Realizing The Promise Of Industry 4.0 Takes A Digital Transformation Village
Industry 4.0 promises to create the 4th industrial revolution and digitally transform manufacturing in both discrete and process industries.
Depending on who you talk to, it has been touted as being able to solve some very compelling challenges that manufacturing companies face in today’s market — from extreme supply, demand and design variability, to emerging markets of one and the growing need for rapid innovation.
The big challenge
The digital transformation required to enable Industry 4.0 — automation, integration, and optimization of processes and manufacturing lines — especially in an existing facility, often requires several solutions, and onboarding and connectivity of numerous pieces of equipment (including brownfield), often from numerous asset vendors. This often results in:
Proprietary and closed approaches to connectivity.
Lack of collaboration between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) vendors and interoperability of solutions.
Master data management challenges for asset semantic modelling.
Security concerns regarding connections, authentication and authorization.
The digital transformation becomes even more complex when companies consider the overwhelming volume of information that will be generated by intelligent, IoT enabled systems and the analysis resources needed to gain meaningful business and operational insights. Turning data from multiple systems and equipment from multiple vendors (all with different formats and standards), into actionable information for different roles and responsibilities ( ranging from plant operators to enterprise users), is no easy task.
Who are the players?
If we look at the players involved in delivering and leveraging Industry 4.0, there are 3 distinct parties involved:
Operators of factories, plants and warehouses.
Manufacturers of assets, also known as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s).
Technology providers and vendors of Industry 4.0/IIoT-solutions.
Each party comes with their own set of unique challenges. Operators work with multiple point solutions which are not inherently interoperable and require laborious orchestration to make it work. Yet we still fail to unlock potential value of this digital journey because:
Digitalization is often perceived as a long-term investment and change process.
Standardization is not easy, when there are lots of standards. There are multitude of standards across the IIoT solution platforms, which, at times are conflicting each other. This leads to a lack of consistent adoption by solution/platform providers.
Onboarding of assets is a manual intensive challenge. Especially when it comes to older legacy assets in the brownfield.
Bandwidth and the latency of the internet connectivity of Cloud based solutions can be a bottleneck. The amount of data generated by digitalized assets immanently generates the need for local buffering, aggregation and further computation before the results are sent to a connected cloud platform. A cloud only approach will not suffice to address the requirements for security, safety, latency, and relevance of data.
Edge computing with a hybrid solution (cloud and on-premise) is a must for any future solution architecture. There is also a need for seamless bi-directional collaboration with multiple asset vendors for contents and data and be able to access specialized OEM services and solution without having to sacrifice factory security and need to open firewall for each OEMs.
Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s) want to stay relevant and expand revenue potential by offering their asset specific expertise in for digital solutions and services such as:
Easy onboarding of assets, with common data semantics across customer’s own edge and Industry 4.0/IIoT cloud platform
A seamless bi-directional collaboration for content and data with multiple operators & enable remote proactive customer services.
In the current situation this is not easy to achieve as operators needs to open factory firewall access for each vendor, leading to security concerns and other challenges such as:
The lack of open and interoperable solutions and a collaboration platform often leads to complex point-to-point integrations.
Establishing a remote access connection e.g. for support, maintenance, and patching to assets on the productions site is a complicated organizational and technical endeavor. More importantly leads to plant security concerns if there is need to open multiple firewalls
Scalable commercialization of cloud-based Industry 4.0/IIoT solutions need a standardized way for the distribution of software.
But to create interoperable and interconnected complex solutions consisting of multiple smaller solutions (e.g. a fully automated welding cell in the automotive industry) the establishment of a standardized communication layer is always associated with high efforts.
The big opportunity
Despite all of the challenges associated with Industry 4.0, the opportunity remains very compelling. In 2015, The McKinsey Global Institute estimated the value creation potential of factory digitization (also known as Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT, or Industrie 4.0) to range from $1.2–3.7 trillion in 2025.
It is estimated that there are over 400 IoT platform offerings and thousands of IoT application startups competing for mindshare, budgets, and value realization. In addition, each manufacturer of equipment and OT providers brings in unique expert specific to their machines in form of IOT applications adding to further complexity for customers.
So, the current situation is that companies are investing in Industry 4.0/IIoT Solutions from different vendors on different platforms, and the burden to face the challenges described above is carried by them.
What is required?
The current approach, where each vendor embraces a different IoT platform to offer standalone point solutions is not sustainable. To enable successful Industry 4.0 adoption, we need:
A common agreement between vendors over standardized connectivity and enable compatible across respective solutions.
An extensible edge computing platform architecture.
Interoperability between Industry 4.0/IIoT solutions and semantic models of assets (products).
Tight collaboration between OEMs and Operators to unlock potential and value for all.
To achieve this, a new paradigm is needed wherein customers (operators) and their trusted vendors of assets (OEM’s), and solution providers work together to deliver open, interoperable and compatible platforms & solutions to collaborate content and data securely.
Creating an open Industry 4.0 alliance
In April 2018 a group of companies decided that “enough was enough” and formed The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance. The alliance charter is to “create customer value through holistic interoperable Industry 4.0 solutions and services in a common framework powered by an alliance of leading industry partners to drive the digitization of the factory, plant & warehouse of our customers”.
The founding members are Beckhoff, Endress + Hauser, Hilscher. IFM, Kuka, Multivac, SAP and Voith.
A winning formula
These member companies are working together to create an ecosystem that will subscribe to a common hybrid software platform architecture and ensure collaboration between operators and OEM’s.
The alliance aims to accelerate the digitization in factories, processing plants and warehouses, and in doing so, create mutual benefits for both the customers and members. The framework of the alliance enhances the collaboration between customers (operators) and manufacturers of assets (OEM’s), through (near) real-time visibility of asset operations and usage.
The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance is looking to rapidly expanding this ecosystem and is open for membership to all. Customers are already benefiting by working with alliance members who are part their own eco-system of trusted vendors of assets, solutions and services.
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