Industry 4.0 refers to the advanced integration of products and processes via digital technology. It refers to cyber-physical systems (CPS). We can define Industry 4.0 as the next phase in the digitisation of the manufacturing industry, driven by technological developments, including:
- Big Data generated by the Internet of Things
- Machine Learning through big data
- Real-time feedback via networking and internet technologies
- Industrial Blockchain: smart contracts, connected ERP systems, traceability
- Intuitive interoperability between man and machine
- Virtualization and simulation of systems to test alternative scenarios and support fast re-configuration
- Decentralisation of decisions through artificial intelligence and machine learning to perform simple tasks
- Real-time and simultaneous collection of data from multiple sources, to send immediate feedback to an entire supply chain of raw materials, production, supply chains and distribution
- Use of a huge range of internet cloud services
- Modularity provides flexibility through the ability to quickly adjust production, supply and distribution parameters.
The transition to Industry 4.0 is driven not only by technological developments, but also by socio-economic changes:
- the transition from product to service, where companies offer the product as a service or with important complementary services;
- responding to individual customer demands for differentiation, leading to smaller production runs and other logistics (lot size one);
- hyper-competition, with a constant need to innovate and stay ahead of (new) competitors;
- the competition for scarce goods, including suitable manpower
The "Internet of Things" has been present in our world for a long time and is growing strongly. Every day new things are connected to each other: everything from your thermostat to the parking meter in the street is connected to the internet. Many of these devices are already observing their surroundings and reporting this data. E.g. your thermostat lets you know that it is 16°C in your home when you are at work, and you can decide to raise the temperature remotely.
When we extend this to the production world, we see that there is a strong growth in devices with an IP address. When sensors, actuators and cameras are also connected, this creates a huge amount of data. Data that has never been accessible before and has an incredible value.
Thanks to these intelligent machines connected via The Internet of Things, a cyber-physical production is created in which the entire production process can be monitored in real time.
The standardisation of structures, data exchange, semantics, vocabulary, taxonomies, ontology and interfaces is essential to ensure interoperability between the different technologies involved in a complex and extremely heterogeneous domain such as Industry 4.0.
Modules, components, devices, production lines, robots, machines, sensors, catalogues, files, systems, databases and applications must have the same standards to ensure that the various elements are interoperable with one another and with general semantics. As a result, production facilities can be built in a flexible way with components made by different manufacturers.
International standards are also essential to create open, flexible and successful collaborative platforms (ecosystems) that span not only different producers, but also different countries and continents.
Cooperation & IPR
New forms of cooperation can emerge if the industrial service providers, production operators, machine constructors and operators come together in a digital ecosystem. The introduction of innovative commercial models and the search for suitable partners are major challenges for small companies and SMEs.
Their trump card lies in their "unfair advantage", such as supplying small, specialised, high-quality and easily internally traceable production runs or batches. For large companies, small production runs are not economically interesting, while the products themselves are essential for their own production. This situation can lead to very close partnerships between the small and the large company for the delivery of tailor-made products.
In order to ensure the growth and success of such value-creating partnerships, it becomes necessary to look for new ways to protect intellectual property.