What is Industry 4.0 and how can it benefit my company?
To help you develop your Industry 4.0 strategy, this article answers the following questions:
- Why is Industry 4.0 important for manufacturing companies?
- Which international standards and norms is Industry 4.0 based on?
- What are companies practicing today – Industry 3.0?
- Which competitive advantages does Industry 4.0 deliver?
- What are the first steps for creating a strong foundation for Industry 4.0?
Our goal is to enable you to introduce, and start benefiting from, Industry 4.0 at your company in the very near future. This article provides some essential background knowledge and includes a practical guide for quickly and cost-effectively making the required changes. So let’s get started!
Why is Industry 4.0 important for manufacturing companies?
Industry 4.0 (also known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution or 4IR) and digitalization of production are poised to deeply impact manufacturing companies over the next few years. Going forward, industrial production will be characterized by extensive differentiation of products in the context of highly flexible production (“mass customization”).
Consumers’ expectations are driving an accelerating trend toward increasingly customized products. To master the challenges posed by ever-greater product diversification and steadily shrinking volumes of individual product versions, a modern production facility has to be highly flexible and configurable and include an appropriate manufacturing execution system (MES). Advanced cloud-based MES products operated as “software as a service” are excellent tools for achieving this. So if you want to remain competitive (and we assume that’s the case!), it’s essential for you to implement them ASAP.
A manufacturing process that’s controlled and monitored on the shop floor by MES can be adjusted and/or extended in minutes with only minimal effort – and cost-effectively make a steady stream of new, customized products on a just-in-time (JIT) basis.
Industry 4.0 also involves extensively integrating customers and business partners in business and value creation processes and combining highly value-adding services to create intelligent “hybrid products”.
In order for Industry 4.0 to work, production must be transparent in real time and include efficient communication among the various systems and players with meaningful information flows. It’s also essential to have an architecture based on standardized components.
Which international standards and norms is Industry 4.0 based on?
Industry 4.0 experts agree that many relevant norms and standards already exist today. Until recently, however, it was difficult if not impossible to clearly and consistently bring them together in the context of Industry 4.0 without clashes and contradictions.
Fortunately, a few years ago Plattform Industrie 4.0, a German network of experts devoted to promoting the digitalization of industry, unveiled a framework called RAMI 4.0 (described in DIN SPEC 91345). It organizes the existing norms and standards to clearly define and structure the complex environment of Industry 4.0. It’s a three-dimensional layered model that compares the lifecycles of products, factories, machines, orders, and other entities (shown below).
The manufacturing execution systems in a factory form a vertical and horizontal data hub, among other things. This means that it’s no longer necessary for them to model and support the RAMI 4.0 architecture or the norms and standards underlying Industry 4.0. And that’s very good news!
Over the last 10+ years, SYMESTIC has been committed to supporting industry standards and avoiding proprietary approaches. The symesticManufacturing® MES is based on the international ANSI/ISA-95 standard and therefore provides investment security within the scope of the RAMI 4.0 reference architecture.
Various strategy and working groups are now extending and adapting the existing norms and standards to accommodate Industry 4.0 better. Once this work has been completed, the results will facilitate even more efficient, consistent, comprehensive communication among components, products, and systems from different manufacturers. They will drive a major step forward with regard to field devices and products, and contribute to achieving a fully connected world.
What are companies practicing today – Industry 3.0?
In actual practice, some companies haven’t even fully implemented Industry 3.0 yet. They need to create a basic automation and IT infrastructure before they can take the next step. Even most of the factories that are further along in this evolution are still hampered by a conventional system landscape: a classical automation pyramid and relatively rigid, now outdated systems that were originally designed and installed to only perform specific tasks. Most of these systems are based on proprietary and therefore inflexible data structures. They are therefore quite costly and time-consuming to adapt and extend.
Which competitive advantages does Industry 4.0 deliver?
For most companies, the first step toward Industry 4.0 is to introduce a digitalization system. This is a prerequisite for consistently integrating the systems involved in the production process. The ultimate goal is to create a digital image of production and achieve transparency in real time.
A digitalization system is a technical product for digitalizing production. The first step is to generate “digital twins” of the systems, machines, and stations. These digital twins then provide data for identifying states, calculating metrics, and controlling processes (materials, orders and so on). The goal is efficient, cost-effective, flexible production that, ideally, will run reliably and largely automatically and deliver fault-free output.
There are two options for installing this product. One is to take a conventional approach and keep it on the premises. This has drawbacks, however: high investment costs, a lengthy introduction period, and greater risks. The other is to take a modern, cloud-based approach with SYMESTIC’s digitalization product. This way it’s immediately available and ready to start operating in hours without any risks!
This needs to be supported by horizontally integrating individual functions. The MES, being an information hub, is the central element. It captures, analyzes, and processes massive volumes of big data and feeds the results to the other systems.
This by itself is already enough to generate enormous savings and efficiency gains. Management then has reliable information at its fingertips in real time for making sound decisions. The results of implemented measures can then be directly measured, revealed, and corrected if necessary.
Implementing the Industry 4.0 vision depends on reliable communication and cooperation by all players in real time throughout a product’s lifetime.
This bestows diverse benefits on all participants along the value chain. The ability to flexibly meet the wishes of individual customers is improved, and it becomes more profitable to make one-offs and very small lots. Flexibility is steadily improved by dynamically shaping business processes over the Internet using agile methods.
The information that Industry 4.0 generates – along with big data and cloud computing, to cite just two examples – paves the way for optimized decision-making, early checking of decisions, flexible responses to any issues that arise, and global optimization of all resources across sites. Real-time transparency in the space of just a few days!
What does Industry 4.0 look like in practice?
Our advanced cloud-based MES products let you leverage the benefits of Industry 4.0 and digitalized production. We invite you to join the Industry 4.0 age right away, without risk and without any conventional capital expenditures. Book our software as a service (SaaS) products today to start succeeding with Industry 4.0 as early as tomorrow!