Originated in Germany, Industry 4.0 translates as “a holistic automation, business information, and manufacturing execution architecture to improve industry with the integration of all aspects of production and commerce across company boundaries for greater efficiency”, according to Automation ISA.
From this starting point, the source article delves into the history of Industry 4.0 initiative. The Industry 4.0 initiative is part of a 10-point high-tech German strategic plan, created in 2006 and continued in 2010 by introducing the High-Tech Strategy 2020. Science and industry need to cooperate, in order to turn knowledge into skills.
Creating networks that incorporate the entire manufacturing process and convert factories into smart environments involves linkages. Linkages such as “smart machines, warehousing systems, and production facilities that feature end-to-end integration, including inbound logistic, production, marketing, outbound logistics, and service”.
Real-time data, a key element in the Industry 4.0 chain of operations
Real-time information enables strong decisions, based on insights. When it comes to production, it enables a superior reactivity and responsiveness in what production chain materials and operations are concerned.
Also, Industry 4.0 is based on asynchronous manufacturing. This requires that the components in the production flow are able to use “auto identification technology to inform each machine and operator what needs to be done to produce the customized end product at each step of the production process.”
Based on real-time field data, the machines can be rapidly configured so they would adapt to customer specifications and other commands inherent to the production operations.
The collected data also serves as prime material for a range of analytics. These provide a bonus post real-time advantage to those in charge. By analyzing the data, such systems provide recommendations on improving performance and productivity.
Using embedded intelligence at all levels, the advanced cyber-physical systems (CPS) save “significant cost, providing greater flexibility and improved reliability.”
What binds together this new, developing industrial landscape is a series of software solutions that allow for the data to be collected and processed. Furthermore, the insights become recommendations. The decisions then turn into commands that go back into the cycle, driving modified, optimized operations.
Standards emerge, as well as a worldwide agenda
With separate, but similar Industry 4.0 agendas in countries such as Germany, China, Japan and/or others, a sum of specific standards emerge. These standards require harmonization, if they are going to work seamlessly at a global level, regardless of the physical area where the industrial processes involved take place.
Future automation systems must adopt open source multivendor interoperability software application and communication standards similar to those that exist for computers, the Internet, and cell phones. Industry 4.0 demonstrations acknowledge this by leveraging existing standards, including the ISA-88 batch standards, ISA95 enterprise-control systems integration standards, OPC UA, IEC 6-1131-3, and PLCopen.
Process automation is at the core of this plan. It becomes more and more present with each industry entity that joins this trend. The Industry 4.0 vision of the future factory joins together advanced technology hardware and brilliant software solutions, for a flawless functionality.
We are getting there with each software solution. Producers can unload more and more of their operations onto the digital, be it monitoring operations, management, coordination or others.
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