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Smart Manufacturing and Industry 4.0

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[The View from The Shard, London, United Kingdom - Benjamin Davies]


Embracing Industry 4.0 - and Rediscovering Growth


 - The Foundation of Smart Manufacturing

With the explosion of new innovations, such as artificial intelligence, big data, automation, Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT), robotics, additive technologies, and augmented reality, leading experts agrees that the convergences of these recent innovations will transform every link in manufacturing value chain. McKinsey estimates that IoT applications alone in manufacturing settings is expected to generate $1.2 to $3.7 trillion of economic value annually by 2025*. Governments such as Germany establishes a national policy to support this transformation.

The foundation of smart manufacturing is an integrated platform that unites all of the domains required to engineer, manufacture and deliver today’s smart products. Smart manufacturing is a digitalized development strategy that encompasses the entire process, from PCB design and factory floor optimization to incorporating customer feedback in new designs. This approach can reduce time-to-market by up to 50 percent, shrink development costs by as much as 25 percent and enable electronics companies to deliver near-perfect product quality


- The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0)

Smart manufacturing is the use of real-time data and information and communications technology (ICT) to advance manufacturing intelligence, and to significantly improve productivity, performance, technology adoption, as well as addressing sustainability issues. More specifically, this will require the research, development, and transition to industry of advanced sensing and instrumentation; process monitoring, control, and optimization; advanced hardware and advanced software platforms; and real-time and predictive modeling and simulation technologies. 

Smart industry is a synonym for Industry 4.0 or industrial transformation in the fourth industrial revolution within which smart manufacturing de facto fits. Industry 4.0 is the name given to the German strategic initiative to establish Germany as a lead market and provider of advanced manufacturing solutions. It represents a paradigm shift from “centralized” to “decentralized” smart manufacturing and production. The 4th industrial revolution is powered by robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, Augmented Reality and Cloud technologies, all of which will use wireless 5G technology to allow machine to machine communication. This will become the backbone of manufacturing and related services in the future.  


- The Connected Factory

The smart factory (Industry 4.0,) defines the shift in industrial settings from legacy systems to connected technologies. This can include the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, sensors, edge computing, self-healing networks, and automation.

Following nine pillars of technological advancement underpin Industry 4.0: Big Data and Analytics, Autonomous Robots, Simulation, Horizontal and Vertical System Integration, the Industrial Internet of Things, Cybersecurity, the Cloud, Additive Manufacturing, and Augmented Reality. Many of the nine advances in technology that form the foundation for Industry 4.0 are already used in manufacturing, but with Industry 4.0, they will transform production: isolated, optimized cells will come together as a fully integrated, automated, and optimized production flow, leading to greater efficiencies and changing traditional production relationships among suppliers, producers, and customers - as well as between human and machine.

Manufacturing production and the digital world are merging, making factory automation more flexible, increasing energy efficiency, linking logistics processes more closely and optimizing the value chain. 5G networks and the emergence of AI are key enablers for the digital future and will offer manufacturers the chance to build smart, digital factories using Industry 4.0 principles.


- Wireless 5G and Industry 4.0

The fifth generation of mobile networks (5G) is a catalyst for the next industrial revolution that is giving rise to smart factories worldwide. 5G could replace wired Ethernet as well as Wi-Fi and 4G LTE networks that connect devices in factories and dramatically boost automation. 

Imagine a manufacturing plant in which all the production equipment is continually changing in response to market needs. Robots churning out widgets, for instance, would reconfigure themselves based on data coming in from all points of the widget supply chain, as well as sensors monitoring the factory itself. The result is a smart factory that’s more agile and autonomous than previous generations of automation. 

Also known as Industry 4.0, the smart factory runs on data and artificial intelligence, but connectivity forms the backbone of operations. The new fifth generation of mobile networks (5G) is a catalyst for this new industrial revolution because it offers much greater speed and bandwidth than previous networks, as well as low latency, or time required for data to travel between two points. 5G will work with and in some cases replace existing fixed, wired connections, making manufacturing more flexible and ready to implement innovations.  


[A 25-MVA/10-MWh Battery Energy Storage Sytems, Beacon Solar Plant Site, LADWP]

Industry 4.0, 5G and AI: Delivering a Digital Future

The 5G wireless networks and use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be crucial elements to enable Industry 4.0 to be wholly implemented. Central to Industry 4.0 is connectivity - both the link between human and machine, and machine-to-machine. Industry 4.0 depends on being able to connect to the application so manufacturers are in a position to use data to gain insight about their assets and make informed decisions to optimise their processes. Industry 4.0 relies on fully networked, adaptive production through intelligent products with “embedded functions” – cyber-physical systems.

Like 5G, AI is also expected to accelerate and enhance the implementation of Industry 4.0, and connectivity is vital for AI to succeed. But what is AI in the context of industrial automation? AI can be defined as the concept of improvement and gaining insights through smart analytics and modelling. 

AI can take place in all three locations: in the cloud, where large quantities of data can be evaluated easily; on-premise, which is on the system at production network level; or on-edge, which is on the component at field level.  

Machinery will be increasingly autonomous and is expected to use AI to organise cooperation among themselves, sharing data with the supply / delivery chains and with users: creating ad hoc networks as the need arises. The data produced from the manufacturing process is analysed and actioned through AI to create dynamic self-learning production environments that are able to provide increasingly higher levels of productivity, operating with higher quality in a safer working environment. 

Some are concerned that AI will dramatically decrease or even eliminate the need for human interaction on the factory floor. However, AI needs human involvement, to define the objective and refine the output. AI does not provide a definitive ‘yes / no’, but rather gives a suggestion with a probability score against it. AI gradually improves the accuracy of the probability score based on the human feedback, refining its algorithm model. 


- Logistics Boost

With the promise of unstoppable data download and upload speeds, broader coverage and more stable connections, 5G is set to transform mobile connectivity. 5G is expected to revolutionize supply chains around the world as it becomes available in more markets over the next few years. More companies are shifting toward a data-driven mindset in their decision making - to predict future performance and optimize operational efficiencies - which will require the collection and analysis of a large swath of data, some in real-time. Exponentially faster data speeds and reduced latency will give rise to a more responsive network to support this transformation, while also paving the way for more Internet-enabled smart devices to be integrated along the logistics supply chain. This will render logistics processes faster, safer and more reliable.



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