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