Section: Application Domains

Factory Automation

In the new collaboration with Mitsubishi R&D, started in 2015, we explore another application domain where time and domain heterogeneity are prime concerns: factory automation. In factory automation alone, a system is conventionally built from generic computing modules: PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), connected to the environment with actuators and detectors, and linked to a distributed network. Each individual, physically distributed, PLC module must be timely programmed to perform individually coherent actions and fulfill the global physical, chemical, safety, power efficiency, performance and latency requirements of the whole production chain. Factory chains are subject to global and heterogeneous (physical, electronical, functional) requirements whose enforcement must be orchestrated for all individual components.

Model-based analysis in factory automation emerges from different scientific domains and focus on different CPS abstractions that interact in subtle ways: logic of PLC programs, real-time electromechanical processing, physical and chemical environments. This yields domain communication problems that render individual domain analysis useless. For instance, if one domain analysis (e.g. software) modifies a system model in a way that violates assumptions made by another domain (e.g. chemistry) then the detection of its violation may well be impossible to explain to either of the software and chemistry experts.

As a consequence, cross-domain analysis issues are discovered very late during system integration and lead to costly fixes. This is particularly prevalent in multi-tier industries, such as avionic, automotive, factories, where systems are prominently integrated from independently-developed parts.