In our last outing on Industry 4.0, we took a very high-level view of what this means for your business. Over the next few weeks, we'll look at in more detail some of the main points made in the article, which will take us to the new Industrial Revolution.
In this blog, we'll look in more detail at the technology that is beginning to define Industry 4.0 and what sort of things are needed to focus on an end to end digitisation of the physical assets and what is required to integrate the businesses Value Chain that we mentioned.
Generating, collecting and analysing the vast quantities of data available to a business is one of the key points of Industry 4.0. Integrating the Value Chains across an organisation, from product development and purchasing, through the manufacturing process to logistics and service is a fundamental part of the strategy. Data and the power of whatever available computing you have, and connectivity, all play a key role in this. Sensors and automation systems are at the heart of this and just as a medical professional uses the vital signs of a human to diagnose and predict a disease, all of this industrial data allows us to learn more about what we do, how we do it and diagnose problems early on.
Assets such as turbines, pumps or trains are complex things, each having thousands of components or moving parts so instead of relying on intuition, experience or luck, we can collect all sorts of data about what and how they are doing. For example, sensors can be embedded in the equipment or products that are manufactured as well as the machinery that makes it too. This new era is as much about improving what you make as it is about how you can improve the production process as well. They are then connected via wired or wireless connections to the Cloud, for example, sensing both their environment and usage and also communicating autonomously amongst themselves collecting and passing this data on. New communication protocols designed specifically for this sort of interaction (M2M or Machine to Machine) are making this sort of connectivity so much easier.
These large volumes of data in the Cloud are then sent back to the business for analysis and this is not just about historical performance. Looking in detail at this data and using techniques such as machine learning and predictive algorithms can in turn lead to better and improved product design (understanding how the product is being used every day), preventative maintenance at a new level (predicting the failure of a component or machine before it happens), improvements in the way the product or equipment can be used and new types of product offerings that can be delivered as well. The ability of simple, connected devices to collect information at this level is becoming much easier as time moves on. The ability for that information to be analysed and used effectively is at the core of what Industry 4.0 is all about.
Industry 4.0 is not a futuristic concept anymore. There are a number of companies, like SAP, who are already engaged in delivering the concepts that everyone is talking about. As time moves on, companies will need to take the plunge if they want to be rewarded with progress and those that become fearful of the kind of changes that Industry 4.0 will bring, will risk starting when it’s already too late.
Written by; Business Development Manager, Peter Mroch