As digitisation continues to make sweeping changes in the manufacturing industry, competition is hotting up and more personalised products and services are possible. The future of the industry is striding towards an interconnected global paradigm, and permanent communication between systems and machines guarantees a continuation in the upward trend of production standards.
This is the power of Industry 4.0, and it is exciting to see – in 1990, there were 300,000 computers connected to the internet, then in 2000, it was 300 million. That growth has continued as more and more devices become internet ready.
Meeting industrial demands
By the end of the 1980s, food processors required an electronic device to control time and temperature. In answer to this need, a PLC was introduced for the function of managing these cycles. Fast-forward several years and these PLCs were subject to far more parameter requests: F0 value management, cycle reports, flexible packaging distortion, network connection, retort line management and integration into the wider production line, so that the processor would be able to manage multiple things from a single unified interface.
The new technologies that were appearing on the market were adapted, with the objective of offering better control over the thermal treatment. On the basis of this experience, retort manufacturers today are preparing for the inevitable future of smart industry and big data management. As it stands, developments are based on 5 primary focuses:
• Maintenance and calibration
• Energy consumption
• Quality and traceability
• Monitoring and control
The aim is to improve the user experience, but more importantly, it is to improve the balance between the safety and quality of products.
Risk vs. reward
The most prominent risk of digitising production processes is cyber-attacks, which can really harm a company. Any business in any industry could be attacked, with more and more devices like thermostats and cameras being connected to the internet. Cyber attackers will try various things, including stealing sensitive information, sabotaging systems with viruses and holding companies to ransom. The damage of these attacks could be severe, and it is important to minimise the risks as much as possible.
This is why cybersecurity strategies must be established. There needs to be monitoring, risk audits, mapping of systems and controls over the access rights of employees and subcontractors.
On a more technical level, computer systems will need to be protected by Firewalls, and it will be best to have specialised organisations monitoring cybersecurity arrangements at all companies. By 2020, it is predicted that 3.5 million devices will be connected to the internet in cars alone, and a further 9.7 million things in city infrastructures will be connected, including pollution monitors and traffic lights. There will be many more opportunities for cyber-attacks, and security must reflect that.
The evolution of production processes
New technologies in Industry 4.0 will offer greater storage capacities, higher computing power and lower running costs. These technologies include:
• Artificial Intelligence
• Augmented Reality
• Data Analytics
Through modernisation of manufacturing processes, bringing in automation and the digitisation of processes, the role of the person in the production chain is evolving. Humans no longer produce, but accompany the machines and help make the industrial processes happen.
Humanity’s interventions are diverse, and require flexibility for the setting up and controlling of machines. Digitisation also helps with process traceability and facilitates easier maintenance and identification of problems and failures. As long as security is handled well, Industry 4.0 is an exciting new development for the manufacturing industry.