DIGITALIZATION AS THE KEY TO INDUSTRY 4.0
Industry 4.0 is a process of digitally interconnecting manufacturing machines with their periphery. This is done in a logical and structured way, taking corporate objectives as a guideline. It is a longterm process, in which dedicated actions are implemented at the focal points of production.
Digital interconnection means that data and information – e.g. via OPC UA – are retrieved directly from production machines and stored in a central database, which, in most cases, is a module within a larger MES suite. This will render machine properties graphically representable and evaluable.
Initially, the immediate goal is often a visualization of downtime causes and an improvement of equipment availability.
As soon as data is centrally available, however, a variety of options offer themselves for the production, namely by integrating other, already existing systems into the digital network: e.g. for paperless production, automated product backtracing, inventory feedback to the ERP system, optimized maintenance, or detailed production planning with predictable production periods.
And fascinating new possibilities have been opened up by innovative technologies that have become market-ready by now: RFID transponders permit touchless product tracing at a cost of only cents, intelligent camera systems monitor product quality and help with positioning tasks, collaborative robot systems with integrated sensors work directly and without cell housing alongside humans.