Industry 4.0 provokes much discussion with little understanding. It began as a German government initiative ostensibly to support the German machine building industry. The idea was picked up in a variety of forms by other governments.

Exploring Industry 4.0 leads me to Tim Sowell’s latest blog post. Tim is a Schneider Electric Fellow and VP of System Strategy at Schneider Electric in the Common Architecture team in R&D. He is also the last remaining (that I can find) true blogger in the space. The company blogs have pivoted from blog format offering information and opinion to more of a press release format—where they use the Webpage to get out a company message directly to readers rather than going through the unreliable filter of the trade press. Sowell offers thoughtful discourse on important topics of the day.

If I thought I could meet with Tim and Stan DeVries at the upcoming Wonderware user conference, I’d make plans to get down there. As it is, the trip would lead to about five weeks of travel in a row. That is more expense and time away from home than a one-person entrepreneur can afford.

Sowell lists this set of viewpoints which are discussed in the white paper:
  • Industry 4.0 is about the transformation from controlling focusing on process to “controlling the product/ order” and the “product/ order being self aware”.
  • Industry 4.0 is about operations transformation, not about technology.
  • Industry 4.0 provides a practical strategic framework for “lean” and “agile” industrial operations.
  • Industry 4.0 addresses the needs of discrete and batch manufacturing, but it needs some adaptation for the heavy process and infrastructure industries.

He adds, “Cloud computing and IT/OT convergence are often linked to implementing Industry 4.0, but these need some adaptation to address “trustworthiness” of the architectures.  One emerging topic is Fog computing.”

He argues that automation and operation management technologies are more relevant than ever before. Also important are information standards such as “IEC 61850/ISO9506, ISA-95/ISO62264, PRODML etc.”

You need to go back and read his entire paper. He discusses benefits of adopting this way of thinking about manufacturing (discrete and process). He looks at use cases. And the foundation of Industry 4.0—it requires better information, not just more data.

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