Finding success on the road to Industry 4.0

Six pillars of Industry 4.0: There’s so much talk about Industry 4.0, but many companies haven’t stopped to ask what success looks like and how to achieve it. Start with asking three questions, why the company needs Industry 4.0 and how to achieve success.

By Chris Vavra October 23, 2019

There are many terms about the future of manufacturing. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Factory of the Future, Industry 4.0, etc., that it has led to mass confusion. Many manufacturers are left asking questions about what it can do and not coming up with complete answers.

Rodney Rusk, Industry 4.0 business leader at Bosch Rexroth Corp., admitted his company grappled with the same problem. He explained how they overcame that in his presentation “Getting Started on the Road to Industry 4.0” at the Assembly Show in Rosemont, Ill.

“We had to have a common definition for ourselves of what it is across the company because all the different divisions had different ideas,” he said.

The common definition of Industry 4.0 they settled on is a merger of people, technology and information into a harmonious system, he said. Industry 4.0 should better leverage data for quicker, smarter real-time decisions to improve the business. As a result of an Industry 4.0 implementation, safety, quality, productivity and delivery should be faster and simpler for the end user.

Getting there, though, is easier said than done.

Six foundational pillars for Industry 4.0

Rusk said Industry 4.0 is the connectivity based on cyber-physical systems with the six following features.

  1. Distributed intelligence. “This is down to the device level on a machine whether it’s a computer numerical control (CNC), linear rail or something else, it doesn’t matter,” Rusk said. He said what matters is gathering the information and starting to make informed decisions.
  2. Fast integration. Better plug-and-play, Rusk said, is where many companies would, ideally, like to be. “We know this area is going to be speeding up in the next few years as technology improves,” he said.
  3. Open standards. Rusk admitted that during their Industry 4.0 journey, they found that open standards and protocols were causing conflicts with engineers and information technology (IT) people. This led the company to stop using proprietary technology and use open standards, which would allow for adaptation.
  4. Virtual real-time representation. Rusk said this step is about simulating manufacturing processes as realistically as possible so all the design decisions can be made up front.
  5. Digital lifecycle management. This pillar is about technology and solutions providing a level of predictability in maintenance and manufacturing operations.
  6. Secure value-creation network. “Cybersecurity is critical,” Rusk said. “We need to have a robust system in place because we worry that someone could create havoc whether it’s unintentional or someone actually targeting us.”

What all these steps have in common, Rusk said, is that people are the key players. “They’re the ones who are driving changes through idea generation and innovation.”

Three questions to ask before starting the Industry 4.0 journey

While Industry 4.0 offers great potential for companies looking to improve their operations, Rusk stressed that companies need to take a step back and ask three questions before starting this journey.

1. Have you defined the business value cases for Industry 4.0 in your plant? Before doing any Industry 4.0 work, Rusk said, companies need to do this in the first place. Doing it because everyone else is doing it is the wrong approach, he said. “Why are you going down this road? Are there core issues in the plant that need to be addressed and can this help us?

2. Do you have an I4.0 team with an I4.0 mindset? Getting the right people, Rusk said, starts with knowing the people in your division. “Ask questions like what kind of skillsets do they have? Are they interested? Are they engaged? Make sure you know who you’re assigning because getting into Industry 4.0 is not a part-time job.”

3. Do you have a strategic I4.0 roadmap? “When you’re starting a roadmap,” Rusk said, “you don’t need to have all the answers right then. What you need is to have an idea of where you’re going and what you want to address. Be sure to ask what the solutions look like and whether we’re planning Lean principles or if we’re getting out of practice.”

Six steps to success

Rusk admitted that when those involved at his company started their Industry 4.0 program, their eyes were bigger than their stomachs. They thought they knew the answers when they didn’t. They had good successes and “bad successes.” It took a long time for everyone to find the answer. It didn’t happen overnight, but the principles they learned have laid the foundation for future successes within their company.

“Take it from the perspective of knowing where you’re at and learning the different maturity levels so you can get to the connected factory,” Rusk said.

Step 1: Lean principle implementation. Lean is a culture in which people who look to continuously solve problems, Rusk said. In a Lean organization, tools are used to visualize problems and people are trained to solve them.

Step 2: Technology integration. It can be as simple as deploying sensor technology to troubleshoot or identify problem areas.

Step 3: Data collection. When reaching this step, companies need to be careful about why they’re collecting data. Collecting data just because has no value to a company. There needs to be a purpose.

Step 4: Data analysis and visualization. How is the data being visualized and used? What’s happening to the data? Rusk said it’s all about getting the right data to the right people, which leads to better and quicker decisions.

Step 5: Monitoring machine health. When people think of Industry 4.0, Rusk said, they’re usually think of this step, which involves machine learning. Most manufacturers, he said, are not at this level and there’s not much of it in the companies that are using.

Step 6: Factory-wide intelligence. “This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes into play,” Rusk said. “We already see it on some level with smart cars, smartphones, and other technologies.” This step, he said, is about the potential for predicting when something is going to fail before downtime occurs.

“The whole key of the six levels is we’re all starting somewhere,” Rusk said. “Figure out which level you’re at and start there. We tend to try and go for the end goal, but that causes a lot of confusion and ultimately wastes money. We like to think we’re ready, but often, we’re not.”

Chris Vavra is associate editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media & Technology,

Author Bio: Chris Vavra is senior editor for WTWH Media LLC.