Industry 4.0 Is On The Way: Highlights From SPS IPC Drives Expo
Highly charged 3 days of SPS IPC Drives in Nuremberg just finished. SPS IPC Drives, one of the largest international exhibitions for electric automation technology, gathered more than 1500 exhibitors and over 70,500 visitors providing a unique market overview and a meet-up with thousands of players of digital automation area.
Products, components, solutions, systems, and the latest information from the world of digital automation. At the Expo, you could find many internationally renowned companies working in the field of automation, get acquainted with their offerings, and listen to experts’ speeches.
This year’s exhibition was entirely devoted to comprehensive coverage of Industry 4.0 phenomenon. No wonder such an event took place in Germany. With its highly developed industrial landscape, the country has the excellent background for Industry 4.0 solutions and, in fact, was a pioneer in introducing this new trend. The term itself originated from the German high-tech government strategy that promotes the computerization of traditional industries such as manufacturing.
Today Industry 4.0 is recognized as the fourth wave of industrialization preceded by the first machines that mechanized some work, then by assembly lines and the birth of mass production, and finally by the advent of computers and beginning of automation. With this new era, computers equipped with machine learning algorithms and remotely connected with robotics will be able to overtake manufacturing processes with little input from human operators.
Gap between the physical and digital world is fading. Industry 4.0 is here. Both visitors and exhibitors of SPS IPC Drives are aware of that. Leading manufacturing companies have embraced the necessity of digitization and have already moved past first steps in the transformation into digital factories, they also widely known as smart factories. According to the recent research by PwC, over 90% of industrial companies are investing in creating digital factories in the heart of Europe. Why?
The complexity of production will grow enormously in the coming years influencing the whole way factories operate. Networks and processes will no longer be limited to one factory, but rather upraised to interconnect multiple units or even geographical regions. These changes are inevitable; production should deal with it to address an accelerating dynamic of a global market.
So, what it takes to make a digital factory? You need to digitize production using key technologies: connectivity, data analytics, predictions and autonomous systems, digital twinning, and more. The gains encompass increased efficiency, extreme customization abilities, and real-time connection to suppliers and customers. No surprise that this new industrial revolution is taking place in the heart of Europe, one of the most technology-dense areas.
Covering all the aspects of smart manufacturing, the Expo highlighted the crucial elements for digitalizing production. Addressing its main characteristics, interoperability and flexibility, successful creation of a smart factory could not be achieved without the massive adoption of connectivity technologies that ensure communication between manufacturing devices and networks. This embraces everything from tablets to machine automation sensors. The other key technologies in the smart manufacturing – Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, advanced robotics, cloud systems - cause the high demand for new offers in these areas.
The increased complexity and distribution of smart production requires more efficient workforce training. AR/VR technology should become a strong ally in this non-trivial task bringing workers education to a new level and resulting in cost reduction. The remote support will also take a huge step forward with augmented reality evolving and extending.
Another gross point that was blowing in the air is – data monetization. Among other things, the term "smart" assumes that a factory creates and uses data throughout the product’s lifecycle. Such an approach allows shifting to predictive practices and ensures creating flexible manufacturing processes able to respond rapidly to changes in the market. With the bigger amount of data produced by various devices everywhere, the new services that monetize data will be in high demand, just as the offers that provide solutions for addressing data gathering and analysis issues, such as data quality, compliance, and privacy. Data security is also becoming a very sensitive topic, with new systems integrating and more access to those systems.
Three days of the Expo gave a lot of space for reflecting on the future of manufacturing. It is clear that it will change dramatically in the nearest future, bringing new opportunities and new challenges we should be ready to face. This is a clear sign for Sigma Software, just as for many other companies, to extend expertise in the key smart manufacturing technologies and meet the Industry 4.0 era fully armed.