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Creating factories of the future

Home Engineering ICT Creating factories of the future

INDUSTRY 4.0 technologies will increasingly be incorporated into the design of factories of the future. Digitalisation, intelligent automation and “smartisation” will allow these factories to operate more productivity, efficiently and cost-effectively.

That’s according to Raymond Obermeyer, Managing Director of SEW-Eurodrive South Africa, who said Industry 4.0 includes all the opportunities for digitally networked production. It means that networked and centrally controlled machinery and components can make independent decisions decentrally.

“Industrial production strategies have traditionally been based on central and hierarchical control entities. Industry 4.0 technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), are changing this, allowing machines, components and workpieces to be smart with the ability to self-organise,” he said.

Describing “smartisation” as the fusion of conventional physical products with cutting-edge information technology, Obermeyer said that once things are smart and digital the possibilities are endless. “Networking and machine-to-machine communication becomes possible, as do autonomous and decentralised control mechanisms, the intelligent use of big value data streams, and even services like servicing and monitoring.”

For Industry 4.0 technologies to work effectively, however, will require shifting the value creation process towards software engineering, the digitalisation of machines and a comprehensive decentralisation of all processes.

“For the most part, the technologies for Industry 4.0 already exist with computer-integrated manufacturing and lean production systems resulting in more efficient and more reliable systems. The challenge, however, is how to network and combine these proven technologies into new autonomous systems which use data and intelligent analysis programmes to enable predictions of how technical processes can be made more reliable, efficient and even fail-safe.”

He said digital innovation was nothing new to SEW-Eurodrive, citing the company’s factory in Graben-Neudorf in Germany as a showcase of Industry 4.0 technologies.

“It is a factory which is characterised by system solutions for Industry 4.0 which intelligently links mobile robots and assistance systems to a loose process module, in the process supporting employees, raising productivity and implementing smart maintenance.”

Many of these same technologies, he said, are being implemented in SEW-Eurodrive South Africa’s new R200-million headquarters in Aeroton, Johannesburg.

Obermeyer said the company would be using these same learnings and technologies to help customers develop their own factories and manufacturing facilities of the future incorporating state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 technologies.

“Conventional industry boundaries will increasingly be blurred by the digitalisation of processes and disruptive technologies. As a result, businesses need to plan for and incorporate these technologies in order to remain competitive. Get it right and not only will businesses be more sustainable, but they will have optimised the value creation process.”

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