By Bernhard Hartmann
Sales Manager, Central Europe
Better known as Industrie 4.0 here in Germany, this “revolution” is a major topic of discussion in trade magazines and the focus of presentations at exhibitions and events.
So, what are the revolution’s objectives and when will we see its effects?
At its core Industrie 4.0 is about the competitive imperative to replace today’s machine building concepts and strategies with new ones that enable a next generation of machines that are higher-performing, better integrated, more reliable and, yes, cheaper to build.
To achieve these goals, revolutionary companies will leverage innovative – and already available – technologies that can deliver the functionality and capabilities that will be demanded from the machines of the future. And again, at a lower cost.
For example, large amounts of data are produced during production cycles today, but this “big data” isn’t being used and analyzed nearly to the degree it could be for production optimization, for increased quality, for better production economics.
Automation companies in Germany (and elsewhere) are feeling the pressure to revolutionize as they see the rapid innovation already taking place in the APAC region. Taiwan and China are fully embracing the latest and best technologies (e.g. standard multicore PCs with a 64-bit OS, symmetric multiprocessing, hard real-time and a modern user interface) and increasing their reliance on advanced software to replace expensive proprietary hardware to gain a competitive advantage in cost, performance and quality.
Governments also recognize the need for revolutionary action and are setting up projects and funding to make sure their countries remain not only competitive, but also leaders in automation innovation. Germany has ensured a 200 million Euro investment in several projects that capitalize on new approaches.
Leading companies – and countries – see the possibilities that technology breakthroughs are presenting in the machine control and motion control world. They will provide the funding and infrastructure for creative developers worldwide to produce machines with capabilities we cannot imagine today. And those extraordinary machines will be produced at a fraction of the cost of today’s far less sophisticated machines
So, we can look forward to such things as the change from fixed-capacity planning to more of a self-organizing structure of machines and production. Of course it will be a while until the “self-organizing machines” can be realized as much additional innovation is needed yet in terms of communication and automation development.
Few expect full realization of all major changes before the 2020 time-frame, and although today’s machines will be around for a while yet, there is a need to be open to future concepts incorporating the objectives of Industrie 4.0.