Recent trends in manufacturing in Europe have created new requirements for shopfloor control systems with (i) greater user decision support; (ii) support for decision-making on the shop floor; (iii) facilitation of communication between manufacturing units; (iv) support for varied and changing organisational models; (v) a high degree of customisation; (vi) ability to interact with existing scheduling software, production planning and control systems and robot controllers; and (vii) ease of use, so that extensive training is not required.
Existing commercial shop control packages do not meet these requirements. The ESPRIT Project PASO (Paradigm Independent Shop Control for Smaller Manufacturing Sites) developed a new architecture for shop control, to meet the above requirements. This architecture is based on a central kernel, which acts as a service provider for shop control shells. The shells are applets (small applications working together), which implement shop control functions such as scheduling, database, user interaction and SCADA interfacing. Shells may be activated, deactivated, replaced, attached or released from the kernel without having to shut down the kernel itself. This allows a great degree of flexibility and customisation.
The objective of MOSCOT was to develop a modular shop control toolkit, using PASO architecture and introduce it to manufacturing industry. The MOSCOT toolkit consists of a central kernel and a comprehensive array of shell modules; modules may be selected from this array and combined via the kernel to produce a shop control system tailored to manufacturer's specific needs. It has the following characteristics: (i) low cost, (ii) support for changing organisational models, (iii) highly customisable, (iv) able to interact with existing software for manufacturing planning and execution.
This overall objective encompassed the following aims:
- to validate the PASO architecture through comprehensive testing
- to survey the European market to ascertain the key production planning and control systems, information systems, database systems and SCADA systems with which MOSCOT should interact
- to develop shell modules for interfacing with the above systems
- to develop a comprehensive graphical user interface
- to strengthen the existing kernel, adding greater crash-proofing, error checking.
- to establish a means by which third-party software houses may develop further toolkit elements
- to develop a Europe wide licensing network for the product, including a strategy to cater for supplying different collections of toolbox components to different users according to their requirements.
The benefits are:
- cohesion - through establishing a de-facto standard for workshop control
- employment - in software and end-user companies
- modernisation of traditional industries - through the use of Windows based scheduling and shop control tools.