Industry 4.0 needs smart devices

05 June 2015

Lance Croutear, business unit manager Factory Automation, at Bosch Rexroth comments on the need for smart devices to ensure Industry 4.0 success.

Industry 4.0, or the ‘Connected Industry’, is a huge talking point within the manufacturing sector. The ultimate goal is to produce smarter factories which are more resource efficient, more productive and more competitive in a globalised economy. This presents new opportunities, but also new challenges for manufacturers, in order to successfully implement the vision of a connected industry.
While the mobile operation of machinery is not new, there is a lack of universal interface technology between the worlds of automation and IT for the efficient integration of technologies. To analyse the likes of production control, traceability, quality assurance and production data effectively, requires not only a stronger flow of information from automation to the IT world and back, but also the use of familiar languages and interfaces.
In light of increasingly complex systems and the increasing competitive pressure in engineering, smart devices are arriving at just the right time with their application software. As the industry develops more and more innovative and specialised functions offering maximum customer benefit, it is vitally important that these developments keep up with the concurrent entry of new IT technologies into the automation field – like smart devices and modern communication architectures.
Smart devices and mobile apps provide a lasting boost to innovation in automation technology. The software used in modern mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, is opening up new integration opportunities for enhancing production workflow and flexibility. For example, the integration of these technologies offers greater access to machine information, generating new application scenarios for the benefit of machine operators, such as concepts for simplified machine operation, data acquisition, service, diagnosis and maintenance.
The technology built into smart devices, particularly cameras, WLAN and GPS, offer additional benefits for maintenance, repair and the collection of operating data. Especially in the area of service, cameras and GPS offer new opportunities, such as the transmission of image information and the presentation of location-specific information.
Manufacturing at its most basic level will always retain its primary goal of producing goods at the lowest cost and highest quality possible. However, as we move forward and more manufacturers embrace the use of smart production, the integration of smart devices in the automation process will allow machine manufacturers more freedom for creative ideas in order to optimise the diagnosis, operation and commissioning of machines.

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