Published in Solutions Integrator by Joe Devlin Click here for list of articles
  Oct 15, 1998 97% of manufacturing executives consider SCM critical to long term success.
SummaryMain ArticleJava Perks for SCMTarget the SaleStaying Focused

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If you're a technical integrator with business expertise in manufacturing, your timing is perfect. Customers are begging for supply-chain-management solutions that meet their needs.



Java Perks For SCM

A West Coast integrator brews an interesting and technically educational manufacturing solution with Java.

We're betting the farm on this new paradigm.
Bruce Khavar, Cyberonix

"Agile manufacturing, flexible manufacturing, adaptive manufacturing-are the concepts that experts believe will be the most important for success in the manufacturing marketplace, says Bruce Khavar", president of Cyberonix,a Berkeley, CA-based integrator and engineering firm that is betting the farm on this new paradigm.

Recently Khavar cooked up a demonstration project for Sun Microsystems: the Coffee Factory, which brewed custom coffee orders for all attendees at the recent JavaOne show. At first sip, the Coffee Factory seems like a simple installation. But behind those cups of coffee are some intricate ideas about how integrators can re- factory floors by implementing Sun's thin-client Java philosophy.

Khavar's Coffee Factory is based on a commercial Bunn-O-Matic brewing machine. Coffee beans are stored in eight silos equipped with sensors to alert factory operators when inventory levels need replenishment. The silos dispense whole beans into a hoist that delivers them to the grinder. Ground beans are automatically transported into a metal filter, and hot water is automatically injected into the filter chamber. The finished coffee is routed to Thermoses for delivery to the consumer. Key to the current implementation of the Coffee Factory are rings, manufactured by Jostens, that were passed out to all JavaOne attendees. Beneath the Sun logo on the face of the ring is a Dallas Semiconductor chip complete with a Java VM and programmable memory. To program the ring, attendees went to one of many data interface stations scattered throughout the show. They swiped their show badges into the attached card swipe and then personalized the ring with information about themselves and their coffee preferences.

To order coffee the attendees simply plugged their rings into the order desk. The system downloaded their orders and transmitted them to another Java chip and applet that queued orders. The process recipe for brewing (water temperature, volume, and pressure, along with amount and type of coffee) was changed on the fly based on the coffee preferences stored in attendees' rings. A Java- agent manager kept track of what types of coffee people were waiting for and how much they were willing to pay to get their coffee quickly, and it determined what kind of coffee to make next in order to best satisfy market demand.

Another feature of the demonstration was a human machine interface panel that provided a graphical representation of what was going on the show floor; in a manufacturing scenario this interface panel would provide operators with an easy way to monitor factory conditions.

Unlike most manufacturing installations today, the Coffee Factory is run by a Java programmable logic controller (LC). Khavar used an Intel-based LC running Linux and JDK 1.1.3 at the JavaOne show. He is still playing with the design of the Coffee Factory, adding new features based on more sophisticated PLCs, so the version you see at the next trade show may be different.

Suffice it to say that each of the Java PLCs he uses includes a copy of Sun's Java VM (allowing it to run Java applets) and enough memory to hold downloaded Java programs. This provides the LC with its own intelligence that can be easily reprogrammed by downloading a new Java applet.

Sun wants factory designers to wake up and smell the coffee. A lot of good people spend an inordinate amount of time trying to map their business problems into monolithic 'best-of-breed' client/server applications, explained Bob Thereon, Sun's worldwide manager of process control. Sun hopes to get some new ideas percolating about where designs for manufacturing systems should be headed.

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