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Industry 4.0 and the rise of smart manufacturing

Industry 4.0 has evolved from a disparate set of high-flown ideas around connectivity into a real practice that is saving the automotive industry money and creating new business opportunities. By Xavier Boucherat

It goes by many names – Industry 4.0, smart manufacturing, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – but whatever you call it, the idea of connected manufacturing is becoming increasingly pervasive. Indeed, it’s risen to such prominence that 2016’s Hannover Messe, where Industry 4.0 was the central theme, was opened by two of the world’s most powerful leaders – Barack Obama and Angela Merkel.

The pair visited a number of stands demonstrating the latest Industry 4.0 applications for industrial analytics, energy management, predictive maintenance and smart logistics. But what’s interesting to note is that whilst the potential impact of Industry 4.0 is often compared to previous technological leaps forward (mechanisation, electrification, digitalisation), many of the projects use technology that’s already widely available. The difference lies in the problems they’re used to solve, e.g. data-mining, and the problems they create, e.g. cyber security threats. Should we view this as a revolution, or an evolution?

Bosch has achieved a 25% output improvement for its automatic braking system (ABS) and electronic stability programme (EPS) production with the introduction of smart, connected lines

Bosch, one of the companies credited with coining the term Industry 4.0 at the Hannover Messe in 2011, is clear on this. “It’s definitely an evolution,” says Werner Struth, Member of the Board of Management and Industry 4.0 specialist. “That’s an extremely important point.” Industry 4.0, he says, is now a reality that’s built up over the course of recent years, and no longer a disparate set of abstract concepts. There are now several examples of Tier 1s like Bosch co-operating with automotive customers by means of Industry 4.0.

Sensitive matters

Bosch APAS
Collaborative robots: At the Bosch plant in Stuttgart-Feuerbach, humans work together with automatic production assistants (APAS), which are equipped with sensors that stop the APAS working if the human and the APAS get too close to each other

In terms of manufacturing, says Struth, sensors are the key enabler that will help realise the biggest benefits. A production system fitted with sensors, he explains, can provide continuous status updates which can then be compared with a ‘digital twin’ – a simulation of the system that runs at 100% efficiency. Through this, deviations can be quickly flagged, and trends can be more easily identified. Struth points to a concrete example: Bosch has achieved a 25% output improvement for its automatic braking system (ABS) and electronic stability programme (EPS) production with the introduction of smart, connected lines.

One OEM that has led the way on sensor-equipped manufacturing that can take advantage of data is Audi. The manufacturer’s tool-making division has designed self-learning technology for stamping operations on press lines. These can automatically adjust to optimise how much material is fed into a press. Pulling too little material over the tool can result in component tearing, whilst excessive material can impact on stability. Sensors measure the force exerted on steel or aluminium blanks, and adjust pressure by raising or lowering stamping dies when measurements fall outside a certain window. This also contributes to sustainable production by lowering the number of reject parts.

Trends and behaviours

As Industry 4.0 develops, it will be able to better respond to the pressures faced by OEMs. Trends such as lightweighting and electrification remain huge topics prior to the arrival of Euro VII and more stringent CAFE regulations. One of Bosch’s current customers is an EV manufacturer, for which it makes iBooster brake systems. “We have full control not just over the data from our production system, but our customer’s production system, and the components as they are used in the field.” The data returned shows the effect of the brakes on the vehicle, and how effectively they work.

Stefan Assmann, Head of Bosch’s Connected Industry Innovation Cluster, explained this gives Bosch valuable insight, “now just into how we thought our product was used, but how it is really used, and through this we can learn how to simplify design, because we get a sense of where it has been over-engineered, or under-engineered.” Similar applications in future could wield further efficiency gains.

As well as responding to demands from OEMs, Industry 4.0 could also offer ways to address changing customer behaviour. Assmann says increased demand from customers for customisation and quick delivery is one of the key drivers behind Industry 4.0. “People love things like Amazon because they offer it the next day,” he says, “and it might be in the future that no two cars are quite the same.” By connecting customers directly to manufacturing facilities, the time between making these requests and receiving a finished vehicle could be reduced.

New models

Industry 4.0 could also open up new business opportunities, particularly for super suppliers. Equipment reliability within plants is of greater importance than ever, with some facilities running nearly round the clock.

“Machines have failures, and some will be due to breakdowns brought about through wear and tear,” says Struth. “If you set up a condition monitoring system, again paired with a digital twin, you can make predictive maintenance strategies.” This opens up opportunities for suppliers in the fields of data collection, storage, and alert services. “This is a new service model that can be delivered to customers to improve their productivity, and reduce their costs.”

Bosch’s Feuerbach plant in Stuttgart, which produces CP4 common rail pumps for diesel injection systems, is using a number of applications such as the production data system. This is connected to a worldwide network that monitors output at a CP4 plant in the Czech Republic, and will later include plants in Bangalore and China. When production drops or rises at any workstation in these plants, they can immediately get in touch with one another to figure out the cause. Along with using these technologies, Bosch’s hope is to provide them and the necessary infrastructure to other suppliers and manufacturers.

Like many, Struth identifies data security as the biggest threat accompanying Industry 4.0

The same data services will be required for preventive maintenance on connected vehicles in the field, which could potentially let a factory know when it will need a part replacement. OEMs like Volvo Trucks have been leading the way on this. The OEM has previously suggested the preventive maintenance could cut unplanned truck standstills by as much as 80%. The amount of data required will be huge, and could even be collected on a region-by-region basis as different conditions could affect different parts of a vehicle.

Speaking at Bosch’s 2016 annual press conference, Volkmar Denner, Chairman of the Board of Management, said Bosch saw itself as a leading user and provider in the field of connected industry. “This two-pronged strategy is paying off,” he added. “By 2020, we expect connected industry to have saved us an aggregate €1bn (US$1.14bn) in costs, and to have generated aggregate extra sales of the same amount.”

Letting your guard down

Like many, Struth identifies data security as the biggest threat accompanying Industry 4.0. Within the Internet of Things (IoT), there is no such thing as 100% security, he concedes. “The risk isn’t necessarily as big within a closed loop, such as in a factory. Here we can easily achieve a high level of security,” he says. “But as soon as I want to connect with my business partners to shared data, and deliver data to the Cloud, we have to make sure that we have state-of-the-art architecture.”

Many manufacturers use China as a base, and there are several issues in the Far East, including the threat of intellectual property theft

Peter Brooke, director at Deloitte’s Supply Chain Practice, points out that this could become particularly tricky for OEMs looking to move data across borders. “There is still work to be done, particularly when we talk about the dispatch of data to foreign countries,” he says. “Many manufacturers use China as a base, and there are several issues in the Far East, including the threat of intellectual property theft.” The risk of data sets being stolen increases as they are shared across suppliers, he continues, which in turn means competitors and other bodies, such as nation-states, may be able to see products.

Rolf Nicodemus, Project Vice President of Bosch Connected Parking, agrees with Struth that security will be an ever more-challenging, on-going project: “It will always be a competition between us and those who would look to do harm.” Bosch and numerous other OEMs and Tier 1s now regularly employ the services of white-hat hackers, dedicated to picking apart digital defences. Ultimately, it will be down to players in the industry to decide what technologies bring benefits that outweigh their accompanying risks.

This article appeared in the Q2 2016 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue.

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