skip to Main Content
Malaysia: An Early Adapter Of “Industry 4.0”

Malaysia: An Early Adapter of “Industry 4.0”

Malaysia: “Industry 4.0” is set to create completely new business models while improving current ones within Malaysia’s manufacturing landscape, according to GlobalData.

Malaysia is one of the world’s leading manufacturing countries per capita. The sector employed more than one million people in 2016—a significant proportion for a country of 31 million, reported the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM). It also constitutes over 80 percent of all exports and 23 percent of the country’s GDP, according to DOSM and Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE).

“On the supply side, the industry is seeing an increase in global commodity prices and diversification from traditional low-cost production markets. On the demand side, average order value is falling, demand for customization is increasing and margins are under pressure. To address these challenges and drive evolution of a technology-driven global economy, Malaysia is preparing to launch the national policy by mid-2018,” said Dustin Kehoe, Technology Service Director of APAC at GlobalData.

Industry 4.0 introduces the “smart factory”—where cyber-physical systems monitor real-time factory physical progress to make decisions in a decentralised way. The development is driven by several factors—from additive manufacturing, autonomous robots, big data analytics, to cloud computing, Internet of Things and system integration.

Kehoe added: “In terms of technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will drive IoT adoption and the two technologies are converging. The integration of AI and IoT will lead to further innovation, automation and data management. Manufacturing will be among the early adopters of AI-enabled IoT.”

South Korea Boosts R&D Investment For Industry 4.0 Technologies

South Korea Boosts R&D Investment For Industry 4.0 Technologies

South Korea: South Korea is set to ramp up its investment in research and development (R&D) for technologies that can facilitate acceleration of the fourth industrial revolution—like self-driven car and Internet of Things (IoT) platforms.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy had announced an increased in R&D spending on five burgeoning industries—autonomous car, biohealth, IoT-fitted electronics, renewable energy, and semiconductor and display—to 50 percent of the nation’s total R&D budget by 2022 from the current 30 percent.

This year, the government has allocated approximately 900 billion won (about US$844 million) to the above five sectors out of its total 3.16 trillion won R&D budget.

Correspondingly, the ministry is seeking to cultivate development of original technologies, related core technologies, and the growth of new industries using these new technologies via efficient commercialisation.

Private firms will also be supported in adopting technologies developed by external talents. Along with this revision, companies are required to foot only 30 percent of the total cost in cash while acquiring technologies from external sources—with the rest in non-cash asset. Currently, businesses have to pay about 50 percent of such costs in cash.

A new review system will also be implemented by the ministry—run by a group of industry professionals—to assess the feasibility of innovative technologies and development proposals.

The Robotics And Automation Industry In Germany

The Robotics and Automation Industry in Germany

Germany’s robotics and automation (R&A) industry has enjoyed unprecedented success over the last decade. With a workforce of more than 52 thousand employees, the industry’s turnover has more than quadrupled since the mid-1990s. Contributed by Claudia Gruene, Germany Trade & Invest, the economic development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany that helps create and secure extra employment opportunities to strengthen Germany as a business location.

Global Market Growth

According to the most recent industrial robots statistics from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), global robot sales in 2015 increased to the highest level ever recorded—with the international market value for robot systems estimated to be around US$35 billion. The IFR forecasts that robot installations will have a compound annual growth rate of at least 13 percent during the period 2017 to 2019. It is also estimated that more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world between 2017 and 2019. The main drivers for this growth are expanding production capacities and the trend towards setting up automated manufacturing lines (e.g. by installing robot production assemblies). This development is confirmed by the findings of the KPMG Global Manufacturing Outlook study, with the majority of respondents identifying robotics as their number one research and development investment priority over the next two years.

Machine Vision—Leading Technology

As a global robotics hub, Germany is home to leading players from all market segments. Particular strengths are seen in machine vision (MV) technologies and human-machine collaboration. Germany is the most important sales market for the European image processing industry, with more than 30 percent of total industry turnover generated domestically. Automation and the implementation of MV technology help make consistently high quality, permanent traceability and 100 percent production accuracy a reality. High levels of production flexibility can be achieved and product changes quickly realised using efficient automation solutions. This has helped establish the industry as a major driver of Germany’s Industrie 4.0 advanced manufacturing initiative.

Industrie 4.0 And Human-Robot Collaboration

R&A technology provides the core elements for the development towards Industrie 4.0. The increasing application level of human-robot collaboration (HRC) represents a perfect example of the move towards connectivity within Industrie 4.0. Through its innovations, the German R&A industry contributes to further developments in machine learning, so that opportunities for HRC have significantly increased. Robotic assistance systems support human labour, with repetitive and physically demanding tasks increasingly being automated. It is expected that more than EUR 2.6 billion (approximately US$3.14 million) will be invested in Industrie 4.0 in Germany through to 2020.

Tomorrow’s Robotics and Automation Technologies

The R&A industry is one of the most innovative in the mechanical engineering sector. German original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the field of robotics and automation count among the globally leading companies in the industry. According to a recent McKinsey study, German R&A companies believe that customer-specific system and integration solutions as well as after-sales and service represent the most promising market growth fields. Advanced robotics and HRC are also considered amongst the major technological trends in the country’s R&A industry. In contrast to the rest of the mechanical engineering sector, R&A companies consider technological developments as being more important than trends; a position strongly underpinned by the high level of innovation within the industry.

Main Application Industries

The automotive industry is the leading client sector for industrial robotics in Germany. This is due to the fact that, in terms of turnover, the automotive industry is the largest industry in the country. A number of automotive OEMs and suppliers operate production facilities in Germany, thereby creating increased demand for industrial robots. The second largest customer is the electrical and electronics industry. However, the metal processing and machinery, plastics and chemicals as well as food industries also represent major R&A application sectors.

Growth Application Industries

Service and assistance robots are widely considered to be one of the major growth sectors in the automation industry. Industry analysts expect great sales prospects for the further automation of services and the respective product range. Service robots can carry out maintenance and inspection tasks, house work or the management of agricultural zones. Professionals expect that from 2020 to 2025, sales of service robots could reach the same level as that of industrial robots. German robot manufacturers in particular are among the world’s service robotics pioneers.

Stable Supplier Network

The German R&A industry is characterised by a strong industrial network, with a stable and reliable supplier network also among the success factors for the sector: Robot manufacturers, suppliers and application industries have their operations based in Germany as they are heavily dependent on electrical, mechanical and optical components for their products. High-technology component manufacturers can benefit from this industry infrastructure. In the MV industry, component turnover increased by more than 18 percent during the period 2014 to 2015 alone.

Value Chain Excellence

The sustained success of the German manufacturing industry is driven by complete value chain coverage. Numerous research institutions, close proximity to key supplier industries— including robotics, electronics, materials and software—and a strong industry base guarantee a pooling of resources of all actors within the value chain for optimal innovation and research and development excellence. This environment offers numerous business opportunities across multiple technology segments for international investors. Particular location strengths are seen in the industrial image processing, embedded vision and integrated assembly industries.

Competitive Labour Costs

High productivity rates and steady wage levels make Germany an extremely attractive investment location. Since 2005, wages in the manufacturing sector have risen in most European countries (EU-28), with the growth rate averaging 2.7 percent. While some countries—particularly those in Eastern Europe—experienced a rise of more than five percent, Germany recorded one of the lowest labour cost growth rates (2.1 percent) in the manufacturing sector within the European Union. Highly flexible working practices such as fixed-term contracts, shift systems, and 24/7 operating permits contribute to enhance Germany’s international competitiveness as a suitable investment location for internationally active businesses.

A Tradition of Engineering Quality

German R&A industry strength is driven by a combination of Germany’s proven engineering tradition, its position as a leader in technological development, and its highly diversified industrial base.

The machinery and equipment industry is one of the technological motors that drives Germany as a high-tech nation combining all of the key future technologies, such as materials, electronics, software, and robotics: Researchers, companies and employees active in the R&A industry profit from the country’s reputation and global know-how.

KASTO Now Speaks Mandarin: First Branch Office Opened In China

KASTO Now Speaks Mandarin: First Branch Office Opened In China

Taicang, China: KASTO is further expanding its global presence. With a formal ceremony, the sawing and storage specialist opened its new sales and service centre in Taicang in the east of the People’s Republic of China, north-west of Shanghai, on 15 May 2018.

The opening was attended by numerous customers and business partners from the whole of China as well as government representatives and three members of the KASTO Group board.

The new subsidiary will ensure fast and direct service as well as providing comprehensive consultancy services in the growing Chinese market. At the same time, the regional and linguistic proximity to the customer is a major benefit.

In future, sawing and storage solutions will be demonstrated, digital solutions presented, and test cuts carried out in a well-equipped showroom. Armin Stolzer, Ruth Stolzer and Jonathan Riegel from the KASTO board of directors travelled specially from Achern in Germany.

In their keynote speeches, Armin Stolzer and Jonathan Riegel justified the choice of location, and introduced projects and visions. The conditions in Taicang are ideal: it is conveniently-situated, has connections to container port and airport, and the local cluster—particularly of South German companies—is large.

The standard of training in the region is correspondingly high. All this creates the ideal prerequisite for KASTO’s objective of successfully supporting its customers in the implementation of Industry 4.0 structures, which are also aspired to in China.

As an example, Jonathan Riegel cited automatic, energy-efficient and above all networkable storage solutions, sawing and handling concepts which make decisions autonomously, and modern software solutions which are optimally matched to the customers’ systems.

The presentation also addressed highly topical subjects such as augmented reality by showing how technologies such as Microsoft HoloLens or Apple’s ARkit transfer planning work and after-sales service to the digital age. Guests were subsequently able to interactively experience both solutions in a virtual showroom.

Along with the traditional dragon dance and the formal touch-ball ceremony, the opening agenda included live presentations of storage and sawing concepts. Customers and users were therefore able to take a close look at the KASTOecostore 1.2 and UNIBLOC storage solutions as well as the various semi and fully automatic sawing machines.

Delivering Singapore’s Logistics Industry Into The Digital Era

Delivering Singapore’s Logistics Industry Into The Digital Era

The e-commerce industry is going through explosive growth in recent years fuelled by rising Internet penetration and a rising generation of more affluent, web-savvy middle-class consumers. By Lieu Yew Fatt, Managing Director, Omron Electronics Singapore

In Southeast Asia, the e-commerce retail market size is projected to grow to US 87.8 billion by 2025 . This stood at US5.5 billion just three years ago in 2015.

Consumers are embracing e-commerce and have come to expect the modern day online retail experience, which is associated with affordability, convenience, flexibility, speed and transparency. They are also getting accustomed to e-commerce retailers promising fast delivery, tracking of shipment at every stage and low (or even no) delivery charges.

Naturally, logistics industry players are facing tremendous pressure to meet this expectation. It is no wonder that logistics companies in this region are looking to strengthen their operations. Many are looking to better utilise of automation and digitalisation to see if they can better run their operations. They are especially exploring newer technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), automation and robotics, data analytics and Internet of Things (IoT).

Vanguards In The Industry 4.0 Transition

Singapore is ideally-placed to capitalise on the advances in technology and tackle today’s logistical challenges with its robust infrastructure and geographic location. The Port of Singapore is among the busiest transhipment ports in the world, and recognised as the Best Seaport in Asia by the Asian Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain (AFLAS) Awards . With connections to 600 ports and access to daily sailings to most major ports in the world, logistics companies in Singapore enjoy the flexibility of choosing the best and quickest way to get their goods delivered to customers .

The Port is also equipped with advanced technology that boosts the efficiency of operations. The highly-praised Flow-Through Gate, a fully automated and centralised system that enables trucks to obtain clearance into the port within 25 seconds, is an ideal example of automation enhancing the efficiency in logistics . This potentially increases the speed of which goods are transited to the next node of the delivery process and getting parcels delivered to customers quicker.

Clever Plans For A Smart Nation

In recognising the role that technology, robotics and automation play in addressing the demand for more efficient and effective logistics, the Singapore government has embarked on several initiatives to promote a culture of digitalisation among local businesses.

The Economic Development Board recently published The Singapore Smart Industry Readiness Index, a whitepaper that illustrates the government’s efforts to capitalise on the Industry 4.0 trend and transform the manufacturing landscape in Singapore. In this whitepaper, the government shared its Index Framework (Figure 1), which consists of three building blocks and eight pillars that can guide businesses to digitalise their processes and thrive in Industry 4.0. Logistics businesses can use the framework as a guideline to take the necessary actions to establish themselves as an Industry 4.0 company.

Another government body, the Infocomm and Media Development Authority (IMDA), has produced an Industry Digital Plan specifically tailored for SME logistics companies. Part of the Industry Digital Plan is the Productivity Solutions Grant that funds 70 percent of a business’ purchase of advanced technology solutions. This plan helps small logistics firms adopt digital technologies, including robotics and automation, to address the challenges ahead.

Senior Minister of State Dr Koh Poh Koon reaffirmed the government’s commitment to digitalise Singapore’s logistics industry when he recently expressed national support for the Container Depot and Logistics Association (Singapore)’s (CDAS) launch of its Transport Integrated Platform (TRIP)—a common platform that enables most logistics operators to communicate through a single node.

Through this development, stakeholders along the supply chain can coordinate cargo movements and exchange vital information more efficiently due to the elimination of manual processes and disparate communication systems that lack interoperability. Logistics businesses stand to benefit tremendously from this centralised system as operations and collaborations between warehouses, delivery vehicles and container vessels become more efficient and productive.

Private Sector Initiatives Are Key

The onus is, however, on logistics businesses to capitalise on Singapore’s strong foundations and proactively seek ways to digitalise operations. YCH, one of the leaders in the supply chain industry, is an example of a local company that has prepared itself for Industry 4.0 by accommodating advanced technologies in its operations. Last year, it opened the Supply Chain City , a 2 million square-foot facility that utilises technologies such as inventory-counting drones and advanced robotics. YCH’ desire to continuously improve by accommodating technology has seen it propel from a transportation company to an industry leader.

With technology advancing rapidly and manufacturing playing such a large part in Singapore’s economy, local businesses and their customers are set to enjoy the benefits brought about by augmenting logistics with robotics and automation.

Arguably one of the principal demand generators of logistics, manufacturing output (excluding biomedical) increased 8.9 percent year-on-year as of February 2018 according to a report by the Economic Development Board. The future of manufacturing looks brighter than ever as Industry 4.0 could boost the total manufacturing output in Singapore by $36 billion, enhance labour productivity by 30 percent and add 22,000 new jobs by 2024, according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group.

Apart from public sector initiatives, logistics businesses can garner support from organisations like Omron, which has recently launched the Automation Centre (ATC). Apart from showcasing state-of-the-art technology such as smart assembly lines and mobile robots, the ATC is open to organisations in the logistical supply chain who are keen to prototype and test smarter solutions. Since its launch in September 2017, Omron has been collaborating with solution partners in test bedding advanced technologies such as 3D Vision, in addition to automation of logistical operations such as bin picking and optimisation of goods delivery in warehouses. These are the type of advancements that are expected to help logistics players in Singapore keep pace with the rapid evolution brought by the expected burgeoning ecommerce scene and Industry 4.0 trends.

Riding The Industry 4.0 Wave

Singapore enterprises in the logistics industry are well positioned to ride the wave of Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution where machines and humans interact together through intelligent networks. Businesses here benefit from strong infrastructure and economic framework already in place. They also have ready access to a technologically supportive environment.

This has not gone unnoticed of course. According to a recent World Economic Forum report, Singapore is among 25 countries that stand to benefit the most from advanced manufacturing and smart factories. The country is also ranked second by PWC as a world business hub.

What is important is that logistics companies here capitalise on the available opportunities. They need to strategically adopt technology to effectively cater to the demands of the modern consumers. In a nutshell, they need to continuously strive towards excellence in their operations and service delivery, as well as ensure that they are constantly adding value to the supply chain.


Grundfos’ Intelligent Pump Technology Supports China Machine Tool Industry

Grundfos’ Intelligent Pump Technology Supports China Machine Tool Industry

Shanghai, China: Grundfos—a global pump manufacturer and solutions provider—is set to debut its MTRE pump in China—the world’s biggest machine tool industry undergoing technological transformation and innovation, where more companies are embracing Industry 4.0 to increase productivity and reduce costs.

A key demonstration feature at Grundfos’ exhibition booth (No. N5-A391) at the 10th China CNC Machine Tool Fair on 9-13 April 2018, the MTRE pump is a multistage centrifugal pump with a built-in variable frequency drive.

It has achieved the highest energy efficiency rating of IE5, and is Grundfos’ push to use smart technologies to drive energy efficiency and support the sustainable development of China’s machine tool industry.

Leveraging its variable frequency technology, the MTRE pump enables variable control of motor speed, allowing it to continuously adapt its performance to the changing flow rate or pressure demands in delicate machining processes.

Within industrial cooling systems, for example, MTRE pumps can significantly reduce heat input into cooling lubricants, allowing for safe, optimum and cost-efficient operations.

Cang Jin, business managing director of industry at Grundfos China, said that the MTRE pump is part of Grundfos’ commitment to constantly innovate to better meet the needs of the changing industry and customers.

“The machine tool industry in China is undergoing a massive transformation today, towards intelligent manufacturing, digitalisation and sustainable production. As a solutions provider in this industry, Grundfos is taking the lead with intelligent and energy-efficient pump solutions. We are committed to bringing customers tailored and integrated solutions that optimise their business, and is good for the environment,” said Mr Cang

According to him, Grundfos’ portfolio of products are widely recognised and used in China’s machine tool applications. In the past year, sales of Grundfos products in this field has increased by nearly 25 to 30 percent—with sales of the MTRE pump alone doubling from three years ago.

At the same time, another popular product, Grundfos’ MTS pump, saw a growth spurt of more than double the sales volumes over the past three years.

To support the rapid growth and rising domestic demand in China, the company has started local production of its pumps for the machine industry. Currently, Grundfos’ MTR pump is fully produced and assembled in its Suzhou factory. This significantly shortens delivery time to customers by two to three weeks, while still ensuring the high global quality standards.

Grundfos has plans to localise its entire portfolio of machine tool products by 2018.

“Grundfos has a long-term commitment to the Chinese market, which is our second home market outside of Denmark. We pride ourselves on sharing Denmark’s leading water treatment technology and pump expertise in China, and are focused on supporting the sustainable and intelligent transformation of the machine tool industry aligned to China’s ‘Made in China 2025’ goals,” Mr Cang added.

With more than 20 years’ history in China, Grundfos’ portfolio supports a wide range of machine tool industry applications. To continue to evolve its products and solutions to better meet the needs of the industry, Grundfos leverages its research and development centres across the world to drive new innovation and applications.

Each year, Grundfos invests at least five percent of its annual revenue into research and development to continue to bring intelligent, environmentally sustainable, and new products and solutions to support the industry.

Machine Vision: An Essential Element In An Industry 4.0 Environment

Machine Vision: An Essential Element In An Industry 4.0 Environment

The burgeoning presence of Industry 4.0 is transforming the manufacturing environment. By Wayne Goh, head of ASEAN, Cognex Corporation

One of the most discussed topics in the manufacturing sector today, and a key pillar of Singapore’s smart nation agenda in increasing business productivity, is Industry 4.0—a broadly defined group of emerging technologies that, in tandem, are creating connected manufacturing ecosystems that will bolster productivity, enhance flexibility, decrease operating costs, and deliver invaluable advantages on factory floors.

The term “4.0” originates from the three prior “industrial revolutions”—mechanisation, electrification, and digitisation. Industry 4.0 is associated with a profound increase in connectivity and automation, through the adoption of smart equipment and systems which integrate computing, networking and physical processes, allowing devices and equipment to autonomously exchange information, and control and interact with each other more independently.

While there currently exist many misconceptions and differing responses toward Industry 4.0—from indifference, to adoption, to innovation—the revolution brings with it many opportunities for producers and distributors.

Singapore’s efforts to future-proof its economy has seen the smart nation agenda feature prominently in the country’s precision engineering Industry Transformation Map (ITM), with the acceleration of innovation, development, and adoption of market-ready solutions across factory floors to pave the way for digital manufacturing.

A (Machine) Vision For The Future

One new, key area of growth earmarked in the ITM is the segment of optics and lasers, said Minister S Iswaran, Minister for Trade and Industry Singapore, at the launch of Meiban iSmart Factory in the country. The segment is expected to grow rapidly at an average rate of around 10 percent or more with the new demand for their applications, he added.

To encourage small medium enterprises to adopt new technologies, the Singapore-based Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) will also be setting up two model factories slated to be operational by the end of the year. This will allow companies to experiment with advanced technology, with specific focus on manufacturing technology, explained Minister S Iswaran.

Machine vision is an essential element of the Industry 4.0—no other single aspect of the production line captures more information, and can be more valuable in assessing products, finding defects, and collecting data to direct operations and optimise the productivity of robots and other complementary equipment. Unlike simple sensors, vision sensors generate large amounts of image data, intensifying their utility.

The crucial role of vision equipment will increase exponentially in an Industry 4.0 environment. As data analytics capabilities progress, the huge volumes of data accessible through vision equipment can be intelligently and strategically leveraged to a far greater degree. Not only will it be used to effectively identify and flag defective products, but also to understand the reasons for the deficiencies and allow fast and effective intervention.

Ultimately, as Industry 4.0 progresses, this information can be fed to different machines and equipment in the production ecosystem independently, so that enhancements can be made instantly and automatically. These insights could also be shared with similar production lines through cloud platforms.

Speaking The Same Language

With the countless benefits to be realised, it seems likely that manufacturers around the world will demand more of their suppliers to increase investment and usher the Industry 4.0 revolution into their factories. However, capitalising on these opportunities and experiencing the advantages of Industry 4.0 may be easier said than done.

Currently, the typical manufacturing plant environment might be a mélange of incompatible communications protocols—many invented, originated or championed by individual manufacturers—that hamper the easy delivery and exchange of vital data. To realise the full potential of Industry 4.0, instant, automatic, universal communications protocols must be established across different machines and locations. However, given the countless well-entrenched, often competing protocols that now exist, we could easily experience a supplier stalemate in this regard.

Even with the selection of a common technology stack for Industry 4.0 implementation, the large amount of data generated by vision systems means that there still exists challenges in integrating machine vision into Industry 4.0 architecture. At the same time, complementary protocols—while working towards the same objective—are also are making it difficult for a single, all-encompassing global standard to emerge.

Potential, Opportunity, And Challenge In Industry 4.0

The implementation and expansion of Industry 4.0 has created both challenges and opportunities for machine vision suppliers. The exponentially greater value that can be obtained from the information collected and disseminated by machine vision systems can be expected to accelerate their proliferation in a wide range of new applications up and down the supply chain, in the operations of both existing and new vision users.

While the power and promise of Industry 4.0 is still unfolding and evolving, it is imperative that business leaders, industry committees, and decision makers understand the implications of the fourth industrial revolution, and be open and ready to adapt their current, often deep-rooted processes and protocols to make the ecosystem work. Only then can the sector, as a whole, reap the benefits of these technologies to the fullest.

Accelerating The Transformation To Industry 4.0

Accelerating The Transformation To Industry 4.0

The theoretical benefits of Industry 4.0 are well-known, but how can we speed up its adoption and what practical tools are available to those who want to establish a factory of the future? By Ivo Maltir, vice president, Desoutter

Digitalisation is becoming increasingly common as manufacturers of components and systems develop ways to make their products more intelligent. The potential benefits in terms of increased efficiency and responsiveness in a production environment are already clear: but there is still uncertainty about how and when the full benefits of the fourth industrial revolution—Industry 4.0—will materialise.

There are several factors that need to coalesce in order for Industry 4.0 to become a reality. Strong political and economic incentives, the correct investment in skills and training and the availability of advanced tools that make implementation easy will all affect the pace of adoption.

Global Contrasts

Around the world, the economic, political and technological drivers for Industry 4.0 adoption vary considerably. In countries like Germany and the UK, Industry 4.0 is viewed as the route that will lead to the emergence of “smart industry”; where people, devices, objects, and systems combine to form dynamic, self-organising networks of production—made possible by technological advances which constitute a reversal of conventional production process logic.

For the US, the emphasis is more on the role of big data in effecting collaboration, and Industry 4.0 has become synonymous with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).  The US government sees the supporting of IIoT as a means to protect jobs and increase the innovation strength of the US economy, while decreasing the international trade deficit. Over the next five years, the US is expected to invest more capital into the digitalisation of manufacturing than any other nation or region.

Meanwhile in China, where labour and materials costs are rapidly increasing, digitalisation is being championed as a means to transform outdated production methods. Many Chinese manufacturers are still operating in the age of Industry 2.0. However, the political impetus for change is evident in “China Manufacturing 2025”, a government plan to transform the country into an advanced production nation by the middle of this century.

The initiative by the Chinese government will see heavy investment in internet architecture, big data and cloud computing, leading to more intelligent factories. The pace of change necessary here is incomparable with other developed nations: China is looking to take a careful, methodical approach to the digitalisation of manufacturing, seeking partnerships with more experienced nations along the way.

Industry Variations

Adoption of Industry 4.0 principles also varies between industries. The automotive sector is well-advanced in the adoption of automation, data interchange and advanced production technologies, being motivated by high volume, high quality, and cost sensitive manufacture. This sector views process control as the means to further improve the quality of production processes while also reducing operating expenses.

In component production plants, Industry 4.0 implementation offers considerable potential, especially in predictive maintenance. Continuous recording and analysis of process data allows plant and system failures to be predicted, inefficient developments to be corrected and productivity to be improved.

By contrast, the aerospace industry has been slower to adapt automated over manual processes. The reasons are clear enough: production is characterised by relatively small volumes, large components and accessibility problems during assembly. All these factors are barriers to change. Nevertheless, the need to limit quality costs and cycle times, to exclude human factors as a source of error as far as possible and to become more efficient generally are key drivers.

Major aerospace OEMs are beginning to embrace intelligent software and digital networking, with advanced assembly tools making a key contribution. The potential for small changes to make a big difference are particularly evident in this sector: a one percent improvement in fuel efficiency represents a saving of US$2 billion for airlines.

Taking industry as a whole, common drivers are the need for to bring innovative products to market more quickly. Industry 4.0 offers the means to completely digitalise the product development life cycle. This in turn allows manufacturers to provide customers accurate traceability, quality control, and cost effective new products.

Individual Responsibilities

In addition to global and industry sector differences, the successful adoption of Industry 4.0 is reliant on the human factor—our willingness to understand, embrace and deliver change. According to Harvard Business Review’s “From Data to Action” report, the most difficult aspect for organisations to change on the route to smarter factories is their internal culture.

Successful implementation of Industry 4.0 therefore requires strong leadership. The person at the top must set the example and be seen to fully embrace change, commit to it, and communicate it in a compelling way. The philosophy of making fact-based decisions using quantitative manufacturing data will need to be coached into all levels of management.

Indeed, everyone at every level of their organisation needs to understand how they will benefit from Industry 4.0.  For example, the use of collaborative robots (cobots) for unergonomic, complex or repetitive tasks does not signal the rise of the machines and unemployment. It means that manual and automated processes within production can interact with each other in the most effective way. And real-time production monitoring renders many manual interventions unnecessary; freeing up time for personnel to undertake added value, more profitable work.

Tooling Up

A smart factory requires a vast range of products embedded with systems, sensors, and actuators that are all linked to one another via the internet—including assembly tools. These tools need to support the transition from traditional ways of working to a more digitised workplace where optimisation delivers economies and efficiencies we are only just beginning to exploit.

As part of this transition, intelligent tools must provide support to operators as they adapt to Industry 4.0 ways of working. In the past, an assembly worker was valued because they could perform the same task competently on the same line day after day. In a smart factory, that same worker may be required to rivet body panels one shift and wire up a lighting system on the next. Traditional training in all these skills takes time—and the pace of technological change can render such learning obsolete very quickly.

So how can we ensure that modern assembly workers feel valued and competent, and can access the information they need to complete diverse tasks efficiently and without error?  One answer is PivotWare, a comprehensive process control platform that guides operators through a specific set of assembly tasks as part of an automated process.

A graphic and textual display shows them exactly what tools to use, what components to apply and where to fix them. The system verifies that each step has been completed correctly before allowing the operator to move to the next stage. The platform is programmable by the customer using software tools provided, so responsiveness to changes in production requirements is unhampered by any need for specialist intervention.

Looking ahead, companies like Desoutter are already developing the next generation of tools that can deliver Industry 4.0 capabilities and support the smart factory model. And the company predicts that tomorrow’s operating platform will deliver a major step change in multi-tool management, offering far greater connectivity and flexibility than is currently possible.

Gathering Momentum

Industry 4.0 may have some way to go, but it is gathering pace. Governments around the globe acknowledge its potential to deliver wealth and job security and are taking positive steps to help their industry-base make the transition. Forward-thinking companies also recognise that they have to invest in the latest technologies if they want to achieve long-term improvements in production efficiency.

There is also a growing awareness of the human factor, and how we need to make sure that people are equipped with the right tools to be more flexible and adaptable.  If we want these things to happen more quickly, then we must all play our part in accelerating the transformation.

Virtual Image: The Digital Twin

Virtual Image: The Digital Twin

Industry 4.0, digitalised data in the cloud, networked processes in smart factories—what role does the metal-cutting tool play in this context? By Walter Frick

“Just as with every real metal-cutting process the real metal-cutting tool plays an important role, the virtual tool is equally crucial for the virtual imaging of processes,” said Claudia Kleinschrodt, a research associate at the Faculty of Design Studies and CAD at Bayreuth University, where she works on the problems involved in CAD data interchange between tool models. This digital twin possesses all characteristics of the real tool and is able to image this consistently throughout all digital processes.

Simulative Optimisation

Consistent digitalisation, explains Ms Kleinschrodt, permits virtual commissioning or the simulative optimisation of process parameters, for example.

“Since it is possible to file all information concerning the tool at a central location, users can respond to changes in the tool during its lifetime (by regrinding, for instance), the parameters can be modified, and thus a uniformly high quality of the products be assured,” she added.

By relocating many time-intensive steps into the virtual world, moreover, processes can be designed for significantly enhanced efficiency. Automation and centralised planning, for example, lead to reduced make-ready times, better machine capacity utilisation, or optimised cycle times.

Harmonised Systems

In order to obtain an overview regarding the large number of tools used in manufacturing plants, efficient tool management systems (TMSs) are indispensable. They constitute an essential precondition for automation and networking. Fully functional data interchange is important not merely for supplying the TMS with the requisite information; it is in fact crucial for each digital step in the process chain.

In this context, it is not only the information content, but the compatibility between the highly disparate systems involved that constitutes a major challenge. Harmonised systems and high-quality data are thus crucial for implementing efficiently digitalised processes. If these conditions are met, “companies can benefit substantially from digitalisation of their processes. Mid-tier companies, especially, can thus operate efficiently and flexibly, and retain their long-term competitiveness,” said Ms Kleinschrodt.

Potential For Optimisation

“When you hear the buzzword of Industry 4.0, what mostly comes to mind is digital factories, the internet of things, data storage in the cloud, or perhaps also robot-aided manufacturing. Metal-cutting tools are well-nigh ignored in this context,” said Thomas Funk from Emuge-Werk Richard Glimpel. For the digital factory, the digital twin of the metal-cutting tool was created. This twin, added Mr Funk, “contains all the information required for virtually imaging all stations that the tool passes through in the factory.”

For handling the resultant data volumes, efficient tool management systems are essential. Within the framework of digitalisation, process analyses will identify hidden costs at more and more mid-tier companies. Tool management systems will be used more extensively, and with the aid of the tools’ digital twins will increase still further the efficiency of the production operations involved and optimise the work sequences concerned.

“I expect the trend of recent years to continue, and the importance of digital tool data to increase still further,” said Mr Funk. He added that he is also showcasing the company’s new website application at various trade shows, on which the digital twin has been stored for many of their catalogue items.

Part Of The Process Chain

The metal-cutting tool, explained Markus Kannwischer, head of engineering and a member of the board at Paul Horn, “is part of a process chain, and in contrast to almost all other production equipment, is subject to wear and tear. Information on the tool has to be available in digital form in order to enable it to be used in the process chain. This applies firstly to all information on geometrical dimensions, and secondly to other information on deployment of the tool.”

Information on wear and tear, and on deployment of the tool, is important for controlling the process concerned. It can firstly be generated from the tool itself (sensorial tools). Here, the tool itself sends information on pressures, temperatures and vibrations, for instance.


Drawing From Deep Expertise

This information enables conclusions to be drawn on the state and stress status of the blade, and also on the stability of the process. The machining parameters can then be modified automatically using the control system, analogously to autonomous running, where the speed is matched to the boundary conditions involved.

Secondly, information can be obtained at the spindle, at the machine or via separate measuring devices, which likewise enables conclusions to be drawn on the state of the blade.

A series of research projects are currently addressing the question of how the metal-cutting process can in the course of digitalisation be controlled “more intelligently”, meaning more dependably:

  • Shall useful lifetimes be utilised to the full?
  • Is it necessary to monitor the metal-cutting process for each individual blade? “

Relevant Tooling Services

In the view of Dr Jochen Kress, a member of the board at Mapal, it is no longer sufficient to deliver the best possible tool nowadays. “Today, a tool has to include the relevant services, like tool management and the corresponding data. We have taken this on board with our Tool Management 4.0, which we are offering on the basis of the c-Com open-cloud platform,” said Dr Kress.

With reference to the tool, the digital twin plays a particularly important role for optimising the actual machining operation. This is because it enables the entire machining cycle to be replicated in an NC simulation software package. Collisions can thus be detected, and the tool’s behaviour tested. This not only avoids the production of cost-intensive rejects, but can in many cases even replace the use of a component prototype.

Above and beyond the metal-cutting process itself, the correct data on the tools facilitate all tasks encountered during a tool’s life-cycle. This applies to all processes from order placement all the way through to final disposal, such as purchasing, regrinding the tools or machine acceptance-testing at the customer’s facility.

Nowadays, in metal cutting manufacture, more and more of the processes involving the tools required are being outsourced, like procurement, adjustment or provision. Dr Kress said, “We took this development on board at an early stage, and put in place an efficient tool management system.”

Only by sharing data on a joint platform like c-Com for concomitantly maximised transparency can applied technical solutions be compared inside the company. This “simplifies the interaction between purchasing and production, and between purchasing and the vendors”, concluded Dr Kress.

Back To Top