Investing in the future: industry 4.0

“The industry must be able to cope with a consumer who asks for solutions, performance, aesthetics and price, not content with imposed standards”.

“Our system of technology solutions addressed to industry is designed to be agile, integrated, easy to manage and control, able also to adapt itself to unpredictable changes of final demand”.

These are the words of Louis De Vito, director of the Division Woodworking Machinery SCM Group, to illustrate the change of era inside the global industry, from large enterprise to the small artisan laboratory.

What is industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 term was used for the first time in Germany at the Hannover Fair in 2011 in order to describe the fourth industrial revolution, as a following stage of steam engines, electric machines and automation. It is essentially the application of cybernetics to industrial automation systems.

The countries that immediately began to develop this area were Germany and the United States. If the latter are more oriented to the digitization and collaborative platforms, Germany has become more specialized in automation and innovation of factories and industries. The European Union has followed from the beginning the German way.

The Italian case

In Italy, the interest in industry 4.0 has grown a lot during 2016, and the trend will continue in 2017. In 2016, a boost has come from the presentation of the National Industry 4.0 Plan, which includes several lines of action:

⭕️ investments in new machinery, plant, software and management services;

⭕️ creation of new skills, for example through the School-work alternation;

⭕️ development of the necessary infrastructure, such as Ultra Wide Band and Iot;

⭕️ public support tools.

A key step was the publication of the super and hyper amortization provided in the Plan relating to investments in the field of new generation machinery, robotics, automated systems and human-machine interaction.

The technological areas of industry 4.0

The industry 4.0. Includes several technological fields:

  • ➡️ network connection: allows different machines to send data and information to establish actions and enable functionality for the maintenance, detection and correction of malfunctions, stocks. Very often this happens in real time or almost;
  • ➡️ cloud computing: is the technology with which it is virtually represented the physical environment of the factory and the assembly line, in addition to hosting data and IoT platforms;
  • ➡️ Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet Industry: allow, through the use of sensors, gateways, secure protocols and data layers, to receive information from the machines
  • ➡️ connected product: all connected objects, which can communicate with each other or with applications. Inside a factory are all machines that have sensors, PLC or on-board computer. Some final products can also be included in this field, which can send data and information to the manufacturer to be further improved or updated;
  • ➡️ cyber security: involves all elements present to prevent possible theft;
  • ➡️ additive manufacturing/3D printers: their use is growing even in production. The evolution is leading to 4D and 5D printers as in the encounter of robotic arms with 3D printers;
  • ➡️ virtual and augmented reality: often used in conjunction with specific wearable devices, it may allow operators to capture real-time information, conduct guided activities and carry out controls in maximum security;
  • ➡️ big data and analytics: this field is what the greatest growth in the medium and long term, in particular thanks to the automatic learning (machine learning) and increasingly sophisticated technologies of interaction with machines (cognitive computing);
  • ➡️ advanced hardware components: the technological solutions that enable the development of a smart factory.

Uncertainty widespread

NetConsulting cube has recently done some surveys showed that only 22% of Italian manufacturing companies is not reflecting on issues related to the industry 4.0, while about 50% are aware of having to approach the subject even if it has not already done so and 28% is already working through a business and industrial plan.

⭕️ There is a widespread uncertainty about the way in which investments are directed, attributable mainly to cultural and technological barriers, as obsolete machinery (the average age is almost 13 years according to UCIMU) and poor internal expertise on the latest, cutting-edge technologies.

⭕️ Training paths will be indispensable. However, only a quarter of the companies that have opted for investments to be allocated to the industry 4.0’re considering, or has already planned, to train employees to receive the benefits expected from the national strategic plan (Source: NetConsulting Cube, Web Survey AIMAN 2016).

➡️ Digitization also increases the risk of external threats. Companies are protecting, for 2017, to try to prevent the danger of data theft, and other information, the security is mentioned as the main area of investment.

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