Many companies are today already using technologies in line with the idea behind Industry 4.0. They are often just island solutions, but they are increasingly penetrating the industrial world.
Industry 4.0 is not just a research topic. Machinery and plant with embedded, interconnected systems (CPS) are already in widespread use in the industrial environment. Specific applications particularly include object monitoring in production processes and preventive maintenance of machinery and plant based on real-time data. The increasing connectivity of objects in production processes is also demonstrated by transport technologies and products capable of transmitting data – often using RFID (Radio Frequency Identification). Some companies are also already using CPS platforms to collate, process and analyse the data from the connected objects. So, many companies have started making the first steps towards connected production, and towards implementing unified data platforms. Mark Alexander Schulte, consultant and project manager with IDC, comments: “Even if the implementation is still in some cases in the pilot project or test phase, or restricted to individual production departments, companies are already gathering experience in the collection and analysis of data from connected production systems. That is a sound basis for the launch of more far-reaching Industry 4.0 initiatives within businesses.
” The applications of Industry 4.0 technologies are not restricted to manufacturing industries however. Digitisation and smart solutions have already proved their capabilities in sectors as diverse as container logistics and agriculture, and even in commercial laundries.
Combine harvester to tractor: Come in …
Agricultural machines that “talk” to each other? That sounds like futuristic fantasy, but has in fact already been turned into reality by “Farming 4.0”, a pilot project run by Deutsche Telekom in conjunction with the agricultural machinery manufacturer Claas: When a combine harvester detects that its grain tank is full, it automatically signals the fact. The tractor and trailer are made ready to empty the tank just in time. This avoids waiting times, optimises workflows and relieves staff of unnecessary stress. The machines are equipped with sensors which send data via a mobile communications link every second, providing the driver with real-time information on the status of the harvest.
The thinking laundry
The Kannegiesser company is employing Industry 4.0 technologies to make commercial laundries more intelligent. The washing process is optimised according to the energy price, the degree of soiling of the articles and the laundry’s available capacity – to achieve maximum hygiene, cut throughput times or minimise energy consumption. If heavily soiled laundry requiring disinfection is delivered, for example, the cleaning power is dramatically increased, though this does, within certain limits, entail an increase in energy consumption or longer throughput time. Parameters such as temperature, detergent dosage and wash time are then automatically adapted to the specific requirements.
Selling fruit when it is ripe
Fruit needs to get to market fresh and in good quality, with as little spoilage as possible on the way from the producer to the consumer. In the Smart Container developed by the University of Bremen, the cargo is identified by RFID technology, with sensor networks continuously monitoring the temperature in the container and the condition of the fruit. The container’s software is able to monitor and predict the fruit’s ripening progress in transit. This data can be used to bring fruit to market at just the right time, as well as to aid decision-making in the management of logistics processes.