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The future of production for Industry 4.0

The future of production for Industry 4.0

According to a study by the Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (bitkom) , Industry 4.0 applications are already available or at least planned in 71 percent of all German companies. So in the future it will be completely normal for human personnel and robots to work and communicate even more closely than they do today.

The term Industry 4.0 was coined by the research union of the German federal government. The development step towards Industry 4.0 is now seen worldwide as a new industrial revolution that will replace the digital revolution that has led to major changes in the economy since the beginning of the 20th century.

The fourth industrial revolution currently taking place will change industry like never before. Networked robots in particular will take on more and more human tasks.

The greatest changes in the world of work and everyday life are undoubtedly triggered by the even more extensive digitization and networking of machines, robots and processes, which means that everyone can exchange information digitally.The changes will not only affect machine builders such as the Austrian company Schinko, who play a key role in the development of their robot housings , but will also find their way into industries that have so far hardly been characterized by high-tech machines and information technology.


Industry 4.0 – future or already present:

Gerhard Lengauer, Managing Director of Schinko and expert on Industry 4.0 and robot technology explains that his “company is already very aware of the far-reaching changes in the world of production.” According to Lengauer, Industry 4.0 is no longer a vision of the future, but a topic that already affects many companies today.

The fourth industrial revolution launched by the Federal Government in 2011 [1] has been an advertising buzzword for several years now and can be sold fantastically. From sensor providers to software manufacturers to business consultants, many companies have jumped on the marketing bandwagon. But after the first hype, many companies ask themselves what is actually behind it. Where’s the revolution that should be triggered by increasing networking?

To ensure that people and robots will not become competitors in the future, but instead create an even more productive working environment, the company is researching that ergonomic principles are also among the technology leaders in the field of robot enclosures internationally, which should simplify collaboration with robots.

As Lengauer explains, workflows are becoming increasingly complex due to Industry 4.0 and the resulting even stronger automation. Schinko therefore no longer offers its customers simple solutions that were still sufficient for series production on the assembly line. Instead, the company and especially the research department rely on close cooperation with industry, through which individual solutions are created after a detailed analysis of the situation.

It is currently the Internet of Things, in particular, that enables new, distributed solutions for many applications and, for example, in supply chain management enables unprecedented transparency for goods deliveries or allows manufacturers to accompany and monitor their delivered products over the further product life cycle [ 2].

Intelligent control is a defining characteristic of Industry 4.0

These networked machines control themselves independently and intelligently. Every machine knows how many components are still in stock. If a stock is running low, the system automatically sends an order to the supplier, who then sends replenishments. Other machines plan their own production processes at lightning speed: If a car buyer decides at the last minute that his car should have a skylight, the factory automatically plans another route through production for this car.

Central control thus becomes decentralized self-optimization. It is the next step in the automation of factories, the so-called Smart Factory. Robots and machines are no longer mere machines that repeat a step millions of times – by networking all production processes, they independently decide which component takes which route through production. Logistics processes within a company, but also across supply chains, are becoming slimmer.

End-to-end autonomous and decentralized solutions are still a long way off:

But which Industry 4.0 use cases remain in the production environment? Even if individual pilot projects promise to move away from assembly line production [3], end-to-end autonomous and decentralized solutions are still a long way off.

What really concerns companies in this environment is what should actually be called “Industry 3.x”. So not a revolution, but the evolutionary catch-up of what was essentially described as a vision of the future in the concept of Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) in the 1970s [4].

It’s about integrating data and systems. It is by no means a matter of course that real-time data from plants in the company are consistently available and also used in business processes (the so-called vertical integration). The horizontal integration, for example the linking of logistics, production and quality management systems for transparent traceability through production, is just as little implemented across large plants as it is for medium-sized companies.

What’s coming in next coming Years:

In the next few years, companies will have to make every effort to create the basis for Industry 4.0. In a study by the BmWi [5], this was described in five steps (see the derived representation in the figure).

The principle runs uniformly through the individual steps: First of all, data must be available (for example by connecting machines or integrating systems). Based on this, companies can (and must) work with this data to optimize their processes. Examples of this are simple data-based setup time optimization or more complex applications such as predictive maintenance using data analytics technologies.

Only when this has been implemented and the company has knowledge of data and the information hidden therein, can one begin to think about an actual implementation of Industry 4.0 scenarios that go beyond individual prototypes. Until then, however, there will still be some time in the country.

Self-control is in contrast to the previous central control of machines: Previously, information was collected in different IT systems and evaluated by people who then made adjustments. For example, to increase the production rate or to produce more efficient goods.

Two developments are at the core of Industry 4.0: networking and self-management. Networked systems enable data and thus information to be exchanged and thus react intelligently to one another.

This process will change fundamentally with Industry 4.0. In the digitized future, all machines and the goods they produce will be equipped with sensors. You communicate constantly. Not only with each other, but with other systems: Production, sales, development, even customers and suppliers are integrated into the networked world.


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