How are you getting your share of the pie that is the $227 quadrillion Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)? That’s a lot of money, and there’s plenty to go around, so what are you doing to cash in on this next industrial revolution? OK, to be fair, I made up that number. But, unless you’re a research analyst or someone putting together Q3 forecasts for your business unit, you didn’t even give that number a second thought.
And you probably shouldn’t. It doesn’t really matter. That number is as justifiable as it is arbitrary. Just pick an amount and then create a scenario and a timetable you can defend. “If you torture data long enough, it will confess,” Ronald Coase once said. The famed British economist also believed that the study of real-world markets was much preferred to speculating on theoretical ones.
In reality, this bold new landscape of connectivity has yielded opportunities for revenue streams steered by embankments of innovation. Nowhere was that more evident than at Hannover Messe in Germany, where Industry 4.0—the preferred European term, which includes IIoT, cyberphysical systems and more—was impossible to avoid and insistent in its resolve.
What’s the benefit?
Connected machinery gives the users and the builders and the component manufacturers and the cloud software companies the ability to monitor equipment health and conduct predictive analytics on the data. This means increased machine reliability by performing scheduled maintenance based on conditions and avoiding downtime because of equipment failure. Equipment failure can be extremely costly, and reducing or eliminating it is low-hanging fruit that the IIoT will allow organizations to pluck immediately. Predictive maintenance has been around for decades, but it’s a concept whose time is long overdue. And cloud connectivity will flatten enterprise networks and will harmonize IT and OT data.
But reduced maintenance costs are just a taste of the bounty to come. While equipment reliability will surely benefit, productivity and efficiency gains are where the real payoff lies. The ability to modify engineering capacity based on real-time data will translate into increased profits, affecting every aspect of the enterprise from a streamlined supply chain to customized product offerings.
“Time to market is one of the biggest issues in the world today,” said Raj Batra, president of Digital Factory for Siemens USA, one of the many bright minds speaking in Hannover. “It's about getting to market fast. Historically, the IT organization was very decentralized. There wasn't technology that spanned the spectrum. You can't control your manufacturing costs if you don't control your design.”
Imagination and innovation will run wild with the tools and automation that are literally at our fingertips. If this is starting to sound like futuristic science fiction, well, you’re half right. The technology is here. It’s real and it’s available. But how do we implement it when capital equipment typically won’t be replaced until the end of its useful life?
German technology company Harting won the 2016 Hermes Award at Hannover Messe for its Modular Industry Computing Architecture (MICA) product, an open, modular platform consisting of embedded hardware and software that allows intelligence to be added to existing machines and equipment to enable Industry 4.0. Through Linux technologies, MICA lets users virtualize field devices and add customizable hardware components that communicate via USB, and it can be operated using Power over Ethernet (PoE). Each unit contains a TPM chip and supports both SSL and VPN to allow secure authentication and communication between MICA modules.
Chaired by Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, director of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Hermes Award jury was impressed by the concept of lightweight virtualization using Linux-based containers which MICA implements on compact field devices. “By installing numerous integrated MICA modules, which essentially represent the nervous system of a digitized factory, an existing plant can be gradually migrated over to Industry 4.0, shortening the time needed for product changeovers along the way,” said Wahlster.
“Since 1947, Harting has been an exhibitor at Hannover Messe and over the intervening decades has evolved from being a pure hardware manufacturer to becoming a software-driven technology provider,” said Dr. Jochen Köckler, member of the Deutsche Messe Managing Board. “The award-winning MICA product represents a key contribution to the keynote theme for this year’s Hannover Messe and will make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to enter the world of Industry 4.0.”
The award was presented by Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka, German Federal Minister of Education and Research, to Dr. Karsten Walther, Harting IT Software Development, and Philip Harting, CEO, Board Connectivity & Networks, Harting Technology Group, at the Hannover Messe Opening Ceremony on April 24, which was attended by U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Figure 1).
Other companies nominated for the Hermes Award were Block Transformatoren-Elektronik, also of Germany; DDM Systems from Atlanta, Georgia; ITM Power of the United Kingdom; and J. Schmalz of Germany.
Financing the revolution
The Fourth Industrial Revolution will require companies to invest around the world, and a new study shows the role of financing is rising, particularly among small and mid-sized enterprises. This will result in investments of 250 billion euros by 2025 in Germany alone, according to research conducted by Boston Consulting Group. For the United States, this figure will amount to about $300 billion over the next three years. Manufacturers consider financing to be one of the five critical success factors in business, according to a global survey of CFOs at manufacturing companies that Siemens Financial Services (SFS) shared during a roundtable at the Hannover Messe 2016.
The other success factors are use of the latest technologies, increased operational efficiency, expanded product capacities and flexibility, as well as more competitive price structures. Respondents also said they needed simple, flexible, reliable and sustainable financing, provided by a partner that understands the industry.
“The Fourth Industrial Revolution is primarily about continuous, not one-time, investment, about being able to always use the newest technology rather than having to make a one-time purchase,” said Roland Chalons-Browne, CEO of SFS.
Digitalization is all about future payment streams and earnings potential. "Digitalization means huge opportunity for manufacturing,” said Siemens’ Batra.
“Digitalization is digitizing your assets to get value out of them,” explained Del Costy, vice president, U.S. country manager, Siemens PLM Software. “Determine where you want to take that. If you're dealing with complex manufacturing problems, digitalization lets you create the digital twin and simulate the manufacturing floor.”
During the roundtable, SFS discussed a number of financing solutions that facilitate long-range investments including pay-per-use models and “finetrading,” which is used to finance purchases of goods and enable companies to make flexible payments within a period of up to 180 days.
“The trend is moving in the direction of more flexible financing models, and this is just what we provide,” explained Chalons-Browne. “Through our combination of technology and financing knowledge, we can better assess risks as well as opportunities and develop tailored solutions. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is creating tremendous growth potential for small and mid-sized enterprises. Our financing solutions enable these companies to tap it."
“The role of software is increasing,” explained Wolfgang Portugaller, head of system architects, B&R Industrial Automation. “Many machines have been in operation on the shop floor for 20-25 years. Those machines have to be maintained. Reducing the maintenance effort is key for the machine builder to reduce total engineering costs and increase its profitability.”
How can you reduce the maintenance effort? “This is where the software engineer raises his hand,” offered Portugaller. “Modularity of the whole system is the key. Modular systems can be maintained, and separation of concerns is one way to make a machine more modular. This means a lower maintenance effort.”
At Hannover Messe, B&R introduced its cooperation with Canadian system integrator ATS Automation to market solutions integrating ATS’ industrial transport technologies with B&R’s control architecture to create new capabilities designed to go beyond conventional linear-motor-based conveyances.
The limitations of conventional conveying systems—speed and precision—as well as maintenance difficulties, such as belt tightening, are addressed by B&R’s next generation of industrial transport technology. Variable-speed conveying means no need for acceleration and deceleration conveyors. It’s also designed for production efficiency at any batch size. Faster product format changeover without mechanical adjustments translates to smaller, profitable production runs with a reduced machine footprint and line-rate increases of 50%.
ATS Automation’s 14 years of linear-motor-based transport technology is complemented by B&R’s software and robotics/CNC integration, which provides the interface to the automation systems with mapp technology and Automation Studio.
Synchronization, sequencing and integration with CNC, robotic, sensing and actuation are critical in manufacturing strategy. The machine’s automation can synchronize robotic operations with pallets that are in motion, move pallets forward and backward to perform multiple operations and optimize sequencing to minimize wait times between stations.
Simulation can be used to model the system and optimize cycle rates in advance. Work stations are infinitely adjustable across the entire track, so accumulation space is virtually eliminated. Wear parts are reduced to shuttle wheels and the tracks they run on.
With this machine, B&R has extended its mapp-technology approach to industrial transport, in which connected mapp objects with the familiar attributes of IEC function blocks allow the machine builder and user to program less and configure more.