Industry 4.0 And The Internet Of Manufacturing For PCB Assembly & Fabrication

Using the Open Manufacturing Language to make data accessible across the entire shop-floor.


For years, the PCB manufacturing industry has needed a robust real-time, comprehensive shop-floor communication standard that would include detailed, bidirectional, machine-to-machine communication, as well as shop-floor to IT computerization communication. Now, there is a solution: the Open Manufacturing Language (OML), an open communications specification managed through a community of industry members and designed to support the evolving Internet of Manufacturing. OML makes vendor/platform independent data accessible across the entire shop-floor, opening up the potential for Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory 1.0 solutions.

What is the Open Manufacturing Language (OML)?

The driver behind OML has been the strong demand from the industry to provide a standard language on which the Internet of Manufacturing for the PCB assembly industry can be based. Unlike previous standards, OML features bidirectional data flows, supporting shop-floor data collection as well as process control, all through a single standard format, language, and protocol.

OML development is based on many years of PCB assembly shop-floor communication experience, where information from production processes has been gathered in real time and applied to real-world manufacturing shop-floor solutions such as finite production planning, Lean material management, quality management, and full materials and production traceability.

As a result, the OML specification represents a high degree of value from the start and can be put to use immediately. Any creator or consumer of OML data will require the development and support of only one standard interface, compared to the pre-OML situation of needing many different interfaces. Development costs and lead-time for PCB assembly shop-floor projects, including advanced manufacturing computerization, can be reduced significantly using OML. This improved efficiency enables manufacturers to evolve to meet their customers’ demands. OML will continue to be developed by the community to ensure that it meets expectations in the industry and continues to enable a true Internet of Manufacturing environment.

How OML fits into a modern factory

The OML Internet of Manufacturing specification defines the different types and content of data, and it provides the common backbone infrastructure for communication. The extent to which OML can be applied in a factory spans from even the lowliest of processes on the shop-floor to the largest enterprise IT systems and production support infrastructures. OML simplifies the integration of IT systems with factory equipment and processes, allowing the use of a rich variety of reliable, real-time data. This removes a critical barrier—the expense of development and support to create the multitude of interfaces required for each of the enterprise systems.


A key attribute of OML is the ability not only to collect and exchange data between processes and systems, but also to allow control of processes and even entire lines through commands from computerized systems. OML allows the shop-floor to be automatically controlled and “fine-tuned” to react quickly to sudden changes, while maintaining the highest levels of productivity and quality. Manufacturing data from one site can then be exported through the cloud and combined with data from other sites to provide a continuous health check on global manufacturing.

For the developers of software solutions and system integration, OML provides key advantages, while minimizing risks to the operation. Offline development or simulation of new application code is possible in advance of deployment. Any new production process that creates OML data, or any new consumer of OML data, can be developed and tested against the known specification so that all issues can be resolved reliably in advance before joining the newly developed module to the main backbone. For example, deployment lead-time and operational downtime would be reduced when new automation is added to the factory.

As well as the addition of simple processes, complex uses of data can be streamlined with the OML specification. Where there are many individual uses of the same manufacturing process data, the use of OML avoids conflicts. For example, certain pieces of information may be normalized in different ways or even be excluded according to the needs of the first application each time a new application or use of the data is added, which potentially affects all existing applications and systems causing unexpected system issues and failures.

OML provides a common data language between all systems, avoiding the need for changes and reducing the risk of these post-development integration side-effects. Every user of the data sees the exact same view of the data, with all of the data normalized in the same way. This enables different areas of production and production support operations to work together with a common view of any issues or requirements that may arise, avoiding operational conflict. The OML specification also allows support for the protection of sensitive data, such as customer- or business-specific data elements that should not be openly available.

The OML specification is available to anyone free of charge when registering on the OML Community website at End customers, machine vendors, and anyone with an interest are encouraged to register as a member of the community, which, as it grows, will create more OML resources, experiences, and ideas for the community to share.

An IoM network platform takes us even further

Once the issue of open communication is solved, an important consideration still remains: how to apply any new standards to machines and processes currently in use on the shop-floor? Machine vendors will understandably resist the significant expense of applying a standard to machines currently in use in the market to machines that may be as much as 20 years old, built before the Internet of Manufacturing was even conceived.

The solution to this issue is a new hardware networking platform specifically designed for enabling the Internet of Manufacturing. The Valor IoT Manufacturing device converts existing machine data into OML data, while providing the infrastructure for a robust Internet of Manufacturing. The entire communication mechanism is secured using TLS.


The Valor IoT Manufacturing hardware

Embedded within the Valor IoT Manufacturing hardware is support for connection of every existing machine process on the shop-floor, and the conversion of acquired data into the OML format. Connecting the Valor IoT Manufacturing device accelerates the adoption of OML, allowing it to be deployed completely and universally. In so doing, this immediately enables Industry 4.0 and Smart Factory computerizations to be effective across the entire factory operation. Valor IoT Manufacturing provides data connections for automated and manual processes and for operational activities such as material verification and logistics, plus it provides a robust and secure hardware platform for OML data flow.