more efficiently.

As more and more of us gain access to the Internet, smart manufacturing will become an indispensable element in our daily routines. A survey from the Pew Research Center indicates that there has been a noticeable rise recently in the percentage of people in emerging and developing countries who use the Internet. It goes on to say that while people in advanced economies still use the Internet more and own more high-tech gadgets, the rest of the emerging world is catching up – fast.

Photo: Patrick Lamboley
Patrick Lamboley
Patrick Lamboley, Chair of ISO/TC 184
and Senior Director of Standardization
at Schneider Electric.

Patrick Lamboley is Chair of technical committee ISO/TC 184, Automation systems and integration, and Senior Director of Standardization at Schneider Electric. Schneider Electric is a European multinational corporation that specializes in energy management and automation solutions, spanning hardware, software and services. In the UK, for example, the company works with airports, providing them with state-of-the-art solutions to keep them competitive in a fast-moving business environment. Behind-the-scenes services include helping them implement the latest security measures using technology to keep baggage-handling systems working efficiently.

Here, Lamboley explains how standards can help address the biggest issues in smart manufacturing and why the relationship between human beings and machines has never been so important.

ISOfocus: What do you think are the greatest challenges for smart manufacturing?

Patrick Lamboley: I believe that managing digitization is the great challenge. As in the first industrial revolution, when national economies and the organization of the global economy changed, we are undergoing the same transformation or revolution. And this revolution is not a long-term vision; it’s a reality, taking place now. Today, the world’s biggest and most profitable companies no longer simply focus on what they produce; the focus is shifting to software companies, or the IT players dealing with data. This data is definitively an important point of attention of smart manufacturing and, of course, the big issue is how to ensure cyber security and data privacy for users and organizations alike with respect to their data, their knowledge.

Another big challenge is understanding and changing the relationship between these new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (through computers, apps, analytics, etc.), and the place of the human being in smart manufacturing, in order to achieve successful outcomes from this collaboration and define the role of humans in this new high-tech world.

Photo: Patrick Lamboley
Big screen in factory monitors the workflow.
How can ISO standards help overcome these challenges?

ISO committees have been strongly involved in automation and manufacturing for a very long time. An important element regarding ISO standards is that they don’t concentrate solely on technologies or one specific aspect, but at the level of the complete system, on the integration of subsystems and components. This is why our knowledge is so relevant to addressing the standardization of smart manufacturing.

One example of this desire to address the complete system is the creation of the Smart Manufacturing Coordinating Committee (SMCC), which comprises representatives of the relevant technical committees. As its name suggests, the SMCC is concerned with all the areas in ISO that fall within the scope of smart manufacturing, and establishes or reinforces relationships and concrete cooperation between them. And with the participation of joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1 – the standards development environment where experts from ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) come together to develop worldwide information and communication technology (ICT) standards for business and consumer applications – the SMCC is also able to incorporate the IT world and associated topics.

In what ways can ISO’s recent efforts in automatization bring added value?

Employee performing an in-depth quality check.As I mentioned already, the SMCC creates good emulation between stakeholders and new ideas and values in the respective committees. What’s more, smart manufacturing was a major topic at the annual meeting of ISO/TC 184, called the Super Meeting, in Beijing in May 2018. A full day was devoted to smart manufacturing as a means of initiating exchanges between the experts involved in this field, which was also a great opportunity to get fresh perspectives and generate initiatives. The event drew participants from industry and R&D institutions, such as AVIC, SAC, WIZ, JLS Innovations, Beihang University, Siemens, Boeing and many more.

We named this day the “cavalcade day” and it consisted of two parts. The first part was dedicated to the presentation of local views and the implementation of smart manufacturing, along with the activities of ISO/TC 184 and its associated subcommittees. The second part, which took place during a “world café” session, was an interactive debate between experts on how the technical committee and its subcommittees respond to smart manufacturing and how we can make progress on what has now become one of the world’s hottest topics.

We concluded the day with two demonstrations that were directly linked to the implementation of ISO/TC 184 standards for smart manufacturing and gave a review of the feedback, ideas and ways to improve our activities in the different working groups.

What standards are making the most impact on smart manufacturing and why?

There are many standards within the scope of smart manufacturing that help with the definition of all associated components, such as the life cycle of technical installations, reference model, digital twin, data quality, and so on. ISO/TC 184 and its associated subcommittees are leading or are strongly involved in some of them. ISO/IEC Joint Working Group 21 was set up with the aim of harmonizing existing reference models and overseeing the development of an underlying architecture with regard to smart manufacturing models, with a special focus on aspects such as life cycles and the technical and/or organizational hierarchies relating to assets.

Press-handling robot.The goal is to define the common rules needed to build reference models for a smart manufacturing system. This begins with the merging, comparison and analysis of existing models, and with the active participation of countries that have defined their own reference models (e.g. China, France, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the UK and the United States, among others), to deliver a standardized metamodel that includes existing standards and/or specificities coming from the countries involved.

The second key topic for me is the “digital twin”. It started in ISO/TC 184’s subcommittee SC 4 (industrial data) with ISO 15926. The purpose of ISO 15926 is to provide a common language for computer systems, thereby integrating the information produced by them. Originally designed for the process industries working on large projects that involve many stakeholders, and plant operations and maintenance that last decades, the technology can also be used by anyone wanting to set up a proper vocabulary of reference data to provide a shared understanding of a specific domain. Only in this way can true integrations emerge, bringing added value to industries that are, to a large extent, knowledge-based.