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Are we ready for Industry 4.0?

13 October 2015

Do end-users really care about Industry 4.0? Suzanne Gill reports on a recent Frost & Sullivan webinar. 

Current discussion about Industry 4.0 revolves around three separate areas – Governments promoting manufacturing; suppliers promoting the concept because it provides a good sense of differentiation; and end users. 

Speaking during a recent Frost & Sullivan hosted webinar, which focused on the Internet of Things (IoT) in the age of Industry 4.0, Karthik Sundaram, Frost & Sullivan industrial automation & Process control industry analyst, referred to research which found that a great deal of end users are still not clear about many of the areas that make up Industry 4.0. He said: “For many end users, Industry 4.0 is, essentially, an extension of existing lean management principles. Many end users are enthused by the technology but are not adequately clear about what it entails and what it promises.  Frost & Sullivan believes that there is a lack of clarity surrounding the areas of value and return on investment. There is also a great deal of concern among end users about the lack of standardisation and this is one of the reasons for the last of enthusiasm to move towards Industry 4.0.”

According to Frost & Sullivan it is the responsibility of suppliers to help end users to upgrade plant from control systems that can be decades old and to protect plants and infrastructures from cyber threats.

Frost & Sullivan looks at Industry 4.0 as being a combination of technology, business collaboration and process innovation that includes the IoT, Internet of Services, Big Data and Integrated Industries. 

“Many end users are questioning the financial feasibility of Industry 4.0,” continued Sundaram. “They know they need to move forward to remain competitive and there is an active interest in digitalisation. There is also a great degree of enthusiasm for new service models that help adapt to and grasp modernisation concepts and which help reduce total cost of ownership. 

 “The age of products is coming to an end and we are entering an age of services.” Suppliers need to offer solutions that provide products as a platform with services. Closed, proprietary communication protocols will not be accepted in the future and Frost & Sullivan believes that competition between suppliers needs to be replaced with cooperation and collaboration. “Suppliers will no longer be able to focus on one best-of-breed solutions aimed at a narrow segment of the industrial architecture – in the future they will need to offer end-to-end solutions, whether through indigenous development or through collaboration,” said Sundaram.

Explaining how he believes IoT acceptance can be increased in the industrial sector, Mark Maas, senior manager, innovative platforms, at TE Connectivity, said: “The best way to meet the growing demand for IoT is through connectivity of machines – to each other, the environment, databases, the cloud and to operators or users. This will bring the intelligence needed to deliver the required productivity gains for the industrial sector.

Improved connectivity could, for example, help to better balance cycle times helping to increase output. Higher product quality could be reached by anticipating wear and tear of machines and preventing waste. “If industry could move from ‘made to stock’, to ‘made to order’ a great deal of costs could be removed from the value chain, reducing the total cost of ownership,’ concluded Maas.

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