The Industry 4.0 ‘Horse Is Out of the Barn’

By Katie Kuehner-Hebert

Industry 4.0—incorporating the Internet of Things (IoT) into intelligent industrial machines—is set to transform the fulfillment process, greatly boosting visibility, efficiency and accuracy of shipments, and in turn, customer satisfaction and everyone’s bottom line.

IoT is “a fait accompli,” says Kevin Reader, director of business development and marketing at MHI member KNAPP US.

Roughly $5 trillion will be spent on IoT devices over the next several years and by 2020, there will be 34 billion devices connected to the Internet, up from 10 billion in 2015, according to BI Intelligence. IoT devices will account for 24 billion, while traditional computing devices such as smartphones, tablets and smartwatches will comprise 10 billion.

“The horse is out of the barn regarding IoT devices,” Reader says. “Our challenge as system designers or consumers of this technology is not on the gadgets themselves. Our focus is going to have to be how relevant IoT technologies are to industry verticals and how we’re going to use them effectively and provide value. Many companies are struggling with that challenge today.”

IoT evolved as a strategy in Germany as a result of Industry 4.0, and KNAPP became an early adopter, he says. The company has invested “considerable resources” into research and development, and has been working with these technologies for a number of years. All of KNAPP’s devices and material handling subsystems are connected one way or another, integrated into a “comprehensive, connected strategy” to help increase system uptime and reliability for customers.

“We’ve put a tremendous amount of effort into integration, so controls that will communicate with higher-level systems ‘sense’ changing operating conditions and device status—providing more precise operating control of systems, monitoring use of resources, capacity and utilization,” Reader says.

A combination of factors have allowed KNAPP to design much more intelligent approaches to automation, providing a more holistic view of resources and outcomes, in order to be more efficient, he says. Software integrated with IoT devices can also play a critical role in harvesting results from an IoT strategy.

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