Industry 4.0 – ‘A View From The Top’

Today’s C-Level executives and other decision-makers can feel bombarded with information on how technologies related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution are going to transform their organisations. Industry 4.0, as it is known, is being driven by technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G mobile networks, machine learning, and also the mining of big data sets to discover business insights. It’s sometimes hard for business leaders to see the broader forest amongst the multiple technological trees that are rapidly springing up and clamouring for their attention.

What can Industry 4.0 Bring To Your Business 

Industry 4.0 technology and solutions will provide the following returns on investment: 

Savings on CAPEX Expenditure

Most organisations currently deploy their business systems as separate entities and then integrate them where required. If we think of each system as a layer in a diagram, then there are likely to be layers for:

  • Cloud Management Portals
  • ERP systems
  • Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES)
  • Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems
  • Machine Learning (ML) expert systems
  • Human Machine Interface (HMI) systems
  • Programmable Logic Control (PLC) systems

Traditionally these systems are siloed, and custom integrations between each system would be required to connect them. This can lead to significant complexity, which can result in the integration process being subject to long lead times and incurring high costs at each layer.

In an Industry 4.0 approach, a single-core namespace solution needs to be put in place once and then all other systems (both legacy and future) can be integrated into it. This leads to much lower integration costs, as well as making it much quicker and easier for new systems and functionality to be introduced into the business. This is all while possibly extending the operational life of certain business systems into the Industry 4.0 era.

Increased operational efficiency

Having all the systems required for business operations integrated using the Industry 4.0 technologies and protocols delivers operational benefits with organisations. Businesses are extending the use of their already deployed assets over time. In addition to this longer operational life for business assets and Industry 4.0 strategy also delivers these operational benefits:

  • Optimised energy consumption – energy use can be a high cost in business. Having all machines monitored via IoT sensors and smart energy meters, then having the data analysed by intelligent ML systems can highlight individual machine issues. Such as excessive energy use that indicates the machine needs service. It can also highlight inefficiencies in workflows that use several machines in sequence. Identifying factors like the optimal time to run machines based on energy costs can be calculated from the data collected.
  • Reduced waste and reworking – continuous smart monitoring of all processes within a production facility allows for real-time quality control and prevents wasted production runs and lost time for reruns.
  • Less unscheduled downtime due to predictive alerting and maintenance schedules.
  • Potential saving on staff costs due to greater automation and ML-based monitoring.

Increased Productivity 

In addition to the increased operational efficiencies that derive from Industry 4.0 adoption, there are also increases in productivity. This is due to the integration and modernisation of the business systems allowing more to be produced from the same infrastructure. Many of the items listed in the previous section that increase operational efficiency also lead to improved productivity. Consulting firm McKinsey estimated as early as 2016 that adopting Industry 4.0 methods could boost productivity in technical professions between 45% to 55%. The opportunities for improvement have only increased in the intervening years. Some examples include:

  • Introduction of robots to assist existing skilled human staff.

Drake Trailers in Australia saw a 60% increase in productivity when they installed a single welding robot.

Cornell Dubilier in Boston, USA doubled their capacitor labelling process from 125 to 250 parts per hour by deploying a Rethink Robotics robot for a significantly lower cost than a traditional manufacturing automation system.

  • Deployment of automated 3D printing and manufacturing. So-called e-factories that use technologies like 3D printing to produce a wide range of different bespoke products on demand operate in a much-reduced footprint to traditional manufacturing processes. As a result, the productivity per square metre of space is significantly higher.

The Growth of Digital Twins

Companies across various industries are rapidly adopting Industry 4.0 technologies for the purpose of building digital twins. A digital twin is a realistic digital representation of something in the physical world. Examples include detailed digital representations of machinery, manufacturing systems, transport systems, engines, turbines, and many more. Increasingly digital twins are also being created to model business processes and workflows that use a selection of physical and logical parts to deliver an outcome.

Digital twins are different from traditional computer simulations as they are connected to their physical twin in real-time. The explosion of IoT sensors in the physical world, and in this case Industrial IoT (IIoT) sensors, means that operational and performance data is collected in real-time. This data stream is fed into the digital twin, and as a result, the physical and digital representations of the real-world process are in sync. This makes it very easy to monitor the system and to try out changes on the digital twin without the risk of damage or downtime. 

Obviously for this to be possible, the digital twin has to represent the physical twin closely. Gallarus are highly experienced in this area and can work with you to identify, develop, and deploy digital twins within your business. This work will cover three areas:

  • Data – identify and ensure the quality of the data that the digital twin will be modelling.
  • Model – ensure the algorithms defining the digital twin are robust and genuinely reflect the physical.
  • Visualisation – decide how the output from the digital twin will be displayed so that the information it contains can deliver benefits. Augmented and virtual reality provide interactive interaction with digital twins and are becoming standard parts of Industry 4.0 deployments.

Increasingly digital twins for new systems are being built before the design of the physical system is finalised, signed off, purchased, and deployed. This allows for much better planning and the reduction of risk in new projects.

Gartner reports that 75% of businesses using IoT are already using a digital twin in production, or plan to within a year. The UK has initiated the Gemini Principles to define and encourage the linking up of digital twins across the UK built environment. Singaporehas even developed a digital twin city to improve planning. Digital twins will be a significant driver of improved operations and productivity over the next decade.

Conclusion

Industry 4.0 technologies are here to stay. Their adoption is accelerating, providing benefits to those organisations who are adopting them. It can be hard for busy C-suite decision-makers who are not focused on IT to see the bigger picture and understand how to adopt the new technologies that can benefit them and their businesses. Industry 4.0 is not just about investing in new technologies. It’s about investing in the right technologies for your business. Gallarus is focused on Industry 4.0, and we can help chart a path through the technological forest for any organisation.

If you would like to discuss the potential benefits of Industry 4.0 or other areas like industrial automation systems, industrial control applications, digital twins, IoT, data analytics, workflows, business and manufacturing processes, please feel free to contact me via LinkedInTwitter or Email.

Kieran Caulfield

Head of Commercial Development

kcaulfield@gis.ie

Will 5G fuel Industry 4.0?

If you haven’t heard about 5G, you soon will. As you can probably guess, 5G is the latest generation of cellular network technology. The technology is on the cusp of being rolled out to the masses with big mobile phone players marketing it heavily to their current and prospective customers. 

5G will certainly provide a better user experience than the old 4G and even older 3G connections. While users will enjoy faster download speeds, improved streaming, enhanced gameplay and so on, this is not where 5G’s true power will shine through.

5G is no mere incremental update, it is no more, no less than a platform for innovation.

Industry 4.0 is about adopting new technologies to deliver innovative manufacturing and industry enhancements.  5G is beneficial to Industry 4.0 in a number of ways, it is…

  • Key to meeting the needs of flexible production techniques
  • Fundamental to delivering seamless collaboration and automation between machines
  • Beneficial in enabling secure wireless connectivity.

The Advent of Wireless Factories

With 5G, an entire facility or multiple facilities will be able to work seamlessly on the one network, all while enabling the adoption of new and emerging technologies as they come online.  Any device with an inbuilt SIM card can easily connect to the 5G network, delivering a true plug and play experience.  More automation and collaboration between devices will inevitably improve productivity. Productivity gains equal cost-savings, a key driver in any business.

The ability to monitor the manufacturing process allows operators to be alerted to problems or potential problems. These real time updates allow timely intervention, thus helping to reduce errors, minimise faults and potentially save thousands, if not tens of thousands of man hours in production downtime.

While Humans will still play a key role in monitoring the facility, ever more machines will run 24/7, learning and self-repairing as they go.

Secure Connectivity – Network Slicing, 5G and IoT

5G offers an exciting advantage in the form of network slicing. This type of virtual networking architecture, which is like software-defined networking and network function virtualisation, allows multiple virtual networks to be created on a shared physical infrastructure.

Using common resources such as storage and processors, network slicing permits the creation of slices devoted to logical, self-contained, and partitioned network functions which can be used by specific ecosystems.

The reliance on the IoT is having an exponential impact on security requirements. In my view, there needs to be proportional and relevant security applied to protect the technology and ultimately the business.

The good news is that emerging technologies, like Network Slicing (NS), allow different operations to be accorded differing layers of security across different virtual networks.  Ensuring that the growing number of connected networks and devices are secure is important for all operations, but is crucial for critical operations.

With NS, 5G offers speed, capacity and encryption which can be tailored to the specific needs of different machines and operations, this will ultimately improve security while keeping costs down.

Final Thoughts

Just as coal and then oil fuelled the Industrial Revolution, 5G will be the game changer and big enabler for the Industry 4.0 Revolution, we certainly do live in interesting times!

If you would like to discuss 5G or other areas, including industrial automation systems, industrial control applications, IoT, data analytics, workflows, business and manufacturing processes, please feel free to contact me via LinkedIn, Twitter or Email.

Kieran

Why spending money to save money can actually work! – The case of IoT

A typical scenario (this may sound familiar)

Someone is pitching a great idea to your Board of Directors. It will save your company millions…BUT (isn’t there always a BUT?), your company will have to invest hundreds of thousands to generate those savings.

You can probably guess what will happen next…The door is closed on both the individual and their exciting idea (of course, only after they are politely thanked and told “Don’t call us, we’ll call you!”).

The key takeaway here is that being curious about saving money doesn’t always equate to a real desire to do something about it.

When it comes to IoT and other Industry 4.0 solutions, we need to have a different conversation. Executives and technologists have different outlooks and the approach to each needs to be tailored to their needs. It is not enough to play by different rules, we need to adapt to a new game.

It’s a sure thing! Why can I still not get approval?

When a business is considering whether to invest in a new idea, proposition or technology, they will often look at whether it is a smart investment. At a high-level, such investments reduce capital expenditure and yield savings through efficiency and productivity.

While that seems pretty straightforward, there is a traditional perspective on such innovative projects which brings a lot of baggage with it:

  • Planning – We all know how important this process is. Plans can only be executed after everyone has agreed them and an appropriate budget has been put in place. By the time this happens, the world has moved on and the projected savings were never realised, or the changes have become irrelevant.
  • Time – It is our most valuable commodity. Such projects take so much of it. There’s a substantial basic time investment required to get the project going. Then another equal (or perhaps greater) time investment is required to tackle the inherent complexity so that substantive returns can be unlocked. This means these projects are just too risky.
  • Disruption – the effect on the day-to-day workings of the business is just not worth the benefits.

You can undoubtedly add to this list from your own experiences.

So why is IoT different?

What can IoT bring to the business?

IoT has the potential to turn things on their head. The old model of having to reengineer everything at each layer, using non-IoT protocols (machine level, ERP, MES, SCADA) is time consuming and expensive.

What IoT allows you to do is engineer once. We can create one name space that allows us to connect with everything using a protocol that works! The savings are clear. You are saving on a ratio: multiple reengineering layers versus just one.

Examples of IoT innovation

I find that one of the best ways to demonstrate how IoT innovation can bring about real, demonstrable change is to provide examples:

Digital Twins – Digital twins are simply digital copies of physical objects. This allows the business to change, tweak, experiment and ultimately predict the future operation of its physical assets. Imagine the savings involved in carrying out your tests in a virtual environment rather than in the real world.

Autonomous self-healing – IoT technology means that physical assets can now fix or solve their problems “without” the need for human intervention. Simple operational tasks can now be removed from the schedule, saving time and money.

If you would like to discuss how IoT can support your business, please get in touch

Kieran Caulfield

+353 87 1488620