Industry 4.0: Manufacturing Industry on its Way to Digitalization

Frequent readers of my blog might have noticed that I’m a fan of classic science fiction novels and beside Heinlein, Asimov is one of my favorite writers. So when I was young Robotics and wireless communication between them was something quite normal to me. They could cooperate over huge distances (e. g. in “The Naked Sun“, 1957) and solve complicated problems this way. When I learned this entire concept was invented by him and has no real technical manifestations in 1950th I was quite surprise. Today with the upcoming of “Industry 4.0” we start to come closer to his concepts like cooperation.

 

 

Since decades manufacturing companies use IT to optimize their production processes. Computer-based components for the development departments and controlling systems for manufacturing processes are standard all over the world. Robots have become kind of colleagues but to assist human workers with all kind of strange or extremely tight processes are still hard to implement. This kind of success in automation would be impossible without state-of-the-art electronics. Kontron’s components are successfully working in machines and controlling systems of manufacturers since decades (some of them still in operation after 30 years) and are a key to flawlessly production processes all over the world. Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been main topics for Kontron from the beginning and we are engaged in national and international committees and working groups to push these subjects.

No doubt, but the manufacturing industry has proved to be a motor to the success of the Internet of Things. Already in the early days of automation it has migrated different processes and components on one single platform. The standardization of processes, components and management systems offers a broad range of optimization, yet not fully used. We are still at the beginning of an evolution that will not only change industries worldwide, but the manufacturing segment in particular.

 

Globalization Requires Interconnection

The age of globalization and expanding competition requires a more flexible way of production and automation. Therefore interconnection is essential. This ensures shorter production circles and helps manufacturers to meet the needs of volatile markets with its changing challenges like requirements for more individuality and variety regarding products as well as the size of the economic lots. This evolution can only be handled by implementing flexible manufacturing environments. Midsize companies in particular are in need of this kind of solutions.

Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things have become some of the main trends in the demanding and competitive market of manufacturing. This is no surprising scenario, as the benefits of a modern industrial environment are obvious. It allows the production of unique products with the methods of mass production at attractive costs. Manufacturing companies need be able to react quickly to individual customer requirements as well as to fast changing market needs. This can only be done by an infrastructure, that contemporary adapts the requirements of markets.

You might know, that in general the life cycle of an industrial infrastructures is much longer, than the of IT-systems and their various generations of operating and service systems. One of my favorite once I call Methuselah: IoT connected transformer in a UK power plant. It’s in operation for 60 years right now. So manufacturing systems that are twenty years or older might play an important role for the IoT. In many cases they are not equipped with standardized components and interfaces we use in today’s IoT to support the integration is an important part of Kontron offering. This will become more and more important, as connectivity is the key to any successful IoT project.

 

Industry 4.0: Connectivity is a Key Element to Success

Today, one cannot think of a manufacturing environment without embedded computer technologies as they are the standard for connectivity. Kontron’s ComExpress products are a basic element in this market segment and benefit form continuous development and the permanent integration of latest technology. We support new technology trends and use the latest generation of processors and System-on-the Chips (SoC) technology.

Kontron operates research and development centers in Malaysia, San Francisco and Germany that work extremely close to global markets to meet our customers’ needs. Our experts are working permanently on new developments as well as on new business ideas and models, which manufacturing companies require today. Our German developer team for example is great in picking up ideas and visions and transfer them into products, that are key elements for successful IoT solutions. Optimizing existing products and developing user-friendly operating components for machines or security solutions that help to optimize existing products are some of the topics of our German colleagues. Kontron developers in Malaysia are part of the local governments IoT initiative. In Asia, with its mega-cities and the fast-growing population “Smart cities” are a major subject and elementary for the economic growth in this region. Intelligent cities of the future cannot be realized without IoT. And this is important for any booming economic region in the world.

 

Digital Future with Partners Aside

Cooperation is a key factor for the success of IoT. We at Kontron are working in a close relationship with our technology partner regarding research and development which helps to detect trends prematurely and converts ideas into products or solutions. Interconnectivity is essential for our partners and us and will become even more important in the future. Integration and digitalization go hand in hand with growing data volumes, which is a challenge for both, companies and users. To offer structured data and get it to the right place just-in-time, manufacturing companies need to optimize and refine their analytic tools in the near future. Producers of equipment and components need to extend the functionality of their products and will have to offer software a security solutions to support an intelligent interconnection of manufacturing environments with any kind of devices. Kontron takes up the cause to support this evolution with ideas as well as with future innovations. Our teams are ready, to assist our customers all over the world to interconnect their individual manufacturing environments to make sure they meet their actual and future needs.

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