Industry 4.0 and industrial Internet of Things are automation investment opportunities

There is big money backing industrial Internet of Things, big data, and Industrie 4.0. Ensure you use what’s needed, and maybe more, to update your intelligent manufacturing efforts.


There is big money backing industrial Internet of Things, big data, and Industrie 4.0. Make sure you get yours. Do you remember Y2K? The sky was falling then, and chief executive officers took notice that their factories might come to a screeching halt overnight. So they listened to their vice presidents of engineering.

Industrie 4.0 (the German word "industrie" is used more often than the English "industry") is one of those rare opportunities when operations can get the attention of management.

Flashback to December 1999: A large multinational company's automation manager was tasked with determining how much needed to be spent to prevent the possibility of a Y2K shutdown in manufacturing.

He calculated $30 million.

"No," he was told, "you will spend $120 million."

"Why? My evaluation shows we only need to replace about $30 million."

"Wall Street believes we need to spend $120 million, so that's what you'll spend. Otherwise, the stock will tank, and that will cost us a lot more than $120 million."

So, the automation manager was a kid in a candy store and used carte blanche to update everything in sight.

(No one thinks about how Y2K contributed to the bubble bursting a year later. But think about it: For Y2K, every enterprise bought every piece of computing hardware it would need for years.)

Today we find ourselves in much the same scenario. There is much hype about IoT. Industrie 4.0 is essentially a version of industrial IoT derived by the German government to differentiate its machinery industry's advanced application of control technologies.

Once security is addressed, remote access to machines, such as through this Apple iPad, is part of the productivity increases expected with Industrie 4.0, Industry 4.0, industrial Internet of Things, and big data initiatives. Courtesy: B&R Industrial AutoThe Germans are not wrong. It's just that controls engineers have wanted to implement higher levels of distributed intelligence and connectivity using available technologies for over a decade, going on two. But security issues have blocked the kind of access required to take advantage of remote access. And stingy capital budgets have prevented widespread adoption of such functions as predictive maintenance, networked safety, energy monitoring, and advanced diagnostics. 

IoT or Industry 4.0 strategy

This is where we invoke the Y2K rule. When some of the largest tech companies on the planet have started consortiums with an entrance fee of $50,000 to play, you can expect some big messaging to corporate management. So use it!

"What is your IoT (or Industrie 4.0 if you're German) implementation strategy?"

Dust off your plan to connect machinery on the factory floor and rename it as your IoT strategy. It is as simple as that, aside from adding some new technologies and processes to appease the IT security folks. There are now a growing number of secure data acquisition cloud services out there. The idea is: Do your due diligence, pick one, and get started.

As a result, you will buy fewer plane tickets for techs to go out in the field and troubleshoot issues that might have been solved in minutes online. You will be able to manage global operations from a centralized engineering department. You will be able to finally do predictive maintenance, energy management, and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) across all lines and all plants everywhere. There is also the ISA/IEC-62443 (formerly ISA-99) standard for automation system security.

And don't forget to use ISA TR.88.00.02 (PackML), not only for packaging but for all manufacturing state models, modes, and tag names. It isn't just for packaging anymore, and it works great to get apples-to-apples data out of connected machinery from different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) using different control platforms.

To get the most out of IoT, think Y2K.

- John Kowal is director of business development for B&R Industrial Automation Corp.; edited by Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering,

ONLINE November, this article links to additional Industry 4.0/IoT coverage online.

Key concepts

  • Automation investments may increase with attention to Industry 4.0 and industrial Internet of Things.
  • Ensure you update intelligent manufacturing with industrial Internet of Things, big data, and Industrie 4.0 efforts.
  • Standards such as IES-62443 (ISA-99) and ISA TR.88.00.02 (PackML) can help even beyond packaging.

Consider this

To continue momentum, offer return on investment metrics as budgets increase for industrial Internet of Things, big data, and Industrie 4.0.

ONLINE extra

See related Industry 4.0 articles below.

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