K2016: Just Exactly What Is Industry 4.0?

The term Industry 4.0 will be prominent at K2016 and is being billed as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Is this just marketing hyperbole, or does it really mean something?

A recent press report from Messe Düsseldorf makes this statement about Industry 4.0: “Supporters of Industry 4.0 say it represents a paradigm shift from centralized to decentralized production – made possible by technological advances which constitute a reversal of conventional production process logic. This means that industrial production machinery no longer simply ‘processes’ the product, but that the product communicates with the machinery to tell it exactly what to do.”

Well, closed-loop process control has been around for some time. And what’s so bad about “centralized production”, that is plant wide and remote monitoring of manufacturing processes?

in a paper called “What We Mean By Industry 4.0”, consultant PwC seems to take a different tack.

“While Industry 3.0 focused on the automation of single machines and processes, Industry 4.0 focuses on the end-to-end digitization of all physical assets and integration into digital ecosystems with value chain partners. Generating, analyzing and communicating data seamlessly underpins the gains promised by Industry 4.0.”

In the PwC view, all data about operations processes, process efficiency and quality management, as well as operations planning are available real-time and optimized in an integrated network.

Nothing new here either. Digitization of processes and procedures is at least 15 years old and well established. And so is the connection of those processes to the Internet. And so is the concept of connecting the digital dots throughout the enterprise and an enterprise supply chain.

How all of that happens has been evolving, and has not been a revolution in any sense.

When you walk through K2016 in October, I think it’s best to view Industry 4.0 as an ongoing—possibly accelerated–effort to increase the quantification of processes, communicate the data, and close the loop on digital systems.

Engel, which calls its approach Inject 4.0, has already laid out several specific examples of how this will take place, such as the integration of the e‑flomo system monitor and electronic temperature control at the controller level.

Another interesting example from Engel is the “e-connect.monitor”,  which makes it possible to check the status of process-critical machine components during operation, analyze the data online, and project remaining service life.

Checking screw wear on a large injection molding machine could require two entire days of downtime to remove, clean and measure the screw.

In the Engel approach, sensors are placed on the screw that transmit data that can be analyzed using algorithms based on the meaning of previously collected data.

The e-connect.monitor can also keep an eye on the  spindles that actuate the axial movements in electric injection molding machines.

The point is that important progress is being made in controlling processes and communicating the data.

The sensors of the new e-connect.monitor measure the wear-relevant parameters of injection screws during operation. (Engel)

The new e-connect.monitor uses sensors to measure the wear-relevant parameters of injection screws during operation. (Engel)

About Doug Smock

Former Chief Editor at Plastics World and Senior Technical Editor Design News

Europe, Injection Molding ,

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