Whitepaper documents the road to digitalisation

18 September 2017

A recently published whitepaper, from Mitsubishi Electrioc, sets out to answer many of the questions being asked about how to take the first steps on the road to Industry 4.0.

At the launch of the document Chris Evans, marketing & operations group manager at Mitsubishi Electric highlighted the challenges facing industry. On one level we are looking at the convergence of business systems with the physical plant control but is this really new? Does this really move us on from where we are today? Evans believes that the real impetus behind Industry 4.0 comes not just from linking the plant and the enterprise but from the ability for in-depth analysis and continuous improvement which defines the true spirit of Industry 4.0 - but how do we get there? 

The challenge with many manufacturing plants is that their automation systems have evolved over many years, resulting in disparate automation platforms, poor network infrastructure, no data management strategy and very little genuine knowledge of how to get the relevant information out.” Evans believes that planning is the key when looking to move forward with Industry 4.0. He said “You have to define exactly what you are trying to achieve, what are the business drivers and where are your problem areas. Look at what automation currently exists and what automation network infrastructure is already in place. Accept also that it will take time and investment. 

“The first step is to look for the quick wins that will demonstrate fast returns against a moderate budget and which prove that the path you are taking will deliver much bigger benefits over the longer term.” 

Following its own advice
Mitsubishi Electric has undertaken smart factory implementations at its own manufacturing facilities. At its Kani Works switchgear production facility, for example, a smart factory upgrade drove a significant increase in productivity and operating rate and a large reduction in the number of stages in the manufacturing process. By redesigning the production line into a more compact manufacturing cell, utilising robotics and vision as well as conventional automation control, savings were made in the occupied floor space – some 85% reduction – this is particularly significant, as in the majority of manufacturing plants space is at a premium. This was achieved using Mitsubishi Electric’s own automation technologies and utilising complimentary technologies from its e-F@ctory Alliance partners.

In the whitepaper ‘Industry 4.0 – The road to digitalisation in future manufacturing’ Mitsubishi Electric defines the basis of Industry 4.0 and the overlapping principles of interoperability, information, integration, automation and autonomy. It defines the key features of Industry 4.0, looking at the importance of areas such as communications, cyber physical systems, cyber security, new computing models such as edge computing and cloud computing and standards such as OPC UA and the forthcoming RAMI4.0 and IIRA architecture models.

It then lays out the key steps on the road to digitalisation, concluding that, while there are undoubtedly challenges to be overcome, it is quite possible to convert an ageing plant into a smart factory using today’s technologies through correct planning and by taking a structured approach.
To download the whitepaper go to:

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