The opportunity for manufacturing companies to harness the power of the Internet of Things and move rapidly towards Industry 4.0 is now becoming more and more of a practical reality, according to leading drive and control specialist Bosch Rexroth.
Mike Lomax, Electrification Manager at Bosch Rexroth, has pointed to several developments which are creating an exponential growth across a number of sectors in the exploration of the possibilities offered by Industry 4.0. This is in spite of the findings in a recent report by SAP suggesting that only around a fifth of UK companies have an Industry 4.0 strategy in place.
The key aspect of Industry 4.0 is connectivity, bringing together the machine and human based on extensive real time data gathering availability and optimised machine intelligence. Bosch Rexroth is an early adopter of Industry 4.0, with full compliant facilities in Homburg, Lohr and Blaichach, Germany, where hydraulic components are manufactured for both mobile and industrial applications.
Mike Lomax explained: “Reaching Industry 4.0 has been a technical possibility for some while now, but it is now being brought within reach of a broader range of manufacturers, even those working from longer-established facilities.
“Aspects such as Internet availability, software and hardware usability, GPS localisation, computing power (CPUs) and data storage options are all now much greater than ever before. However, what is making the real difference now is the growth in the availability of new and cost-effective technologies aimed specifically at extracting the true value of the Internet of Things for manufacturers.
“For example, high-specification, highly accurate sensors - necessary in large numbers to gather key real time data - are now widely available at reasonable cost, drawing on proven technology from the mobile phone sector.
“Meanwhile, specialist Industry 4.0 Connectors (data acquisition and transmission devices) can simply be bolted on to existing plant equipment to gather information in real time and transfer it to the Cloud. This removes the need to redesign equipment or purchase new plant in a broad array of instances. It’s a particularly important point given that many plants starting operation now will have originally been designed up to a decade previously, when the pace of technological development was slower and the possibilities offered by the Internet of Things far less widely understood.“
Mike concluded: “What this means is that adopting Industry 4.0 does not necessarily mean significant capital investment or the creation of a new manufacturing facility – the key in many instances is to optimally apply the specialist technologies now available, in harness with existing in situ equipment, to allow the gathering of data which can then be used to inform production decision-making in real time.
“While a recent SAP report suggests minimal uptake in this area, our own experience is very different. In fact, it is an area where we are seeing increased engagement from OEMs keen to discover how these specialist technologies can be harnessed to add value on existing machinery models and transform them into full Industry 4.0 compliant options.”
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