When digital theory results in application in practice…

…then the topic of Industry 4.0 becomes a reliable indicator for disruptive change brought on by the newest of technologies. It is therefore only right that, as both one of the most influential computer scientists and successful entrepreneurs, Prof. Dr. August-Wilhelm Scheer should devote an in-depth chapter to this subject in his recently published book ”Industry 4.0”.

The way of looking at processes that underlies the concept of Industry 4.0 is already over 30 years old. It was illustrated back then in the Y-CIM model which Professor Scheer used as the basis for the subsequent development of his ARIS software and methods. The focus was placed on the separate consideration given to processes taking place in companies on the one hand – such as planning, sales or procurement – and, on the other hand, to processes critical to the activity of production. The Y form makes their separate analysis and meaningful interlinking clear. The concept of Computer Integrated Manufacturing was to be the basis of computer controlled industrial operations. What was missing, however, was the appropriate technology for successful implementation. This technology is available to us today and the fourth industrial revolution in modern production operations has therefore not only arrived, but its implementation is increasingly becoming a factor critical to success.

The focus is now on Cyber-physical systems in manufacturing in smart factories. They control production plants and the products themselves with a high degree of flexibility. At the same time large volumes of data are generated in the production process which, thanks to big data evaluation, can be used for entirely new services such as predictive maintenance and predictive quality assurance.

On the one hand, the driver here is the principle of self-control, as intelligent systems communicate with intelligent materials. On the other hand, being attentive to the views of customers and their demands, it is about the trend towards individualization that is reflected in new product offerings. In a smart factory it is possible to produce a single, individually designed, piece at the (original) price of mass-produced goods.

Industry 4.0 is creating completely new opportunities for increases in efficiency. For example, and in a way similar to the implementation of supportive IT systems at the turn of the Century, we are looking here increasingly at autonomous systems which, for completely new business models, make possible the quick, especially fully automated change, or rather adaptation of the same as market conditions demand. The risks associated with such self-controlling systems will, in future, be limited because digital twins can be made not only of products and processes, but of an entire digital factory. This twin is available, at low risk, for experimentation and simulation!

Germany is well on its way in implementing Industry 4.0, but some emerging economies, in which no previously successful analogue production processes exist to be defended or to be displaced, are already attempting an overtaking manoeuvre!

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