Industry 4.0: why your factory should digitize

jelleke-vanooteghem-6NUlOHM40w8-unspl-1024x538 Industry 4.0: why your factory should digitize

Last year, we heard about Industry 4.0 more than ever. The trend of factories to digitize and automate production processes is growing rapidly and in the coming years we will see milestone changes in how everything is manufactured.

The idea that the fourth industrial revolution began right in the current era is preventing us from assigning an exact date to it, yet it is undeniable that it is here, and we, the industrial performers, are involved.

The Origin of Industry 4.0

The term Industry 4.0 suggests a trend of industrial automation that integrates some new production technologies to improve working conditions, create new business models and increase the productivity and production quality of the plants. The name derives from the European Industry 4.0 initiative, and itself is inspired by a German government project.

When it was implemented at the end of 2013, the project for the future Industry 4.0 included investments in infrastructures, schools, energy systems, research institutes and companies to modernize the German production system and bring German manufacturing back to being a world leader, making it globally competitive.

This was aimed at improving the efficiency of the factory system, reducing costs and maximizing productivity.

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What Industry 4.0 is: the fourth industrial revolution

The goal of modern companies is to make industrial production fully automated and interconnected. New digital technologies will have a profound impact on four development lines.

The Data

The use of data, the power of calculation, and connectivity are the keywords. This means: big data, open data, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine and cloud computing for the centralization of information and its storage.  Data traceability is essential to ensure the efficiency of systems and the immediate correction of errors.

Analyses

Once the data is collected, it is necessary to derive value from it in order to make the right decisions in implementing the systems. Many companies have already learned to obtain advantages and create value through “machine learning”, which is the ability of machines to improve their performance by “learning” from the collected and analyzed data. 

Human-machine interaction

The third direction of development is the interaction between man and machine, which involves the increasingly widespread “touch” interfaces and augmented reality. 4. Digital but real

Finally, a whole range of services exists that deals with the transition from digital to “real” and which includes additive manufacturing, 3D printing, robotics, communications, machine-to-machine interactions and new technologies, to store and use energy in a targeted way, streamlining costs and optimizing performance.

The smart factory

Factories 4.0 consist of environments in which machines are constantly interconnected with each other, capable of self-diagnosis and problem-solving that arise during the business process. It refers in particular to the ability of machines to maintain themselves, through the IoT (Internet of Things, or the extension of the Internet to the world of objects that we may define as concrete and real).

Therefore, essentially, the machines of a company will be able to identify any critical points in the production process and remedy them autonomously. Mechanization will make it possible for the production process to be adapted to the individual customer, making it extremely precise and specialized. The robots will work in contact with humans, learning and comprehending in a natural way and then use the knowledge to configure the most effective development technique. Furthermore, the energy supply of future factories will be waste-free and keep costs to a minimum thanks to new energy sources and better systems for energy control and management.

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What is a smart factory like?

Industry 4.0 goes through the smart factory concept, which consists of three parts:

Smart production:

new production technologies that create collaboration between all the elements present in production or collaboration between operators, machines and tools.

Smart service:

all the “IT infrastructures” and techniques that make it possible for systems to be integrated; but also all the structures that make it possible for companies to integrate (supplier – customer) with each other collaboratively and with external structures (roads, hubs, waste management, etc.).

Smart energy:

everything that is intelligent must also take into account the optimization of consumption and emissions, creating more efficient systems and reducing energy waste according to the typical paradigms of sustainable energy.

The advantages of Industry 4.0 and the Smart Factory
Intelligent data analysis

We have already said that data collection is essential, but only if we then know how to derive benefit from it to make the right decisions. It is essential to collect, understand and use the huge amount of data created in our companies every day, every minute. Digital transformation is exactly doing this by blending the virtual and physical worlds.

Making safe decisions

The development of a new product, the planning of a new plant or production with the help of digital tools creates a detailed virtual image. Digital reproduction makes it possible to obtain useful reports through the combination of reality simulations based on data analysis in a simulated environment. This makes it possible to create innovation faster and more reliably while requiring significantly fewer real-world prototypes. The data that is created when the product is made may be collected, analyzed and reported in the development phase. This helps improve and optimize new products and processes right from the start.

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How to become a true digital enterprise

Digitization and automation are the key elements in facing the challenges of today and tomorrow. The fusion of the virtual and physical world makes it possible to integrate the entire value chain seamlessly from design to implementation, optimizing it with a continuous flow of data. A true digital enterprise is able to harness the unlimited power of data by acquiring valuable insights to make fast and safe decisions and to create the best products in their category through efficient manufacturing.

LASIT laser markers meet all the criteria for becoming part of a smart factory. Developed by following the specific needs of our customers, our software is able to interface with factory ERP systems and exchange information through the main communication protocols.

LASIT took industrial development towards 4.0 very seriously and immediately understood the importance of digitizing systems and correctly analyzing data to streamline its production and its customers’ production. 

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