The vision of Industry 4.0 presents a utopia interlinking all parts of an operation and where efficiencies, cost reductions and productivity increases can be achieved through integrated automation.
Mitsubishi Electric has embraced the smart factory and Industry 4.0 concepts. Now, the group has distilled this guidance into a white paper, ‘Industry 4.0 – The road to digitalisation in future manufacturing’.
Mitsubishi Electric marketing & operations group manager, Chris Evans, said: “When we start to consider Industry 4.0 it can be confusing. On one level we are looking at the convergence of business systems with the physical plant control but is this new? The real impetus behind Industry 4.0 comes not just from the link between the plant and the enterprise but once we have this link, not only can we have the means to improve performance but also to measure performance against an ideal model – the cyber physical system, if you will.”
In-depth analysis and continuous improvement define the spirit of Industry 4.0 – but how do we get there and is UK manufacturing ready to be smart?
“If we built a plant from the ground up on a greenfield site, we could build a smart factory embodying the goals of Industry 4.0, using technologies available today,” Evans commented.
“However the challenge with many manufacturing plants is that their automation systems have evolved over years, resulting in disparate automation platforms, poor network infrastructure, no data management strategy and little knowledge of how to get relevant information out.
“You have to define exactly what the manufacturer is trying to achieve, its drivers and problems. Look at existing automation and what network infrastructure is in place, if any. Accept it will take time and investment. Look for quick wins that demonstrate returns against a moderate budget.”
Mitsubishi Electric has undertaken smart factory implementations at its own facilities. At its Kani Works switchgear production facility, a smart factory upgrade increased productivity and an operating rate plus a reduction in the number of stages in the manufacturing process.
In its white paper Mitsubishi Electric defines the basis of Industry 4.0 and the overlapping principles of interoperability, information, integration, automation and autonomy. It defines the key features of Industry 4.0, looking at the importance of communications, cyber physical systems and cyber security.
“Most plants in the UK haven’t had the luxury of being designed from scratch to meet the goals of Industry 4.0 but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” concluded Evans.
“With strategic planning and a structured approach, any plant can reap the benefits of optimised, sustainable, safe production that is energy efficient, all within a fully connected supply chain. The road to digitalisation begins with the first step.”