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Industry 4.0 - more than just digitalization

In the journals related to production and technology the term “Industry 4.0” has become very popular for quite some time. But since smart watch, smart home and the internet of things at the latest the topic of networked units has arrived in daily life.

Also the Schnitzer Group as a demanding technical service provider is facing this crucial and trendsetting topic: by our commitment in various technical projects worldwide, and always at the interface between management and technology, we see us providing orientation with know-how and engagement at innovative themes.

Thereby we see that partly a lot of interpretations and uncertainties exist in the area of the Industry 4.0 with the keywords “internet of things” and “smart factory. Many companies raising the question, which technologies have the features of “4.0” in fact and which don´t. And how shall they meet the new challenges for all business units?

The main point of the information work begins at the definition of the Industry 4.0, this is more than simply digitalization of the industrial environment. If you automatize your production or control it digitally from the pc today, you are flexible and well-positioned although but have not reached 4.0, yet. The smart factory – in other words the intelligent factory is characterized by the attribute of so-called “cyber-physical system”. Initially this means nothing else as the complete systemic networking, this is the wiring of development, production machinery and information technology. So far the Industry 3.0 applies with its digitally controlled concept of flexible automation. But today the innovative character exists therein to link these infrastructural connected units logically respectively intelligently also. The computer controlled system becomes an autonomously controlled system of computers. What sounds similar distinguish fundamentally in the decision-making competence of the single process units. Where today a robot is communicating a problem to the production data acquisition of the PPS-system, in the factory of tomorrow it shall communicate directly with the surrounding plant units. Without any operator invention a decision can be taken fully autonomously, which adapts the production program to the actual resources.

The availability of such information in real time enables the customer to get an inside view into the supply chain which has never existed before. Entirely in the spirit of the Schnitzer Group a maximum transparency and flexibility results over the complete supply chain.

The preparation for such a 4.0 scenario is complicated – similar to the invention of flash memory and digital photography individual of these disruptive inventions are difficult to predict, but can replace existing methods and processes completely.

Companies can meet this challenges e.g. by connecting of previously autonomous, seemingly contrary areas of knowledge such as IT and tool making.

Those who critically question themselves continuously and give creative people space for real innovation, is well-positioned.

If you are looking for more information: in addition to the VDI and the platform Industry 4.0 of the German government, numerous scientific institutes like the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA dealing with this topic, too. Also the Schnitzer Group is dealing daily with production and process innovations. Please challenge us and our network with your project!