• Atul Ojha

Is Industry 4.0 Relatively Theoretical?


Do you know that one of the most googled queries is ‘What is Industry 4.0? Also, the world-wide searches of the term ‘Industry 4.0’ has constantly increased since the time it was first used almost a decade back. Surprised? Don’t be, the term is creating all the buzz all over the place, but is Industry 4.0 implemented as much or is it just a theory?


While there’s no dearth of media coverage about the current and futuristic benefits of Industry 4.0, most manufacturers are unsure of what they need to do to be a part of the revolution. It is a fact that Industry 4.0 is not a product that manufacturers can purchase off-the-shelf. Instead, it is an idea and vision that, to implement properly, requires planning, cultural change and new technology. This is where the implementation has not creating the same tune and buzz as the term itself.


What does it take?

At the heart of Industry 4.0 is the digitalization of manufacturing facilities. This could refer to the deployment of industrial hardware, investing in new technology or the use of innovative software. Don’t get it wrong, this doesn’t require an entire system overhaul, nor does it require investment in expensive and state-of-the-art technology.

In industry, there is a sense of urgency to innovate, but this can be dangerous. When rushing to digitize, manufacturers risk investing in automation without fully understanding how it will impact their operations. Digitalizing just for the sake of being competitive will not be beneficial to a business. Manufacturers may choose the wrong technology or not change their culture accordingly to use the new system to its full potential.

Many learned people and bodies argue that Industry 4.0 is a journey with three distinct milestones — conception, evolution and revolution. Every company is at a different stage to this journey and should focus on their own business and what’s realistically needed, as opposed to simply investing in the most exciting new technology. I could not have agreed more!

How does it happen?

Though achieving Industry 4.0 isn’t a one step process, it does not mean a major factory overhaul the only path to digitalization either. Retrofitting a few key-components can be an easy, quick and cost-effective way to take the first steps in Industry 4.0.

Retrofitting involves adding connectivity to existing machines, so that they can communicate and interact over the Internet and can be remotely monitored and controlled. The simplest way to do this is to add sensors for data acquisition, or invest in technology to measure vibration, temperature, current and power consumption. These parameters indicate how equipment is performing and can communicate this information automatically.

For example, an accelerometer could measure the frequencies at which the rotating elements of a machine vibrates. An increase in vibration amplitude signals a problem in the rotational elements of the machine, such as insufficient lubrication. This information gets communicated to a maintenance engineer trained in vibration analysis, who will be able to identify the issue and schedule the necessary repairs before the machine breaks, causing unexpected and costly downtime.


Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yes indeed, Industry 4.0 in reality and practice is not all that complicated as it may sound.


In this example, manufacturers do not need to purchase a new machine with embedded connectivity or overhaul the way they currently manage equipment maintenance. Adding an accelerometer is enough. Realistically, most Industry 4.0 transformations can be achieved in a similarly simple and cost-effective manner.

This also removes problems related to compatibility and obsolescence — common issues for manufacturers investing in brand new technology to work alongside legacy equipment. Obsolescence is the natural consequence of continuous advances in technology and Industry 4.0 exasperates this. It is impossible to eliminate obsolescence completely but taking the retrofitting approach to Industry 4.0 can lessen the potential impact.

As one of the first step of implementing Industry 4.0, manufacturers should make a list of components on site that are already obsolete and rank them by importance. Critical applications, which are essential to operate the entire system, should be prioritized. Using this method, manufacturers won’t be forced to embark on a system overhaul if something breaks down.

Industry 4.0 can be confusing, but manufacturers needn’t believe that achieving Industry 4.0 connectivity is unattainable. The advantages of this concept can be experienced even with small and incremental investments. Combined with a clear obsolescence management plan, implementing Industry 4.0 isn’t such an intimidating process as first anticipated.


At Axon Networks we believe a part of this is already a reality and much more will change in no time, we may play an important role in helping you to leverage all of this to your advantage in many more ways!


Stay safe & healthy.


Regards,

Atul Ojha

Co-founder

Axon Networks

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