The key to growth in the rapidly evolving manufacturing sector is automation. Automation saves costs on machine repair, employee downtime, machine downtime, and creates a safer work environment for your team.

So, how can you automate your factory in the most efficient way possible? The use of programmable logic controllers, or PLCs, will help.

What Is a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC)?

A Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) is a specialized, ruggedized type of computer commonly used in smart factories and other industrial and manufacturing settings. PLCs are designed to communicate with machines, software, and sensors to automate everything from simple mechanical tasks to whole assembly lines.

A huge benefit of PLCs over other tiny computers is that they are specifically designed to function in harsh and demanding industrial conditions. They can handle vibration, extremely high and low temperatures, electrical noise, dust, and more.

What Does a PLC Do?

PLCs have many functions in manufacturing settings. From remotely controlling machinery to customizing the process of whole production lines, here is how a programmable logic controller operates.

PLCs Automate Industrial Functions

In the simplest terms, PLCs automate electromechanical processes. In manufacturing, you’ll see PLCs controlling machinery, automating factory assembly lines, and even doing basic tasks like controlling light fixtures. They’re also used outside of smart factories to control mechanical devices like amusement park rides, for example.

Advanced PLCs Use More Data

With Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), you’ll find that PLCs are rapidly advancing in their capabilities. Completely programmable and customizable, PLCs are designed and configured for real-time use.

In other words, PLCs can work with your IIoT devices and ERP system to collect, analyze, and process huge amounts of data. They can then execute control commands using this data.

Emphasis on ‘Programmable’

PLCs can be programmed to perform almost any industrial function you can dream of. You can program your PLCs using programming languages like Ladder Logic, Function Block Diagram, or Structured Text.

You (or your IoT consulting team) can connect PLCs to input and output (I/O) interfaces, allowing your devices to execute functions at the exact time you need them to. They do this by reading signals from various inputs, whether they be sensors or other IIoT devices, and control output actuators, meaning lights, motors, and valves.

Best of all, PLCs can scale with your growing smart factory. Many PLCs are modular, meaning you can expand the number of inputs and outputs. They also integrate with additional functions like additional memory and communication modules.

Communication Modules

A smart factory is a connected factory. Using smart devices and an ERP system, modern PLCs now have the ability to communicate with other systems. You will want to connect your PLC to your ERP system, computer networks, other PLCs, human-machine interfaces (HMIs), and more.

What Is a PLC Programmer?

A PLC programmer can help you set up your PLC inputs and outputs and ensure your machines are operating the way you need them to. You may find that programming your PLC is a step beyond what your IT department can handle. Contact our experts at ProphecyIoT to start creating or improving your smart factory roadmap.