Industry 4.0 In Practice
by Alastair Norman, Business Manager, Operational Intelligence Sector at Capula
Industry 4.0. It’s just a buzzword, right? Or is it a way for the technology industry to sell new lucrative products and services that solve problems companies don’t really have? Businesses are right to be sceptical any time they hear about the Next Big Thing to hit their industry, but they’d be foolish to dismiss new ideas out of hand.
In the case of Industry 4.0, there are good reasons to look beyond the hype. The most important of these is that Industry 4.0 is a catch-all term that encompasses a host of technologies that have been evolving quietly for decades. Like sensors and automation systems, industrial networks and data analysis tools. All of those are real things that many companies already rely on to run their businesses.
So what’s changed? Here are five ways that the latest generation of technologies – call them Industry 4.0 technologies if you like – stand out from their predecessors and the legacy systems in use across industry today:
Today’s systems are built on geniuinely open standards for communication, data storage and user interaction. That makes them faster and cheaper to develop, implement and maintain. It reduces the risk that companies are caught out by technologies that can’t talk to each other, or which become obsolete, and it makes it far easier to scale solutions rapidly as new approaches are proved, or as business needs change.
These open standards also make it possible to connect multiple machines, data sources or applications in a seamless way. Our OPUS building performance management solution, for example, provides a single management interface for energy management systems, security and access controls, HVAC systems and even production equipment. It can connect multiple facilities together to give organizations total control over their buildings worldwide. It also shares data with external business applications, from financial management systems to HR tools.
Internet technologies are transforming the usability of even the most powerful automation systems. Users can access the data and control functions they need from anywhere, using a wide range of devices – from dedicated HMI panels to smart phones. This boosts productivity, increases management flexibility and simplifies maintenance, technical support and troubleshooting.
With Industry 4.0, you aren’t stuck with the system you have now. Open standards, again, coupled with today’s advanced development environments, make it far easier to extend and adapt existing solutions. New equipment can be added, new applications developed or new data sources integrated in a modular way, with little requirement to write and test complex code.
Today’s solutions are built for the rigours of real industrial environments. Robust encryption and security technologies make it easy to ensure the right people have access to the right data and applications, while protecting against malicious action and data theft. Fault tolerance can be built in, with distributed system architectures, redundancy and effective back up and disaster recovery systems.
When we built OPUS, our first aim was to offer a solution for the challenges involved in managing security, optimising energy efficiency and providing a safe working environment. But we wanted to build that system on Industry 4.0 technologies from the ground up, making full use of open standards and working with the best technology partners we could find. The speed, power and flexibility that approach enabled was compelling. What could it do for you?