, 2016-11-21

"Connectivity has to pay off"

Dr. Steffen Haack, Bosch Rexroth AG Executive Board member responsible for the Business Unit Industrial Applications and Sales

Implementing Industry 4.0 self-sufficiently with existing machines and systems

"Especially when it comes to the topic of Industry 4.0, it is increasingly about differentiating between what is feasible and what is useful. Not everything that is or will be technically possible (already) fulfils the actual goal, which is to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing companies. In short: Connectivity has to pay off. Only economically sensible solutions that offer measurable advantages will prevail.

The idea of building completely new, greenfield Industry 4.0 plants is usually unrealistic, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. They are too expensive and fraught with high risks. The innovation cycles are shorter than the lifetime of a production plant. Because of this, it is estimated that several tens of millions of functional machines are without an Industry 4.0 connection in Germany alone. They lack, among other things, sensors, software or a connection to the company's IT systems – and therefore the essential prerequisites for connected production.

It is becoming ever clearer that the "brownfield approach" is the more economical path. With this concept, companies continue to use the installed machines where possible and useful. Connecting towards smart factory is initially done in small stages, then evolves into increasingly larger stages and with the employees. They have the necessary process knowledge and know the individual framework conditions. This innovation from within has the advantage of the processes already running stably when the time comes to connect in a larger context.

Bosch Rexroth also follows this approach for pilot projects in our own plants. We continue to use the existing machines and systems and connect them afterwards. The focus here is on the benefits: What added value does the extra recorded data create, for example in terms of reduced downtime, decreased energy consumption or higher process stability? Will the investment in the subsequent connection be recouped within one to a maximum of three years? These questions are important to us as users and machine operators.

From this, a very specific requirements has emerged: With the Rexroth IoT gateway, we have developed a practical solution for the subsequent connection of installed machines and systems. In a package with sensors, it records and preprocesses status data, independently of the control. This information increases availability and improves process quality. No programming is necessary to configure the IoT gateway. This reduces commissioning work by up to 90 percent. Simple solutions such as these help SMEs in particular to implement Industry 4.0 economically and self-sufficiently."

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