Industry 4.0 ties the computer based, analytic driven Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) into the physical processes of a factory. Not to be confused with IoT (Internet of Things), Industry 4.0 is the culmination of IoT, analytics, automation, physical systems, the cloud, and additional factors that make up a “smart” operation, or a “smart factory”. Industry 4.0 is essentially the connection of two entities that, up to this point, have been separate. Industrial automation and the processes that it involves have been around for more than a century. However, bridging the gap between operation and IoT is a very recent initiative within our industry.
Confused? That’s ok! Industry 4.0 can be a hard concept to wrap your head around. To provide a better illustration of what this all means, let’s walk through an example. Let’s say we have a bottle filling line. On that line are various mechanical components that help move bottles through the process: belting, chain, bearings, gears, etc. Today, those components are “smart” – that is, equipped with sensors that measure critical factors such as temperature, vibration, speed and load. There’s also management software that is keeping track of all of these measurements. IIoT enables the collection and aggregation of the data that is being generated by those “smart” components.
While collecting data can be useful, it’s what you do with that data that makes the biggest impact to your business. That’s where Industry 4.0 comes into play. Industry 4.0 processes take the data collected and makes decisions based on the needs of your operation. For example, if the system detects that a belting section needs replacing, it can order a replacement part, and schedule a technician to replace the old part. Or perhaps the IIoT enabled gear drive detects excess vibration or rising temperature. An Industry 4.0 system can instruct automation equipment to avoid a catastrophic failure, root cause the issue, and make suggestions on how to remedy the situation. This helps increase mean time before failure (MTBF), shorten mean time to replace (MTTR), and positively impacts your operational performance and bottom line.
To put it simply, Industry 4.0 has the ability to significantly impact your business for the better. It starts with IIoT and “smart” components – the building blocks of your smart factory. But when Industry 4.0 comes into the picture, the potential for lower lifetime costs, longer component lifecycles, and smarter factory automation become a reality.
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