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Intelligent, efficient, Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 offers endless opportunities for German companies. Small businesses in particular have new challenges to overcome. The road to the smart factory is not lined with intelligent machines alone.
Manufacturing facilities that share information with work pieces and call a technician for help if needed? This vision becomes reality with Industry 4.0. Machine production is networked into a self-learning system using cutting-edge communication technology – resulting in a smart factory. The foundation for this modern industrial revolution is the Internet of Things (IoT), which enables continuous data exchange between all participating units – from the production robot to inventory management to the microchip. This connects all production and logistics processes together, making our industry more intelligent, efficient and sustainable.
Small steps to the smart factory
To move closer to this vision, more and more companies are integrating smart machines into their production process. Trumpf , one of the world's largest providers of machine tools, uses laser cutting machines with intelligent lenses, for example. If a lens become dirty, it automatically sends an alert to the maintenance team. This saves the company unnecessary servicing and cleaning costs.
Software manufacturer SAP has gone a step further in digitization: In the Open Integrated Factory, an autonomous process chain, work pieces inform the various manufacturing systems about how they should be processed. The machine can register the work piece's information, manufacture different versions of a given product and even learn new production processes while doing so.
Smart machines are not uncommon even in small businesses these days. According to a survey by consulting firm BCG , one in every five German companies has already launched its first digitization measures. But small companies in particular still view Industry 4.0 with skepticism. Their main reason: the lack of data security. To counter these risks, research institutes such as the Fraunhofer Institute are working on new approaches to industry security. Complex attack scenarios are modeled in virtual test laboratories, in order to optimize existing security systems and develop targeted prevention strategies.
Along with security gaps, many companies also complain of the lack of qualified workers. Because standardized, simple tasks are increasingly performed by robots in Industry 4.0, workers' need for meaningful IT expertise is growing. In a survey by the German Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (BITKOM) , 94 percent of the 559 surveyed companies reported that work in their manufacturing processes will require more extensive interdisciplinary expertise in the future. Specialized further education measures already exist and are being used in daily business to integrate insufficiently qualified workers into Industry 4.0. For example, smart data glasses guide employees step by step through the repair of a complex system, while smart gloves can immediately notify the worker if a component is incorrectly mounted.
The Industrial Automation and Digital Factory flagship trade fairs at HANNOVER MESSE showcase in presentations, demos and conferences how closely the virtual and real worlds will interconnect in the future.
Original: Hannover Messe