Digital technologies, the automation of processes and changes to business models will be some of the main areas to be affected by digitalisation and the connection of industrial systems, says industrial automation multinational Endress+Hauser supervisory board VP and German Electrical and Electrotechnical Manufacturers Association chairperson Michael Ziesemer.
‘In-line’ and ‘online’ are two key words that describe modern industrial systems and industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) systems, collectively referred to as Industry 4.0.
Although industry has been dealing with the phenomenon of digitisation for many years, IIoT is significantly more specialised and fit for industrial use than the general IoT architecture being used by other sectors, Ziesemer explains.
One of the key developments for industrial digitisation includes contactless sensors to monitor processes during operations and robust sensors that require little to no maintenance.
“While demands for more robust sensors and sensors decoupled from harsh conditions have driven developments in this area over the past two to three decades, their use in IIoT systems will allow for analytical tasks to be relocated from the laboratory to the plant floor and support continuous monitoring of quality and efficiency.
“Instead of testing samples in laboratories, process engineers will always have the information on hand, which is possible with new contactless sensors – such as Raman spectroscopes that detect changes in the vibration or rotation of a system and are used to detect chemical molecules – and robust sensors monitoring the processes during operations.”
However, the true impact of digitalisation will be the changes to business models and the value chain composition.
Hardware is becoming a commodity and can increasingly be accessed as a service. Additionally, services will gain a larger share of the market and will be a principle way of adding value for clients, he highlights.
“What can be digitised will be digitised, and will change the processes between the factory floor and production. Digitisation will also change the way companies interact with their suppliers and add value. New business models will be datacentric.”
Service providers to industry will also have to consider how to use data and information from sensors and equipment and, while most countries have personal information protection legislation, there is little legislation governing the ownership and use of machine data. Ziesemer advises that industrial companies include clauses to govern the ownership, use and sharing of machine-generated data in contracts with suppliers and service providers.
Endress+Hauser demonstrated intrinsically safe power and Ethernet cabling for mining and manufacturing equipment that was used to set up and operate the equipment without human intervention at the Hannover Messe in 2015.
“Connectivity in industrial systems has been growing over the past 20 years, but still only 20% of machines use more than a 4 mA to 20 mA analogue connection. The low cost of storage and the availability of affordable computing power make it feasible to process data from all the connected machines in real time.”
A crucial element of Industry 4.0 is the people. Companies will have to focus on enabling their employees to learn a lot of new concepts and, without effective training and education, companies will not achieve the desired results, concludes Ziesemer.