Connectivity is at the core of Industry 4.0, linking physical networks with cyber networks, combining into one system, and allowing a real-time flow of information.
These connected systems allow data to be collected and turned into information and insights that can then be quickly acted upon.
Such digital connectivity is based around a combination of:
- The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – machines and technologies collecting, sharing and acting on data without the need for human intervention
- Big Data – the capture and real-time analysis of data by machines and systems in order to determine improvements and potential difficulties
- Digital Infrastructure – a secure and resilient digital infrastructure is required to link all of the elements together
To realise the benefits of digital connectivity, the insights from industrial data must be transmitted and communicated in real time.
As a result, data management, analytics and cutting-edge networking are critical skill sets and technologies that must be maintained in order to minimise downtime costs.
However, for industry, this delivers the benefit of understanding exactly what is happening at a given moment in a process, whether that’s how a product is being used or how production systems are performing.
Issues or problems can be acted upon quickly, maximising equipment efficiencies, minimising downtime and gaining new data-driven insights to help drive growth strategies and respond to customer demands.
Increased insights from data also enable industries to create new business models, leading to higher value activities and thereby increasing competitive advantage, potentially by enabling mass customisation, service-enhanced business models, service-oriented business models, factory-less goods producers, and the growth of the circular economy.
Digital transformation does not necessarily mean replacing old equipment on the shop floor, which can be costly, but rather the augmentation of existing industrial facilities, connecting them through reliable networks, such as Ethernet and 5G.
TWI has been working closely with a number of businesses to explore and expand digital connectivity for manufacture, fault detection, and more.