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Education is key to keeping industry 4.0 moving forward

04 March 2019

Suzanne Gill asked a cross-section of automation vendors where they believe the manufacturing sector is on its Industry 4.0 journey and, importantly, what obstacles still need to be overcome.

According to the CLPA (CC-Link Partner Association) one of the key requirements for enabling Industry 4.0 is bandwidth, to cope with the explosion in data that comes with the IoT. “There is growing market acceptance that the previous standard of 100Mbit Ethernet is no longer going to be sufficient going forward and that gigabit Ethernet will become the norm,” said John Browett, general manager at CLPA Europe. 

Other technologies key for Industry 4.0 success include Time Sensitive Networking (TSN), along with OPC UA and major steps forward were taken for these technologies at SPS/IPC/Drives 2018 when key global automation players announced plans to support them. 

Browett believes that the two main barriers to adoption of Industry 4.0 are skills and finance. He said: “Companies need to have a good understanding about what kind of improvements they want to make to their operations. In general, these are going to be based on how they can increase the business by serving customers better. Then it's necessary to determine if Industry 4.0 techniques can actually deliver these improvements – this will demand a broad range of skills from engineering, to process management, and an understanding of the role of workers. Some companies struggle to find the right blend of expertise to cover all these bases, especially now that IT has become a key part of automation. 

“The financial aspect will be the final make or break hurdle. There's no doubt that eventually an engineering and operational solution to most challenges can be found, but if it bankrupts the company, then clearly it's useless,” continued Browett. Management has a role to play to see how the investment required can be supported by the overall financial picture of the business. In many cases, implementation will take a step-by-step approach, building a series of successes along the way to justify further investment.”

A sweet spot
Improving maintenance strategies and efficiency have presented a particular sweet spot for Industry 4.0 technologies, according to Nick Taylor, marketing director Europe for Emerson. “Augmented reality, for example, is being used within process applications to send repair instructions to maintenance teams in the field and in the future Emerson believes that it will be used more extensively to provide real-time information to improve decision making and work procedures.” 

Data analytics applications are also helping improve maintenance strategies through the use of  preconfigured algorithms to translate data into actions for specific asset classes or devices. “This type of application is being used to provide in-depth monitoring of critical pumps and heat exchangers, identifying failed steam traps and continuously monitoring pipework metal loss caused by corrosion or erosion. By analysing data from wireless instruments, real-time pump status and health can be established, and alerts created that provide warning of cavitation, plugged strainers, early bearing wear and seal leaks. Data analytics can also provide insight into plant health, performance and energy consumption and access to the information can be enterprise-wide,” said Taylor.

Taylor went on to highlight an increasing urgency for executives to harness innovation to improve performance. “Manufacturing is now focused on digital transformation, leveraging new technologies to boost operational performance. But there is no consensus on how to get there and little understanding of what success looks like. With no industry standard, it is hard for companies to know whether they are on the right track or when they have arrived! Operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) leaders are often siloed, not collaborating toward one central mission to achieve digital transformation.

“Implementing digital transformation projects and adopting new technologies can be challenging and there is a need for manufacturers to increase their practical understanding about digital technologies and applications and with that knowledge they must formulate a digital manufacturing strategy.” To support companies Emerson has developed a Digital Transformation Roadmap with consulting and implementation services to help its customers develop and execute a tailored transformation plan.

Emerson recently carried out a study of industry leaders responsible for digital transformation initiatives and found that only 20% of respondents had a vision, plus a clear and actionable roadmap for digital transformation. Responders stated that a clear practical roadmap was important and the absence of one was the major barrier for digital transformation projects. Cultural adoption and business value were identified as  other leading barriers to progress. “We found that while all respondents were actively conducting pilot projects, only about 20% of those had moved beyond that stage into new operating standards,” continued Taylor.

Daniel Rossek, regional marketing manager at Omron Industrial Automation Europe, believes that the market is in varying states of adoption of industry 4.0 principles – from the extremes of firmly ‘burying one’s head in the sand’ to the process of developing the ‘factory of the future’, to somewhere in the chasm that exists between the two. Making a comparison to the Gartner hype cycle, in general however he believes that industry has now moved past the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ and that more realistic and practical approaches are now being investigated and deployed by many companies. 

While Rossek acknowledges that Industry 4.0 technologies can provide tangible solutions to real-life issues he believes that, in the real world, however, most manufacturers are more focused on simply improving productivity and efficiency to increase competitiveness or are busy reacting to socio-economic issues like labour shortages, than in aspiring to Industry 4.0 goals. 

“The main hurdle for most manufacturers is that they are often not working from a blank canvas, so are restricted by the existing infrastructure of legacy machinery and plant, with little or no standardisation of system architecture,” he said. “For many, the Industry 4.0 concept can appear somewhat overwhelming, and defining a process or starting point for implementation can be challenging. 

“A recommended starting point is to deploy a system can monitor machinery or plant effectiveness. These types of solutions can be used to monitor productivity and downtime, linking back to a central dashboard. Systems like this are relatively simple and cost-effective to deploy, but provide valuable line level information to permit more informed decisions about possible areas of additional investment in critical areas or bottlenecks. 

“In addition these types of solutions, providing a platform for data gathering at line level and can be upscaled in the future to capture more information, paving the way for more advanced industry 4.0 benefits like predictive maintenance or condition based monitoring,” concludes Rossek.

The right direction
Siemens believes that German industry is now moving in the right direction when it comes to digitalisation. Commenting on this at the 2018 SPS/IPC/Drives event Klaus Helmrich, a member of the management board of Siemens AG, said: “An ever-increasing number of industrial enterprises, particularly SMEs, are well on the way towards Industry 4.0, and are already improving their competitive standing with digital solutions. This applies to all sectors of industry with rapidly changing market demands in which products have to be manufactured ever more quickly, flexibly and in diminishing quantities.” 

Earlier in 2018, at the Hannover Messe, Siemens announced that ‘the hour of implementation has arrived’. Helmrich said: “By implementing Digital Enterprise solutions, users and customers can now tap into the full potential of Industry 4.0 to achieve greater flexibility, shorter times to market, higher efficiency and better quality.”

Helmrich believes that greater cooperation is necessary to ensure the success of Industry 4.0 and to this end Siemens has joined forces with Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise, in a strategic partnership for integrated networks. On the basis of their complementary product portfolios, they are providing support to customers in the implementation of integrated communication networks, all the way from factory floors to corporate offices.

Siemens is also working closely with Bentley Systems on a  joint development of PlantSight Cloud Services which will give users access at any time to 1D/2D/3D data using a simple web portal – making a continuously updated digital twin of a plant available to all users. 

Industry 4.0 has been a buzzword for some time but many organisations in the UK still have a long way to go in their journey according to Martin Walder, VP Industry at Schneider Electric. “Manufacturers need to take every opportunity to embrace smarter, connected technologies now – whenever a new piece of equipment is purchased it should be connectable even if at first it is not connected,” he said.

Moving to the edge
Gavin Stoppel, a product manager at HARTING says that, from a manufacturing perspective, much of the key technology driving Industry 4.0 is focused on data analytics and he believes that to enable this compact edge computing devices will play an important role in opening up gateways to cloud and data analytics solutions.

“Edge computing devices are low cost and easy to implement with a range of different platforms, providing flexibility for the user,” he said. “It is possible to retrofit these edge devices to legacy machines to access vital machine data and ultimately help extend machine lifetime.”

Stoppel is also of the opinion that one of the biggest barriers to adoption of new technologies is a lack of understanding about how to implement Industry 4.0. He said: “There is a lot of information out there that is conflicting and confusing. Many companies know what they want to achieve from Industry 4.0, but do not know the best solution to implement in order to achieve these goals.”

Stoppel cites cost of implementation as another stumbling block to adoption so it is important that vendors are able to demonstrate to businesses that, despite the initial costs, they will see a return on investment in terms of more efficient production planning and energy use.

Varying pace
According to Steve Sands, marketing manager at Festo UK, the pace of Industry 4.0 varies from country to country and also between industry sectors. However, in general, he says most businesses are aware that there is a major change coming and that they need to be ready to capitalise on it. 

Sands suggests a good starting point for information on the subject would be to read the Aspects of the Research Roadmap in Application Scenarios paper (available at www.plattform-i40.de). 

Sands explained that a fundamental requirement for Industry 4.0 delivery is having the ability to communicate according to a set of common standards. “These standards are essential to enable the open exchange of information throughout product lifecycles that can deliver significant improvements in manufacturing and production,“ he said.  “To deliver real benefits, the terminology has to be in place to ensure a common language is being spoken and that the machine conversations make sense. Digital twins from one manufacturer need to be formatted and compatible with another’s, allowing a smart machine to be assembled from a number of smart devices. The system will only operate effectively when the data is uniform, consistent and coherent.”  

Sands went on to explain that while there are some excellent proposals for standardisation, the adaptation of frameworks like AutomationML (including by the diverse providers and users of the technology) requires consideration of the natural conflicts. For example, is it better to gather a high quantity of excellent data but accept compromises to speed? What about the increased cost of creation, storage, transmission and utilisation of large quantities of data in the Cloud? What type and depth of data is right for everyone? Can a standard be flexible enough to meet everyones needs and still be a standard?  “In total, working groups have identified more than 20 technology areas that would need to be addressed. These issues are being approached pragmatically, because it is better to agree to something than to wait until everything is defined and agreed.” 

Although Sands accepts that much remains to be done, he pointed out that we are really only three years into a 20-year journey – and progress is being made. “There are excellent demonstrators of IIoT / Industry 4.0 technologies working today. There are many more examples of the excellent use of digitalisation, cloud-based technologies, big data gathering, visualisation and analysis using clever predictive and artificial intelligence,” he said. 

Sands concluded by saying that to maintain momentum, it is important to be clear in terms of deliverables. Potential users need to understand the terminologies involved and to appreciate the timescales. 
 
Where to start?
While acknowledging that the IIoT offers many opportunities, a Yokogawa spokesperson said that few companies have really incorporated IIoT into their digital transformation program and many are struggling to determine where to start. 

While technology is the heart of IIoT it is not enough on its own to make it successful, according to Yokogawa. IIoT will only be successful if the new technology is aligned with existing business processes and the competences of existing employees. 

The Yokogawa spokesperson pointed out that one of the biggest barriers for full deployment of IIoT are the barriers or silos between technology, process and people in an organisation.  Breaking down these barriers requires a change of mindset and culture and therefore strong involvement from senior management to lead the change. Yokogawa advises that companies do not try to do everything at once.  Instead, first a plan which explains why this IIoT revolution can add real benefits the business and how it will help achieve business goals.

Going a step further
Per Kloster Poulsen, regional sales director at Universal Robots argues that Industry 4.0 is failing to bring the much-needed personalisation and flexibility to manufacturing. 
 
He believes that Industry 5.0 offers an evolution of this approach which seeks to retain efficiency benefits while bringing the human touch back into manufacturing. “Collaborative robots, or cobots, have played a major part in delivering automation with greater potential for flexibility,” he said. These human-cobot collaborations are rapidly becoming a norm in automation, particularly among SMEs who are able to seamlessly implement them into existing production lines with minimal downtime and without the added expense of a robotics engineer. With cobots offering enhanced flexibility, adaptability and affordability, the manufacturing world is embracing the idea of employing cobots to work side by side with humans, and thus taking a step forward towards an industry 5.0.”

Implementing cobots into the workforce has already proven to be effective. FT-Produktion, for example, a Swedish machine shop, turned to collaborative robots to boost productivity without needing to hire additional personnel. By implementing cobots into its production, this SME has managed to significantly increase production and efficiency at the factory and it is also now much more responsive to changing customer demands.  

“What this use case demonstrates is that due to the affordability of cobots Industry 5.0 is in fact achievable for businesses of all sizes, and can even help SMEs become more competitive against larger corporations,” said  Poulsen.


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