Envision a factory where everything—equipment, systems, processes—is connected wirelessly to everything else, machines react automatically to unexpected changes in production, resource use is relentlessly efficient, and advanced analytics enable workers to understand and manage complex supplier networks that are integrated with plant systems.
That’s “Industry 4.0,” a buzz topic at the April 7–11 Hannover Messe 2014 industrial automation trade show in Germany. We can’t pretend to have taken in everything at this massive show, which attracted more than 180,000 visitors from more than 100 countries and spread across 20 exhibit halls, but Industry 4.0 was a consistent theme for major global automation companies. A high-tech strategy focused on the “smart factory,” Industry 4.0 was developed by the German government and formally presented at Hannover Messe 2013. (In case you’re wondering, Industry 1.0 was mechanical production, 2.0 was mass production with electricity and 3.0 was the introduction of automation.)
This year, companies were ready to run with the idea. Siemens, for instance, showcased its Data-Driven Services offering—a way to maximize plant performance through the collection and analysis of the facility’s production, energy, and asset data. Siemens sees itself at Industry 3.X right now and predicts that it will take up to another 20 years to realize its Industry 4.0 vision:
“In intelligent factories, machines, raw materials, and products communicate within an ‘Internet of things’ and cooperatively drive production. Products find their way independently through the production process. The objective: highly flexible, individualized and resource-friendly mass production.”
Another major player, ABB, touted its work on interconnecting systems and automating processes so that eventually a company could receive an order, enter it in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, see all the components required, get a quote for the energy needed, and reorder its production schedule if needed.
For the Powerit team, it was exciting to see that our vision of pushing the boundaries of energy management so that optimal energy use is effortless and universal dovetails neatly with the Industry 4.0 concept. We’re looking forward to working with our partners to make it happen.