En Vogue: Industry 4.0 and Digitally-Fashioned Connectivity

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En Vogue: Industry 4.0 and Digitally-Fashioned Connectivity

Industry 4.0 promises efficiency payoffs. Here's why you should care.

· IoT Zone ·
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Industry 4.0 is trendy. Besides everything else, Industry 4.0 is a digitally-networked communication style. It's en vogue to fashion your whole enterprise as Industry 4.0 and an IoT-compliant business. When you start shaping your enterprise to make it Industry 4.0-capable, you are engaging in the digital transformation of our digital transformation-driven times. You become a part of the tech-savvy crowd in your industry sector, claiming that Industry 4.0-readiness brings about huge efficiency payoffs for your company. Industry 4.0 looks good and sounds good to business owners who want to boost annual sales and increase overall revenue. However, critical minds can't shake off that feeling that Industry 4.0 is much like a smooth operator, continually whispering "success is yours" in your ear, gently nudging you to make a move into a new way of industrialized manufacturing that will make you more successful. Can this smooth operator be trusted? Is the hype about huge efficiency payoffs justified?

Will Industry 4.0 really improve efficiency in your production plant? Will it really smarten up business processes? Or will companies only look smart because they are now part of the tech-savvy, digitally-interconnected crowd but not really win much? To answer these questions, we need to look at today's technological landscape and also at the much-talked-about developments concerning automated manufacturing, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Moreover, we need to take a look at how the digital transformation is changing businesses and work life — and we need to consider the impact Industry 4.0 innovations have around the world today.

Smart Technologies Are Put to Use in Industries Worldwide

To answer the question of whether this hype about entering a hyper-digitized world with holistically interconnected industries and businesses is really justified, we need to look at what is happening in our world today. Smart technologies are put to use in a huge range of industries and business sectors worldwide. As we can see, the Internet of Things (IoT) is everywhere. People around the world make use of smart devices and intelligent software apps that tap into cloud-based communication platforms. They use a huge range of smart technologies to solve almost anything and everything that can be solved by making use of intelligent machines in connection with smart software programs and interconnected IT systems. We are living in a networked world that is highly flexible and very mobile. You can access your emails from anywhere at any time – and you can even do remote repairs with a range of digital tools that, otherwise, would have needed a service engineer's on-site presence for even the smallest issue. But now, remote technical intervention is possible, as well as technical coaching for on-site engineers. Thus, stationary work at any local production site and mobile work from anywhere in the world can be brought together. They can be intertwined through powerfully networked digitization that makes production management both transparent and technologically transcendent, lifting it into the cloud. Obviously, troubleshooting has become much more versatile and flexible and less expensive. Networked systems help connect people to get work done in smarter ways. That is one major advantage of digitized connectivity. It empowers businesses to get more done in less time and to get it done more efficiently. Even simple machines can be made to share their machine data with other systems by using smart interface technologies like the OPC Router (www.opc-router.com) that can serve as a versatile data hub in order to connect machines with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and SAP-ERP (using SAP Interfaces) as well as with warehouse management systems, labeling machines, printers of all sorts, and hugely interconnected logistics management systems that communicate with various other data hubs and communication centers for transportation and logistics. Industry 4.0-ready and IoT-ready applications, communication platforms that are backed by versatile servers and modern database systems, put digital interconnectivity within reach of each and every business or enterprise. While blockchain technologies, quantum computing, augmented analytics, and artificial intelligence are only within reach for big and leading corporations, broad cloud-based interconnectivity is available to everyone in our day and time. Increasingly, work areas are not only supported by digital systems but driven by them.

New Wave of Digital Transformation Triggers Fundamental Changes in Business and Production

Digital transformation comes in waves, and these waves differ greatly between industries and business sectors. However, whenever a wave of digital transformation hits a certain market sector, fundamental changes occur that change the face of business and production for the respective industry sector. This is especially true for the many waves of digital transformation we are witnessing today. Companies like Herma, for instance, rode the wave of digital transformation skillfully. The successful label manufacturer implemented full digital interconnectivity by using industrial software provided by inray. The DMK in Altentreptow, which is a part of Germany's largest dairy group, screened technological developments carefully as part of their ongoing optimization efforts in order to benefit quickly from technological advancements to improve the management of their milk collection vehicles and milk tank purification procedures. Instead of being hit hard by the digital transformation, they became a part of it by making use of the OPC Router for utilizing the best of RFID technology, IT technology, and operational technology at their dairy plant.

While some technological innovations lead to digital transformations that change business processes as a whole — regardless of business sector — some technological advancements only impact select industry sectors — and impact them greatly. A universal change occurred when businesses started using PCs, for instance. Generally speaking, most business administration tasks are tackled using software programs that are either desktop-based or browser-based. All businesses are familiar will these digital concepts and make use of them, and many see the value of high-speed cross-platform communication. They know that smart technologies are necessary to avoid falling behind. The challenge is to discern the digital transformation forces in your own business sector rather than only considering generic changes that change the face of society and global trade as a whole.

We all know that we are living in a digital world. That knowledge will not help any business stay compatible. More informed and more detailed insights are necessary. Manufacturers of devices used in cars need to be informed about the connection between Industry 4.0, IoT, and artificial intelligence, for instance. The Internet of Things also includes "Autonomous Things." Autonomous Things are AI-empowered technologies that are employed to improve automation for cars, robots, and agricultural machines. Artificial intelligence (AI) enhances a wide range of appliances, software programs, and self-optimizing systems that are built into machines and devices used in robotics, cars, and other vehicles and drones. Without networked digital connectivity, artificial intelligence wouldn't be as powerful. Only when people and places, machines, and devices are interconnected, artificial systems can learn to improve themselves. We are seeing the change before our very eyes: digital connectivity via multiple digital platforms interconnects regular people, experts, engineers, developers, scientists, businesses, nations, and the whole world on the one hand; while on the other hand systems, appliances, applications, machines, and devices are interlinked with each other or with powerful communication platforms to merge human interaction with technology-based interaction and machine-based interaction.

Industry 4.0-Readiness Is Not a Matter of Trendiness But Economic Survival

Industry 4.0 causes disruptive effects because failing to participate in the digital transformation has already put many companies out of business around the world. Knowing this, it is important to understand that Industry 4.0-readiness is not a matter of trendiness but of economic survival. It's obvious that the digital transformation isn't about a "new industrial chic," even though various magazines and news reports adorn their publications with intriguing and sometimes glamorous images of interconnected manufacturing machines and devices. The real glamour is the increase of performance based on Industry 4.0-compliance.

Industry 4.0 isn't an option. It's obligational. You have to become a part of it in order to stay connected — in a business world that is increasingly relying on multi-level cross-connectivity between various industry and business sectors. You have to become a part of it in order to become more efficient because your competitors will do all they can to reduce manufacturing costs and be able to offer better product prices, better products, and better services.

Once it's interconnected, whether your company will have more success cannot be promised, but it is clear that — sooner or later — you will lose market shares to your competitors if you don't start making much-needed adjustments and modifications toward interconnectivity between devices, machines, and systems both for stationary systems and cloud-based services. For client-based solutions, the OPC Router can interconnect PLCs, machines, printers, labeling systems, MES SAP-ERP systems, and various databases to move any company toward more or complete digital connectivity. Companies who are keen to enhance their business performance in step with technological advancement will have to find just the right mode of action to become Industry 4.0-capable. Clearly, smartening up your digital connections and bringing holistic connectivity to your enterprise is more than smartening up systems to increase revenues and annual sales. It's ensuring your company can survive the digital revolution that is taking place.

automation, connected devices, digital transformation, iiot, industry 4.0, iot, opc ua, performance, plcs, systems

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