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Industry 4.0 - concepts and practical solutions

Industry 4.0 - concepts and practical solutions

Industry 4.0 is a huge talking point within the manufacturing sector. The ultimate goal is to produce smarter factories which are more resource efficient, more productive and more competitive in a globalised economy. Lance Croutear of Bosch Rexroth explains that this presents new opportunities for manufacturers, but also new challenges in order to implement the vision of a connected industry successfully.

While the mobile operation of machinery is not new, there is a lack of universal interface technology between the worlds of automation and IT for the efficient integration of technologies. To analyse the likes of production control, traceability, quality assurance and production data effectively requires not only a stronger flow of information from automation to the IT world and back, but also the use of familiar languages and interfaces.

In light of increasingly complex systems and the increasing competitive pressure in engineering, smart devices are arriving at just the right time with their application software. As the industry develops more and more innovative and specialised functions offering maximum customer benefit, it is vitally important that these developments keep up with the concurrent entry of new IT technologies into the automation field - like smart devices and modern communication architectures.

Smart devices and mobile apps provide a lasting boost to innovation in automation technology. The software used in modern mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, is opening up new integration opportunities for enhancing production workflow and flexibility. For example, the integration of these technologies offers greater access to machine information, generating new application scenarios for the benefit of machine operators, such as concepts for simplified machine operation, data acquisition, service, diagnosis and maintenance.

The technology built into smart devices, particularly cameras, WLAN and GPS, offer additional benefits for maintenance, repair and the collection of operating data. Especially in the area of service, cameras and GPS offer new opportunities, such as the transmission of image information and the presentation of location-specific information.

Manufacturing at its most basic level will always retain its primary goal of producing goods at the lowest cost and highest quality possible. However, as we move forward and more manufacturers embrace the use of smart production, the integration of smart devices in the automation process will allow machine manufacturers more freedom for creative ideas in order to optimise the diagnosis, operation and commissioning of machines.

Highlighting just what is possible today, Bosch Rexroth has been recognised with an Industry 4.0 accolade as a pioneer in the practical implementation of the Internet of Things. A new assembly line at the company's plant in Homburg, Germany, was judged by an independent panel to be the best implementation of Industry 4.0 currently in production.

Among the judges was ROI Management Consulting. Director Hans-Georg Scheibe said: "The solution implemented by Bosch Rexroth is exemplary of the potential of Industry 4.0. The holistic and cost-efficient implementation has led to significant improvements in productivity and serves as a model for other companies."

The award winning assembly line utilises over 200 different hydraulic valves, all of which are assembled into a single value stream. In addition, nine intelligent stations sit along the assembly line, identifying how the finished product is to be manufactured and which operational stages are required.

Bosch Rexroth has reaped the benefits of increased efficiencies and productivity levels since implementing Industry 4.0 within its Homburg facility. The company is now in the process of working with other manufacturers who are striving to produce smarter factories which are more resource efficient, more productive and more competitive in a globalised economy.

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