A case study in connected manufacturing

Monday May 13, 2019
Written by Kristina Urquhart
May 13, 2019 – Ever since the German government introduced the concept of Industry 4.0 at the Hannover Messe trade show eight years ago, connected manufacturing has been the main topic of conversation at the annual fair.

This year was no different, with the biggest buzz being how connectivity is about to be redefined with the next generation of wireless communications. 5G technology is almost ready for commercial launch – Canadian telecom companies are expected to implement capabilities in 2020 – and will have a massive impact on the industrial landscape, though implementation is still a few years off.

5G, with its ultra-low latency and very-high bandwidth, is lauded as the first real solution for manufacturers to achieve total, reliable wireless coverage – even indoors – using cellular “nodes” (like base stations, mounted to ceilings or walls) to transmit signals from point to point.

Industry giants are also focusing on refining their solutions for Internet of Things–enabled devices and the artificial intelligence (or “smart programming” – remember that reader who challenged the term AI in our last issue? Turn to p. 16 in our digital edition) that drives them. It’s all part of the original quest announced back in 2011 to realize the Industry 4.0 benchmarks of connectivity, flexibility and decentralized decisions.

Sensor manufacturer SICK is embracing Industry 4.0 in a big way with its state-of-art 4.0 NOW Factory, which it unveiled at Hannover Messe 2019. 4.0 NOW is a fully connected plant that uses data from sensors, parts and equipment to develop a 360-degree view of operations and, in turn, optimize production control.

In January, I got a preview of SICK’s new factory in Freiburg, Germany and it is every bit a utopia as it sounds (see p. 20 of our digital edition). I was curious to dig up what realistic takeaways the model setup might offer to Canadian manufacturers, and I came away with this: data may be the most powerful tool out there, but unless you contextualize it, it’s useless.

So if you don’t know how to read your data? Starting small is the easiest – and most affordable – way to get into the Industry 4.0 mindset. “A fairly small investment in sensors can result in a major return on investment,” advised Erik Josefsson, VP and head of advanced industries at Ericsson during Hannover Messe this year. On p. 14, Jennifer Rideout from Cisco Canada has more insight on how to connect your plant with data in this month’s Going Digital column. And if you still need convincing, check out more tips how to take the data dive on p. 24 of our digital edition.

For more highlights from Hannover Messe, watch for our wrap-up in the next issue, and check out our links below for recaps, photos and a video reel.

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This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION. Read the digital edition here.

Manufacturing AUTOMATION at Hannover Messe 2019:
VIDEO: Automation in action at Hannover Messe 2019
Hannover Messe 2019 day 5: Our top 5 takeaways
Hannover Messe 2019 day 4: More photo highlights
Hannover Messe 2019 day 3: Supporting workers in an age of automation
Hannover Messe 2019 day 2: Photo highlights
Hannover Messe 2019 day 1: Merkel sightings and a focus on 5G


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