How do you define IoT and Industry 4.0 as it relates to industrial manufacturing?

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By Bill Lydon

Conferences, media, vendors, automation industry consultants, business consultants, and even politicians are discussing and making presentations about how the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 are creating a revolution in manufacturing. I am convinced we are at a juncture of major industrial automation changes driven by technology advancements. The digital revolution of business functions, including accounting, supply chain, human resources, procurement, customer services, business intelligence, and distribution management, has been refined over multiple generations. In contrast, the industrial and process automation industries have not transformed at the same rate. They must be digitized now for manufacturers to compete. At the end of this article I have the results of a small survey of readers that may be interesting. I asked if they are familiar with IoT and Industry 4.0 as they relate to manufacturing.

Manufacturing competitiveness

In my travels throughout industry, including Europe, it is clear manufacturers worldwide understand the need to improve productivity to remain competitive. History has proven that organizations that resist the adoption of appropriate new disruptive technology are likely to become stagnant and be leapfrogged by more advanced competitors. Conversely, companies that leverage disruptive innovations position themselves to become industry leaders.

Technology matters

New technologies and concepts have an impact that requires an open mind, because they disrupt the status quo. Change seems obvious in hindsight, but consider the birth of the programmable logic controller (PLC). Before the PLC, there were large racks of relays to perform automation, particularly in the automotive industry. Changing manufacturing when there was an automotive model change was a large, laborious project that took months. This challenge was the catalyst for the development of the PLC, which is used throughout industry and which we take for granted. At the beginning there was a lot of skepticism. Recently Richard (Dick) Morley, considered the father of the PLC, died. His words from the past describe the skepticism at the time, "We had some real problems in the early days convincing people that a box of software, albeit cased in cast iron, could do the same thing as 50 feet of cabinets, associated relays and wiring." (See "Dick Morley - Remembering an automation industry visionary and challenging thinker" [https://www.isa.org/intech/201712talk].)

Hindsight is always easy, but picking the right technologies to apply at a point in time requires analysis, creativity, and some trial and error.

IoT

The term Internet of Things has become pervasive with the vision of a massively instrumented world of intelligent inputs (analog, digital, video, audio) and outputs (analog, digital, video, audio) communicating using Internet data communications concepts and technologies. There is a broad range of emerging IoT applications for health care, traffic control, vehicle safety, energy, agriculture, and manufacturing-to name a few. This vision includes coupling massive sensing and control with big data and analytics to accomplish advanced levels of optimization and efficiency.

Industrial automation has a history of adopting commercial technology as it becomes established and broadly available. Applying IoT technologies to improve performance and enable better integration with business systems is a logical step. The application of broadly used IoT technologies will also bring down the hardware, software, and labor costs of implementation just as the PLC did years ago.

Industry 4.0

The Internet of Things is the key enabling technology in the Industry 4.0 project conceived under the German federal government's High-Tech Strategy focusing on information and communication technology (informatics) to improve manufacturing. The goal is the intelligent factory (smart factory), which is characterized by adaptability, resource efficiency, and ergonomics, as well as the integration of customers and business partners in business and value processes.

Professor Detlef Zühlke, PhD, scientific director at Innovative Factory Systems at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, has described how each element of everything, from the factory down to machines and their sensors and actuators, will become smart (i.e., have a built-in Web server capability). This makes everything addressable and accessible in the connecting network. Each object can communicate with every other object regardless of application level or function. The Industry 4.0 concepts are now being adopted worldwide.

Germany's Industry 4.0 (https://www.automation.com/automation-news/article/industry-40-only-one-tenth-of-germanys-high-tech-strategy) initiative has ignited worldwide cooperative efforts, including Made in China 2025 (http://english.gov.cn/2016special/madeinchina2025), Japan - Industrial Value Chain Initiative, and Make in India (http://www.makeinindia.com/home).

Industry 4.0 for Process

Industry 4.0 for Process is another initiative by NAMUR that applies Industry 4.0 concepts to process automation to achieve a holistic integration of automation, business information, and manufacturing execution function to improve all aspects of production and commerce across company boundaries for greater efficiency. A number of NAMUR working groups are part of Working Area 2 (WA 2), Automation Systems for Processes and Plants, working toward standards. NAMUR is an international association of user companies established in 1949. It represents their interests concerning automation technology. Organizational goals include adding value through automation engineering and facilitating "frank and fair dialogue" with manufacturers. See the article "Industry 4.0 for Process" for more detail (https://www.isa.org/intech/20170601).

Competition

Developing economies have an advantage when adopting new technology, because they are not tied down to legacy automation system and machine investments. This situation sets the stage for leaping ahead of the rest of the world, a familiar pattern characterized by Japan's post-World War II period of record economic and market share growth in several areas, including automotive, television, and electronics.

Accounting methods in developed countries for projecting the productive life of manufacturing infrastructure generally do not account for forward investments by new competitors that make the write-off assumptions of investments inaccurate. This causes manufacturing and automation people to be unable to make investments to stay competitive.

Survey

We recently did a survey to find out how aware people are of the terms "Internet of Things" and "Industrie/Industry 4.0." This survey is not sponsored by any supplier. There are many common themes in the answers that I think fall into two broad categories.

  • improved communications and data transfer
  • transformational concepts and technologies for manufacturing

Hype

There has certainly been a lot of hype and some frustration around the topics, as noted in this comment from one of the survey respondents:

"For one, I don't like it. The 'Internet of Things' has been force fed down our (ICS/SCADA folks) throats as now IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). The day I have to put in a help desk request to IT to look at a transmitter on the scrubber or high-pressure reactor is the day I retire. Ever heard of SHODAN? Also starting to see folks with title of Industry x.0 expert?!! Oh, brother please!"

Among other things, this comment points out cybersecurity concerns of applying these technologies broadly and a concern for the lack of understanding by IT people for the precision and reliability required in industrial automation.

This person's last statement, "Also starting to see folks with title of Industry x.0 expert?!! Oh, brother please!"  amplifies a concern I have of a "thundering hoard" of IT and business consulting firms telling the management of manufacturing companies they are the "experts" and will guide the transition applying these new technologies. I have seen this phenomenon before over my career, and it never has a good ending.

Automation professionals have a responsibility to their organizations to understand and guide their employers in the adoption of new technology. I think it is imperative for automation professionals to understand and be the guide in the journey of leveraging these significant new technologies. I have highlighted this in editorials:


Survey responses and invitation

Comments from the survey follow. I invite you to add your own thoughts by taking the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DX6WQ9J.

IoT and Industry 4.0 survey responses

How do you describe IoT?

Communications and data transfer

"IoT can be defined as a technology that integrates, transmits, and stores data gathered by sensors into a cloud to be accessed by authorized personnel."

"IIoT has four functional facets: (1) IT-OT convergence, (2) cybersecurity, (3) services 2.0, (4) consolidation of businesses."

"Manufacturing devices will be connected to a central system within or outside the factory."

"Connecting the things in process automation to make everything work better."

"Intelligent devices that can transmit data via Ethernet or Internet or can have computational devices out on the edge, like a phone or tablet."

"Connectivity between devices and applications and making data available to all."

"Digital communication infrastructure that allows common routable messaging connections for industrial automation applications."

"Utilizing connectivity and technology to leverage information for better decision making to improve business results, including all aspects of our lives."

"A way to integrate equipment in a network and provide this information to everybody that needs this information."

"A technology that allows a wide range of interconnection among all production devices in the manufacturing process."

"A device that is wireless, connecting to a network, that performs a task such as data collection or control."

"An integrated way to connect and obtain online information about equipment and tools. With more intelligence at the things, it will be easier to connect and extract the information."

"It is a concept of how to integrate devices in a decentralized architecture."

"I understand it as the next step in automation in all your residential applications, manufacturing, and industry. With the possibility of addressing and communicating machine to machine and human, the amplitude of the automation will reach levels of development to benefit all the productive levels."

"Industrial IoT is when so many devices become digital communication friendly and transmit/receive a plethora of data with each other and the control room."

"Myriad (or any enabled) devices talking to each other, in the context of a traditional engineering work station, where I can see/access any device in the plant, be it instrument, valve, controller, etc. Communication and connectivity are expected to be as secure and reliable as traditional redundant 'hardwired' networks."




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Transformational

"IoT relates to industrial manufacturing through the automation and management of machines and systems through the Internet. Connecting processes, control, monitoring, and management of these systems allows manufacturers to better manage and access their factory operations, by allowing different systems to 'talk to each other and understand' what each system needs and when to keep processes running smoothly."

"Enable systematic use of best practices to improve safety and profitability independent of people and expertise, using data collection and processing in the applicable context."

"A connected network of sensor-based monitoring and production equipment and software, providing actionable information to people to enable better informed decisions. Access to this information is not bound or restricted by a physical connection to the facility where the physical equipment operates."

"IoT in industrial manufacturing is the connection of different systems in the entire enterprise (machines, lines, processes, ERP/MOM/MES/CRM, etc.) and using that information to become more efficient, add revenue streams, improve customer service, and overall make better decisions to increase revenue, lower costs, and improve customer relationships."

"The Industrial Internet of Things is referring to applying new technology to problems that have existed in manufacturing for many years. For example: asset management in the cloud instead of on premise (which has been done for years). The basic concept is to gather up all the available process and asset data, then do some analysis on it to provide actual insights to the manufacturer (operator) so it can make better decisions. Technologies like wireless, Ethernet, manufacturing execution systems, and cloud-based platforms are all part of IoT "solutions" that can be provided to help solve these age-old problems."

"IoT is the connection of all relevant devices for the purpose of rending continuous data to the cloud for the purposes of optimizing systems through data analytics for process and control optimization."

"A technology trend aiming to connect assets, systems, and people to the cloud, leveraging its capabilities to analyze, automate, and scale with the final purpose of dramatically increasing the productivity, safety, and power of people at work."

"The analysis of production and asset data to provide improvement of the manufacturing process."

"Set of technologies and data management solutions to enhance end-to-end industrial manufacturing, making products and services more digital."

"Using plant I/O data (which has been available for years) to solve problems above the plant-floor level (larger corporate goals)."

"Adoption of IT technologies/principles to gather data and turn it into information, which drives flexibility, efficiency, and profit."

"IIoT is an amalgamation of hardware, software, and services that help democratize data from the edge of the network on plant floors or remote sites for the purpose of analysis, insight, performance, and collaboration. The key to this effort is using enabling technologies prevalent in both information technology (software, connectivity, protocols, data sets) and operations technology domains (industrially hardened, highly reliable, electrical, and digital interfaces to real-world devices) designed to work together to achieve a desired result."

"IoT incorporates machine learning and big data technology, harnessing the sensor data, machine-to-machine communication, and automation technologies, which lead to improved quality control, sustainable and green practices, supply chain traceability, and overall supply chain efficiency in industrial manufacturing."

Opinion

"Buzzword to describe what we have been doing for more than 25 years."

"For one, I don't like it. The 'Internet of Things' has been force fed down our (ICS/SCADA folks) throats as now IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things). The day I have to put in a help desk request to IT to look at a transmitter on the scrubber or high-pressure reactor is the day I retire. Ever heard of SHODAN? Also starting to see folks with title of Industry x.0 expert?!! Oh, brother please!"

Industry 4.0

Communications and data transfer

"Connecting the things in manufacturing so that everything works better, having a better image of your facility."

"Coordinated intelligent production with distributed decision-making machines enabling custom productions comparable to mass productions cost."

"Originally a concept from the German government. Industry 4.0 represents networked systems that can send data to the cloud, cloud computing, and reporting back to industrial sites."

"I don't see any value in differentiating Industry 4.0 from IoT. Industry 4.0 is a German term, and the rest of the world uses IoT. They are basically the same thing. See answer to question 6." (IoT answer: "The Industrial Internet of Things is referring to applying new technology to problems that have existed in manufacturing for many years. For example: asset management in the cloud instead of on premise (which has been done for years). The basic concept is to gather up all the available process and asset data, then do some analysis on it to provide actual insights to the manufacturer (operator) so it can make better decisions. Technologies like wireless, Ethernet, manufacturing execution systems, and cloud-based platforms are all part of IoT "solutions" that can be provided to help solve these age-old problems.")

"Connectivity between devices and applications, making data available to all. With more intelligence at the things, it will be easier to connect and extract the information."

"I go back to the early days of ISA standards and Levels 0 through 4. Industry 4.0 has had a lot of different descriptions and has been confused by incorrect marketing. My belief is that Industry 4.0 would use current technologies and incorporate Industrial Internet of Things devices."




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Transformational

"Industry 4.0 is a concept where (based on some framework) an entire manufacturing factory can be transformed to an IoT-based factory."

"The end-to-end integration of information from conceptual design through manufacturing, materials management, and supply chain delivery in industrial manufacturing."

"It is a new paradigm of value transformation based on the use of new disruptive technologies, such as IoT, AI, 3D, AR, providing opportunities to change from outside in: the services, processes, and product itself."

"Embrace of technologies like analytics, big data, augmented reality, 3D printing, and others, to enhance end-to-end industrial manufacturing."

"Using plant I/O data (which has been available for years) to offer more depth of understanding to customers. It means knowing the data that matters to customers and using it to extend what a manufacturer can offer them."

"Industry 4.0 describes the means to manufacture a lot size of one as cost and resource effectively as a lot size of 10,000 by connecting the consumer with the producer and the entire supply chain. Industry 4.0 is intended to ensure Europe's manufacturing competitiveness through the adoption of industrial compatible IT technologies (cybersecurity)."

"Industry 4.0 is the fourth industrial revolution in which the factory will become a smart factory."

"Industry 4.0 is the next (current) revolution of the manufacturing landscape, where equipment, machines, people, businesses, and supply chain are highly connected, thereby generating optimized results."

"New model production management and operation control, that use disruptive technologies in an integrated structure."

"Industry 4.0, in my point of view, is a combination of many technologies that focus on a higher performance."

"Automation Industry 4.0 represents the next step in productivity with the exploitation of the main technologies available today, such as IIoT, 3D printing, wireless, HMIs, and others that will enable optimized levels of productivity. The sum of these new technologies will provide a technological development that will represent a breakdown of paradigms and the creation of new companies changing the relationship between customer and producers in the future."

"Production concepts, based on the use of many different data/information technologies, organized in order to give directions how to improve efficiency and optimization of the manufacturing process."

"Utilizing connectivity and technology to leverage information for better decision making to improve business results, focusing on manufacturing and adjacent functions."

Opinion/observation

"It is the IT aspect that threw in the term 'industrial.'"

"A set of standards coming out of Germany that define the processes and procedures used in implementing IOT in manufacturing."

"IIoT and Industry 4.0 are quite similar in practical terms."

"Same as IIoT (communications infrastructure), but with some emphasis on applications for industrial automation."

"Buzzword to describe what we've been doing for 25+ years with a couple of exceptions. Automated analytics and machine learning are somewhat newer technologies, although also 15+ years old."

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About the Author

Bill LydonBill Lydon is chief editor of InTech. Lydon has been active in manufacturing automation for more than 25 years. He started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers and process control technology. In addition to experience at various large companies, he co-founded and was president of a venture-capital-funded industrial automation software company.

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