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It can be challenging to stay current with the vernacular of our industry; terms like IoT, M2M, Industry 4.0 and smart processes appear in just about every publication we see. Buzzwords aside, the substance behind these technologies is here to stay and driving this fourth-generation industrial revolution.
If we accept that Industry 3.0 is defined as the computerization and automation of factory floor processes to make them “smart,” then I suggest that Industry 4.0 is defined as the expansion of this idea to include all the support processes required to manufacture a quality product. By connecting factory-floor computers with all the logistic-based computers throughout the supply chain, Industry 4.0 will revolutionize how companies make stuff. Adding in smart algorithms, machine learning and customer connectivity will transform our current linear/sequential processing into the next generation of “smart processes.” For this to occur, the five characteristics below are critical for a successful transition.
Smart factories require the core underlying processes to be connected and “talking” to generate the data necessary to make real-time process decisions, that is, the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). In a truly connected factory, an ongoing continuous dialog between machines, business processes, suppliers and customers is happening in the background. This dialog is not only interactive, but proactive, as a constant stream of real-time data is tweaking and adjusting processes to drive improvement. It also provides time-critical information on how processes are operating, supply chain pipeline, and delivery status updates—all based on data. When starting this journey, it is important to utilize the right technology, data, and analytics infrastructure for your business model. You will need to re-imagine your processes from end-to-end for software interoperability, data management, speed, and scalability as your IIoT initiative grows and matures.
2. Cyber Physical Systems
Cyber physical systems are the integration of computers, networking and physical processes. Computers and networks monitor and control physical processes with feedback loops; the physical system reacts; the system uses software to interpret actions and tracks results. This system is based on embedded computers and software in devices, not for traditional data computation, but rather as a loop of action and machine learning. The smart factory is a flexible system enhanced by augmented intelligence that can self-optimize performance across a broader network. A cyber physical system can self-adapt to and learn from new conditions in real or near-real time, and autonomously run entire production processes.
To read this entire article, which appeared in the January 2021 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.