A group of companies in Japan has formed the Flexible Factory Partner Alliance to promote the formulation of standards for coordination control technology.

Due to fierce international competition, labour shortages and a reduced number of skilled workers due to falling birth rates and aging population, companies in Japan are turning to information communication technology (ICT) for manufacturing to improve productivity. And in order to achieve greater flexibility, there are rising expectations for wireless communications as an important technology. In fact, there has been an increasing trend of manufacturing facilities deploying wireless communications on a trial basis, and then based on these trials, fully implementing such wireless systems.

At the same time, a major issue in wireless communications in factories where various wireless systems coexist is communication instability due to interference between wireless systems and the impact that has on equipment operation. However, there had previously been few efforts to resolve this sort of wireless communication issue in manufacturing facilities.

Members of the newly-formed Flexible Factory Partner Alliance have been conducting trials of wireless communications and evaluating the wireless environment in factories. Chaired by Professor Andreas Dengel of the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the group is made up of technology vendors Omron, Sanritz Automation, NEC, Fujitsu and Murata Machinery, as well as two research institutes, Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.

Members of the alliance have agreed to develop specifications relating to the technology to stabilise various wireless systems with coordination control, as well as to standardise these specifications and promote the application of wireless communications in manufacturing factories.

The goal, according to the organisation, is to ensure that there will be stable communications in an environment where various wireless systems coexist, as well as to promote their use and further accelerate the adoption of wireless systems in manufacturing facilities.