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Making the Move to Industry 4.0

The next generation models of the supply chain will be “successfully combining automation and digital technologies to drive superior performance,” according to MHI’s recently released 2017 Annual Industry Report titled “Next-Generation Supply Chains: Digital, On-Demand and Always-On,” developed in collaboration with Deloitte Consulting. The Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 are concepts that are key to gaining the efficiency, agility and flexibility promised in these new supply chain models.

The MHI report defines IoT as “the use of the Internet to connect computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data in real time.” The Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) refers specifically to the use of IoT in an industrial context.

Industry 4.0 is a related but slightly different concept. The term, which originated in Germany, refers to the fourth phase of the Industrial Revolution. (The first phase was mechanical and steam power, the second phase included flow-based, production-line assembly and the third phase encompassed automated control with the advent of programmable controllers.)

“In the fourth phase, systems are becoming much more network-enabled and data-enabled and there is some level of autonomy being introduced into these systems,” said Daniel McGinn, director of business development, Secure Power Systems at MHI member Schneider Electric.

“You have all of these computers and processes networked together, so you have global visibility into everything that’s going on right down to the device level,” said John Ashodian, marketing manager at MHI member SICK Inc. The network includes machines with artificial intelligence (AI) that are capable of learning and that can make a decision or predict a future state of the machine based on the data it receives through the network.

“The data that is coming from some device or a collection of devices on that machine can be gathered to create information to warn a user somewhere that something is about to happen,” Ashodian added. “The logic and control that goes into those machines can be written so that when a certain state or condition is recognized by the machine, it can make a decision to change some aspect of its performance based on the data embedded within the system itself.”

By Mary Lou Jay

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