Smart going-on: Intelligent networks in manufacturing

Klaus Dieter Rennert, chief executive for EMEA-
CIS, Hitachi

The Internet of Things

When we talk about the Internet of Things (IoT), we tend to think of connected homes and smart devices making our lives easier and more efficient through technology. However when the IoT is applied to manufacturing, the potential for improvements are immense. By connecting multiple machines, a manufacturer can create an intelligent network reducing the need for intervention by operators. This transformation in manufacturing, through the application of IoT sensors, system logic and big data, is known as Industry 4.0 and has even been dubbed ‘the fourth industrial revolution’, says Klaus Dieter Rennert of Hitachi

Companies are now using IT to improve their operations and better address the challenges that traditional industries are facing. Research conducted by Frost & Sullivan on the topic of social innovation and technology highlights how Industry 4.0 is an opportunity for businesses to develop innovative novel technological solutions which streamline processes, optimises collaboration, saves time and energy, and optimise learning through feedback loops in circular value chains.

When Social Innovation meets the IoT

Social Innovation in manufacturing and construction comprises of the IoT, data analytics and cloud computing coming together to enable smarter manufacturing and process digitisation and alongside the emergence of Industry 4.0 which is driving efficiency and sustainability. It’s now clear that using IT to enable smart manufacturing in industries will bring about significant positive change at every level. For example, on an urban level it will allow for near sourcing and sustainable manufacturing whilst at a personal level, the wellness of workers and reduction of emissions.

Smarter factories

Embracing Industry 4.0, manufacturing companies are increasingly using analytics to build more efficient operations. This gives manufacturers the knowledge and information that help them forecast, diagnose and respond to unexpected events. This will help them prolong the lifespan of their assets, reduce inefficiency and save time. The latest IDC Manufacturing Insights Report looked at prospects for manufacturers and found that by 2020 at least half of all corporate processes will have automated data acquisition (DAQ) systems, while a quarter will have self-correction capabilities.

Smart is the new green

To deliver on the promise of Industry 4.0, existing enterprise systems must be modified so that they can work with and monitor IoT sensor-based technology. With a host of disparate manufacturing this task can appear daunting. But Frost and Sullivan see Industry 4.0 – smart factories, asset tracking and process digitisation – as a key mega trend in innovation that can be seen in different ways across all sectors. As such, they say that being ‘smart is the new green’. In the utilities sense this means smart homes and water grids. On a larger scale it means reducing environmental impact using a smart system whilst saving time, stress and cost by improving input use, reducing maintenance and downtime.

Industry 4.0 in action

In Europe, the Global e-service provided by Hitachi uses IT integration to allow asset owners to be smarter. E-service helps monitor and collect data from a fleet of plant equipment, thereby enabling optimal resource efficiency. Land and Water Group Plant Hire is using Hitachi’s Global e-Service to enable its customers to reduce their negative impact on the environment and control costs for the operators. By giving operators a picture of their construction fleets through a connected service Hitachi is empowering operators to meet their deadlines and budgets.

New perspectives

A smart system can offer customer and stakeholder feedback, new service creation and delivery and the integration of IT. As it can deliver predictive analytics and supply chain visibility it can help reduce the costs associated with expected risks in a system. Once inefficiencies are eliminated, businesses can invest in the future growth of their business. This might translate into employment benefits and more collaborative ways of working. This is a key effect of Industry 4.0 and Social Innovation. Hitachi is approaching Industry 4.0 with alacrity because when technological advances, industry trends and social need combine, the opportunity for shared value is at its greatest.

This blog published by the author Klaus Dieter Rennert, chief executive for EMEA-CIS, Hitachi, Ltd.

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