System Design of Designing and Manufacturing via Ubiquitous Computing Technology

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Industry 4.0 is the current direction of automation in manufacturing technologies. In this fourth revolution, ubiquitous information is considered as an emergent component of the manufacturing system. This involves the inclusion of Internet-of-Things (IoT), cognitive and cloud computing. It proposes a new paradigm for the design and manufacturing of a product called UbidM (Design and Manufacturing via Ubiquitous Computing Technology) which utilizes the entire product lifecycle information obtained via computing technology making the factory more user and participant-centric.

The product contains three stages:Beginning-of-Life (BOL), Middle-of-Life (MOL), and End-of-Life (EOL). The real challenge is accommodating the afterlife of the product including reuse, recycling, energy recovery, and disposal in the conventional setup of a factory with the help of UbiDm. This involves how ubiquitous computing can be integrated into the factory’s architecture to achieve invisible environments, responsive spaces, information processing and decision-making abilities to accommodate EOL.


The need for architects’ engagement in the industrial and infrastructural realm is rapidly developing since currently architecture plays a very minor role in the design of such projects. From individually designed factory buildings to prefabricated modular systems, industrial architecture has come a long way and the desire to cut costs coupled with efficiency gave rise to mundane, stereotypical buildings which offered nothing more than rapid system of construction.

Factories to this date belonged to service-oriented architecture. It only generates and provides products. But there is a gradual shift from service-oriented to knowledge-oriented where emergence of technology may lead to providing not only products but also services. This will turn us towards more and more economic and ecological changes with a holistic approach that extends beyond functionality to embrace the physical, social, and environmental issues. Waste being generated is one of the main concerns that needs to be tackled. How to address this mounting volume of waste without considering landfilling, which is the most prevalent means of waste disposal, is a question. Since method of landfilling is also becoming less plausible day-by-day due to space restrictions, environmental concerns, mandates to close existing sites, and legislation that prevents the creation of new landfills.

This guides us to an emerging concept of “Waste-to-Energy” to re-engage role of architecture and interdisciplinary design with factories and its infrastructure using ubiquitous technology. It should start with prevention of waste leading towards, reuse, material recycling, energy recovery, and disposal which can be achieved with the help of u-PRMS (Ubiquitous Product Recovery Management System). This system translated data, identifies the recovery process, and simulates the remanufacturing process to visualize product recovery status and its process.

This can be translated into architectural model by dividing the spaces into layers of lifecycle, information infrastructure, application system, and devices (2008, J. Um et al) which will define the vision, address the system concept from design perspective, and specify functionality for components. The architecture of u-Factory should contain three components: u-Human, u-Resource, u-Product which will act on process related, communication related, and translation related module. It is important to develop scenarios and strategies to carry out TO-BE model by envisioning functionality, composing components, and applying domains (2011, S. Suh et al).

Statement of Purpose

Due to concerns about environmental protection, product life cycle management for End-of-Life (EOL) has received increasing attention in the industrial sector. In a product recovery management system, decision making was the only solution under the assumption that all relevant data and accurate information is in place by any means available. Up till now, only the technological aspect has been studied since it is way too complex a development to implement the usage ubiquitous computing devices such as identification chips and embedded systems to get data from products.

An efficient development method with an innovative approach to combine ubiquitous computing with architecture needs to be derived to support end-of-life activities. To reflect UbiDM (Desigining and Manufacturing via Ubiquitous Computing Technology) paradigm in the concept of PRMS, the architecture and functionality together with the implementation of technology determines the product recovery which can be discussed in terms of infrastructure, stakeholders, and implementation.

The design considerations are: To obtain product information from various databases of stakeholders and to provide an interface to access the databases of those stakeholders in the product lifestyle via the internet. In this integration capability is very important and should be dealt with first while designing the factory. The setup should be done in such a way that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is installed with the help of sensors for various purposes. A strong base for Human-Computer Interaction (HMI) should have access to all the devices and machines in various situations demanding for a flexible workflow.

In the real world, the generic architecture is derived from the mentioned considerations. The base will be composed in four layers: life cycle, information infrastructure, application system, usage environment. The three stages BOL, MOL, and EOL along with the infrastructure where information is transformed, exchanged, and retrieved by various stakeholders will be used by an application system of Product Recovery Management System (PRMS). All these stages are acquired with the help on an environment containing sensors, RFID, and its network.


To design UbiDM (Designing and Manufacturing via Ubiquitous Computing Technology), components in the real world: product, process, resource, environment, user, and organization will provide information to stakeholders. The End-of-Life (EOL) product lifecycle will be dependent on it and it will be designed for a manufacturing company in four stages: Objective and usage, requirement analysis, system design, and validation and verification. In objective stage, the usage scenario of the information acquisition system will be developed. It will decide I the product needs to be reused or recycled. Creating a TO-BE scenario for a factory is very useful in understanding this stage.

In requirement analysis, data is collected considering few aspects of data format, range, size, and frequency. It will lead us to design considerations which is divided into requirement of client and service provider, product information exchange, and implementation of ubiquitous computing devices in the real world.

In the system design, modules composing the information acquisition system to satisfy the requirements analyzed in the previous stages are designed while validation and verification will examine the performance of first three stages leading us toward a recycling factory based on the principal of ubiquitous knowledge.

Literature Review

The concept of u-factory involves three key phases: information transparency, autonomous control, and sustainable environment for the manufacturing process. This concept can be understood with the help two models in manufacturing management, AS-IS and TO-BE. They are compared with the help of aspects such as measurement, diagnosis, maintenance, history management, safety, environment and energy. The TO-BE model is supposed to the changes taking place in current factory setup keeping transparency, autonomy, and sustainability. Ubiquitous manufacturing has the flexibility in order to accommodate need of designing sustainable factory at the core (R. Dubey et al, 2017).

Ubiquitous manufacturing provides the quality of “design anywhere, sell anywhere, and at any time” in terms on real-time visibility and interoperability keeping in mind the ‘plug-in-plug-out’ manner. The key aspect of designing and manufacturing via ubiquitous computing technology is the utilization of the entire product lifecycle information consisting of Beginning-of-Life (BOL), Middle-of-Life (MOL), and End-of-Life (EOL). These are the parameters for control and responsibility of manufacturers while considering design, production, usage, maintenance, recycling, disposal.

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This procedure needs to be adopted since the factory environment has been changing towards user-centric and participant-centric (2008, S. Suh et al). Collecting data from various sources and then making decisions related to product lifecycle and making changes in it is the characteristic of UbiDM. This cycle consists of three basic applications: collection, exchange, utilization of information by integrating Manufacturing Technology (MT), Information technology (IT), and Ubiquitous technology (UT). It is also briefly discussed how each application will be used in the manufacturing process.

The EOL process should include recycling, remanufacturing, reconditioning, repairing or re-using products with better work control, warranty, and performance (2017, D. Paterson). This can be done in closed-loop information flow where stakeholders from BOL stage provide data to stakeholders from MOL and EOL stages and then this piece of information again to BOL so that changes can be made accordingly to develop new system. Service consumers find the required service and request if the service is suitable for their current needs and invoke a service to the service provider who registers the required services in the service directory (2009, B. Lee et al).

EOL activity, consideration, and report can be achieved through AS-IS and TO-BE models with the help of u-PRMS (Product Recovery Management System). This system talks about translating data, identifying the recovery process, and simulating the remanufacturing process to visualize product recovery status and its process. This can be translated into architectural model by dividing the spaces into layers of lifecycle, information infrastructure, application system, and devices (2008, J. Um et al).

The architectural part lies in defining vision, addressing the system concept from the perspective of design considerations and specifying functionality for components (2012, J. Yoon et al). The architecture of u-Factory can be considered in terms of shop floor layer, virtual software objects, information infrastructure layer shared via stakeholders. It should contain three components: u-Human, u-Resource, u-Product which will act on process related, communication related, and translation related module. It is important to develop scenarios and strategies to carry out TO-BE model by envisioning functionality, composing components, and applying domains (2011, S. Suh).

The new paradigm of smart factory makes us think about changing our relationship to production through digital and advanced fabrication technologies, artificial intelligence, and smart machines. The term ‘smart factory’ is similar to few ideas: cloud-manufacturing, smart industries, advanced manufacturing, smart production, ubiquitous manufacturing, big data, and digital manufacturing. This involves a hybrid approach towards space-making. With the help of usage of networked spaces, a platform which provides real-time visibility which should help keep a track of the last stage in any production line. To achieve this space, a combined effort needs to be put together with the help of factors: sensors, monitoring tool, instruments, control systems, robot, and human-computer interaction (HMI). It will introduce connectivity, optimization, transparency, proactivity, and agility.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the application of Internet of Things (IoT) in an industrial setting which applies smart technologies to achieve value added performance within an industry’s enterprise. It develops a network for everything than occupying floor space for every technological aspect. Thus, providing us an opportunity to find a solution on space planning a designing the ubiquitous system to be incorporated in the environment of our activities. This system is context-aware and helps people and machine execute their tasks based on the information from both physical and virtual worlds.

The implementation of IoT in manufacturing systems will add new capabilities, enabling the management of complex and flexible systems to satisfy rapid changes in production volumes and customization. The smart factory should be the one which provides flexible and adaptive pre-production, production, and post-production processes that will solve problems arising on a production facility with a dynamic and rapidly changing boundary conditions in a world of increasing complexity. With the combination of software and mechanics, the optimization in manufacturing should lead us to unnecessary labor and waste of resource with the help of collaboration between different industrial and non-industrial partners.

The framework of the factory should include a few principles: modularity, interoperability, decentralization, virtualization, service orientation, real-time capability, and responsiveness. Modularity can be defined as the capability of system components to be separated and combined easily and quickly. System components are loosely coupled and can be reconfigured on a plug-in-and-play principle so that modules can be added, rearranged or relocated in the production line on time. The smart factory should possess high modularity, allowing the rapid integration of modules that can be supplied by multiple vendors. Modularity enables the real-time capability to allow system to respond to changing customer requirements and overcome internal system malfunctions.

Interoperability refers to both the ability to share technical information within system components including products and to share business information between manufacturing enterprises and customers. Standardized mechanical, electrical, and communication information help in enhancing interoperability. The decentralization system makes decision autonomously in real-time without interrupting the organization. We get to make a decision about few ordinary matters and the course of direction according to which the embedded computers in the environment enable changes through sensors and actuators. This interaction will adapt processes to each individual order, enabling low-cost, custom-tailored products.

Virtualization refers to both creating an artificial factory environment as well as to monitor and simulate physical processes. A virtual system is used to monitor and control its physical aspect, which sends data to update its virtual model in real time. While service orientation is all about shifting from selling only products to selling products and services. In smart factory, the industry will move towards outsourcing some of their processes and concentrating on their core processes. This strategy helps in improvement of core processes in which resources are concentrated and will not disperse. Responsiveness or real time system enables the system to respond to changes on time by investigating the possibility of meeting requirements using existing resources through reconfiguration or cooperation with other factories.

The system design for a factory should include reconfigurability which refers to change in the shop floor layout and adjustment in process functions. The basic component of smart factory known as a module is an autonomous machine tool, workstation or material handling device that can perform a set of tasks. For this, there is a need of standard as well modular architectural infrastructure that can serve different types of modules that are supplied by different manufacturers. But this is not limited to only the shop floor. The smart factory modules also have a flexible structure that allow the extension of the module to increase production capacity or integrate new functionalities (2018, M.Mabkhoot et al).

Precedent Study

Demonstrating the idea of Industry 4.0, the German factory near Chicago presents factory as an exhibition-like showpiece with the help of high-tech machines and innovative production process chain. It maintains intelligent interaction of people, machine, software, and automation. In the factory, digitally networked machines present the entire process chain, from orders to design, production, and delivery, experienced as an intelligently interlinked, holistic process. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a major role where tremendous amount of data is collected through quick tests run at the initial phase and shared to the controller though cloud. When the process starts, AI can detect an anomaly and can pinpoint where the fault lies and offers suggestions from its knowledge database on how to rectify it saving time and resources on company’s part. The factory is using AI with the help of strong base of experience where the machines choses strategy from the centralized cloud base system at the start of every process. This accumulated experience gradually teaches AI the best ways to do a subsequent job while learning from other machines by sharing knowledge.

The Subaru Group has a recycling-based manufacturing factory at Lafayette, Indiana in the US which aims 100% automobile-to-automobile recycling considering the product life cycle, continuing to send zero landfill from production plants, using the concept of ‘resource recycling’. For the last 15 years, it has been the first auto assembly plant to go landfill-free.

At the end of the production process, there is a trim and final assembly and hazardous waste accumulation satellite area where hazardous waste is disposed of and non-hazardous waste is transported to recycling plant. The approach is such that every material that comes to the factory is recycled to its best possible extent including steel, plastic, wood, paper, and glass. The factory does not run on automated system of recycling.

Germany-based Stadler Group offers a tailor-made service, from conceptual design to planning, production, modernization, optimization, assembly, start-up, conversions, disassembly, maintenance, and servicing of components to complete recycling and sorting systems. IN 2015, they designed a fully automated waste sorting plant located in Norway.

RoAF is a waste company responsible for Norwegian municipalities which handle household waste. The three-container system of Norway: one for food, plastic and residual waste, one for paper and cardboard, and one more for glass and metal packaging along with a separate container for electronic and hazardous waste is used with the help of well-known technology but integrated in a new way.

The plant system consists of machinery: bag openers, separators, screens, shredder, wind shifter. This system has helped reduce the amount of system downtime, maintenance cost, and total operating staff. The plant requires only two operating staff to load the waste and unload the product outcome since rest of the process is automated and monitored through screens and CCTV installed.

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