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Key requirement 4.0

There are many recipes for digital transformation. According to McKinsey, three key principles apply: Focusing on the key value drivers, empowering people, and renewing the infrastructure to create an integrated technology platform.
Dr. Andrea Rösinger, Forcam
April 6, 2021
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[shutterstock: 285280127, Hamik]
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This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

When renewing infrastructure, the focus should be on creating value locally before scaling globally. After all, according to the McKinsey study "Industry 4.0 - Capturing Value at Scale in Discrete Manufacturing": Many use cases deliver their value via on-site infrastructure.

However, the very requirement to "renew infrastructure with a focus on on-site value creation" presents many companies with a key challenge. For example, the digital transformation of production requires an integrated IT/OT architecture - for example, SAP's Industrie 4.0 Solution Blueprint. At the same time, the prerequisites for machine connectivity and data acquisition are different in every production facility.

The reason is that machines, plants, controllers and sensors of different ages as well as from different manufacturers are usually used, reports the further McKinsey study "Industrial IoT". Therefore, special solutions are required, which must be carefully combined into clusters. It goes on to say that nothing works in the digital space without connectivity.

Tie Brownfield

Because the vast majority of factories around the world operate with older machines or even a completely old stock of machines, the so-called brownfield, one central question is: How do you digitally connect both modern and new as well as existing older machines? The answer to this question drives many companies.

In surveys, a majority of companies state that they would have to replace around 30 percent of their existing assets in the course of a digital transformation. For large manufacturing companies in particular, this would mean writing off billions in investments in machinery and equipment. This borders on business management madness.

Strategically, however, it is important to protect investments made and to enable necessary innovations. Therefore, a suitable solution that is as easy to implement as possible must be found for the decisive first step of the digital journey. Only with comprehensive brownfield connectivity, even for machines delivered long before the digital age, can the other stages of the digital journey follow: Visibility, transparency, predictability and adaptability, as defined by the German Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech).

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Stages of the Industry 4.0 development path (Source: FIR e. V. at RWTH Aachen University)

Connectivity must be considered and integrated from the outset in a holistic IT/OT architecture like the cardiovascular system for the data flow. Forcam and SAP offer such a holistic architecture in the DMC (Digital Manufacturing Cloud). With Forcam Force Edge, brownfield plants can be connected and comprehensively mapped in Level 0 to 2 in the SAP Industry 4.0 Blueprint.

The Edge solution provides resilience while transferring all relevant data to downstream systems such as DMC or SAP ME/MII, where the collected and normalized machine data can be seamlessly integrated with all relevant downstream processes. Says Mani Pirouz, Global Head of Partner Innovation at SAP: "Forcam Force Edge enables customers to connect their brownfield to SAP solutions and integrate with SAP processes, allowing them to take full advantage of digital twins."

Digital twin

The factory of the future works with a precise and uniform real-time data model in production and planning. Connectivity is the basis for such a digital twin of production. The digital twin of production is created when shop-floor data is condensed into information, i.e., the collected machine signals are standardized into a uniform digital language and semantically assigned.

Big data becomes smart data. Only then can all IT systems on the store floor and the pot floor work with a single source of truth. The Force Edge solution also takes care of this standardization and semantic assignment. Every signal is given the right meaning.

An excursion into the store floor shows: The heterogeneity of machine fleets in manufacturing companies in all industries is great. However, three basic approaches to digital connectivity can be distinguished.First, simple and/or older machines do not have a network-capable controller. Their Internet-capable connection is achieved by tapping signals and states directly from the machine using a converter, an I/O box. Common signals are: Machine on or off, production or standstill, quantity and fault.

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Necessary skills in the design field of resources (source: Acatech study)

Secondly, newer machines have a network-compatible control system. With them, the signals are read out from the controller via plug-ins. These plug-ins are available in Force Egde for the most common control types.

Thirdly, modern machines as well as complete machining centers work with the communication protocols such as OPC, MTConnect or MQTT. These systems usually generate a standardized data packet that is suitable for further processing without having to upstream a direct signal conversion from the controller. The challenge lies in the inhomogeneous data structures of the data packets and the different machine types.

Edge and cloud infrastructures

Back to the strategic level: For the era of IIoT, companies need a solution that enables desired innovations and protects investments made. They need flexible and integrative IT architectures that enable transformation into the global world of digital supply and service chains. Technologically, this requirement can only be digitally mapped via hybrid solutions consisting of edge and cloud infrastructures.

This is especially true for manufacturing networks that operate internationally in real time and with multi-client capability. Hybrid edge and cloud infrastructures are therefore the future in industry. Forcam and SAP offer such a flexible edge and cloud solution for store floor connectivity and collaboration in advanced systems.

Acatech study: Industry 4.0 Maturity Index

The term Industry 4.0 was coined in 2011 and has since described the far-reaching integration of information and communication technologies in the industrial environment. Since then, however, the term has been partially misinterpreted and too often focuses only on technological elements. However, companies must also transform their organizational structures and culture.

The goal is to become a learning, agile company that can flexibly adapt to a constantly changing environment. The Acatech Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index provides companies with a tool to support the transformation into a learning, agile company. The index describes six development stages for the four structural elements of each company.

Each level enables an additional benefit for the company. The index can be used to develop an individual digital roadmap to introduce Industrie 4.0 in all areas of the company. Building on the findings and the model developed, tools can be developed in the future for the concrete design of the transformation in companies.

It is advisable to develop a specific procedure for individual industrial domains in order to be able to make as concrete recommendations for action as possible and to take account of the differences in the individual industries. To this end, the peculiarities of different industries and business relationships must be examined in the context of further validations.

The model lives, in the sense of continuous learning, from additional information. This results not only from validation, but also from the exchange with interested industry and research partners.


Source: Industry 4.0 Maturity Index. Shaping the digital transformation of companies. An Acatech study by Günther Schuh, Reiner Anderl, Jürgen Gausemeier, Michael Hompel, Wolfgang Wahlster (eds.). Download: www.acatech.de/publikationen

https://e3mag.com/partners/forcam-gmbh/
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Dr. Andrea Rösinger, Forcam

Dr. Andrea Rösinger is Co-CEO at Forcam.


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Work on SAP Basis is crucial for successful S/4 conversion. This gives the so-called Competence Center strategic importance among SAP's existing customers. Regardless of the operating model of an S/4 Hana, topics such as automation, monitoring, security, application lifecycle management, and data management are the basis for the operative S/4 operation. For the second time already, E3 Magazine is hosting a summit in Salzburg for the SAP community to get comprehensive information on all aspects of S/4 Hana groundwork. With an exhibition, expert presentations, and plenty to talk about, we again expect numerous existing customers, partners, and experts in Salzburg. E3 Magazine invites you to Salzburg for learning and exchange of ideas on June 5 and 6, 2024.

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