Industry prepares for the next industrial revolution

Automation companies share views on the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, according to Control Engineering Europe.


Speaking at Hannover Messe, Siegfried Russwurm, CEO of Siemens Industry Sector, said: “Never before has the world of manufacturing and production technology been changing as rapidly and fundamentally as today.” Courtesy: Control Engineering EuropeIndustry 4.0 was high on the agenda of many Hannover Messe exhibitors, according to Control Engineering Europe, looking at comments and developments from Siemens, Pilz, Beckhoff Automation, Belden, Control Techniques (Emerson Industrial Automation), and Eaton. Referred to by many as the “fourth industrial revolution,” the concept of Industry 4.0 is to merge the virtual world with the real world, bringing IT and production closer together. Horizontal integration, from product to production, is one of its major ambitions. Industry 4.0 now also forms the cornerstone of the German government’s high-tech strategy to secure the competitiveness of German industry.

Siemens showcased how it, and its customers, will meet today’s challenges and shape the new production age. Speaking at Hannover Fair, Siegfried Russwurm, CEO of Siemens Industry Sector, said: “Never before has the world of manufacturing and production technology been changing as rapidly and fundamentally as today.

Although Russwurm believes that there is some way to go before Industry 4.0 becomes reality, Siemens is already laying the essential foundations for its implementation. A decisive role will be played by industrial software that allows the integration of product development and production, and consequently paves the way for the holistic optimization of product development and production processes. “The increasing penetration of IT and the growing integration of all industrial technologies are taking place in evolutionary steps from today’s perspective. However, looking back, the completely IT-based interaction between human, product, and machine could prove to be a real industrial revolution,” said Russwurm.

Before the Hannover event, CEE spoke with Eckard Eberle, CEO of Industrial Automation Systems, Siemens Industry Sector, to find out more about fast-changing industry needs.

“Industry is getting more and more complex,” he said. “Products need to get to market in ever-shorter time frames, which requires the whole development and production phases to be shorter too. This means that the product and production design processes will need to more closely collaborate in the future.”

Explaining further, he said: “The information created in the design phase needs to be used to a greater degree throughout the production process.” One example that shows how this can work to good effect is at a Rolls-Royce facility in the U.K. Originally it took more than one week, from conclusion of a product design change, to create a work plan for the shop floor. “Siemens helped the company to more closely integrate its system with the company’s MES. This allows the company to create the data and change the design. The new data then goes straight to the shop floor via the MES system. Today they are able to make changes within two to three hours, allowing the company to speed up the production process.

“We have many examples where such integration is taking place. However, we expect that, within the next 10 to 20 years, the entire data flow will be seamless.”

Safety challenges

As the automation landscape continues to develop, companies also face new safety challenges. The increasing trend for machine networking requires automation to merge with the IT world. The challenge lies in standardizing the needs of both worlds to form appropriate, practical solutions. New safety objectives include, for example, the protection of production data, product and plagiarism protection, know-how protection, access protection integrity protection, and remote maintenance.

“Pilz is playing its part in ensuring that safety is recognized as a critical success factor in Industry 4.0,” said Susanne Kunschert, director at Pilz GmbH & Co. “We are advocating a holistic approach to protection in both its forms—safety and security. We want to use our experience from the machinery safety and automation sectors to drive this important work forward.”

On the product side, Industry 4.0 presents challenges for the modularization and distribution of control functions. Pilz is pursuing a modular, distributable approach to enable the benefits of a decentralized control structure to be enjoyed without the increased complexity that would normally result when programs are distributed on different control systems.

Pilz predicts that, in the future, intelligent sensors and actuators in distributed systems will increasingly assume the functions of control systems. Improved interaction between machine modules, as well as between man and machine, is the aim. Safe motion controllers, which are interconnected synchronously and safely via real-time Ethernet, already support local control and evaluation functions. The company is moving forward in this direction with Pilz intelligent camera systems for safe, three-dimensional zone monitoring and camera-based protection and measuring systems.

PC-based technology

As a pioneer of PC-based control technology, Beckhoff Automation has pursued the convergence of IT and automation technologies from early on and has introduced corresponding solutions to the market, such as Scientific Automation and TwinCAT 3. PC-based control from Beckhoff now enables universal vertical, horizontal, and cross-company integration and therefore, says the company, provides an ideal basis for future Industry 4.0 solutions.

Safety-critical WLAN

Commenting on the OpenBat WLAN solution from Hirschmann Automation & Control, a Belden brand, professor Peter Frohlich, director of business development at Belden EMEA, said: “OpenBat will open up a wealth of new possibilities for wireless communication in automation, power generation and other critical applications.” Traditionally users demanding such high availability would not have relied on WLAN according to IEEE 802.11. However, the transmission reliability offered by OpenBat, which depends on the company’s Clear Space technology, can improve the latency and jitter caused by retransmissions by a factor of more than 10, so even real-time and safety applications are now possible via WLAN. “For example, it can make the control and visualization of large and topologically complex wind farms more reliable and more efficient,” said Frohlich.

The new “Open” platform makes it possible to realize wireless solutions in areas where this previously was impossible, allowing users to choose the right product variant for the best solution, so they need only pay for what is needed. The OpenBat devices have enhanced shock and vibration stability, making them extremely suitable for use in harsh and demanding industrial environments, such as power transmission and distribution. The remote service access application allows operators to access internal networks from outside and reduce the risk of entering areas with high risk. In mining applications, where the system’s vibration resistance allows the use of wireless links for on-vehicle equipment, so intelligent devices can be used for process optimization of processes and lowering accident risk.

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