Hooking your factory into an Industry 4.0 world (part one)

Image: Siemens

The Industry 4.0 concept has slowly been gaining traction over the last four years, and despite aspects of it in use, it still hasn’t properly been realised. In part one of the two-part feature, Michael Freyny, Executive General Manager, Digital Factory, Siemens Australia, tells Brent Balinski about what will be needed to be competitive, and the trend towards batches of one.

Manufacturers’ Monthly: I saw an interesting recent survey of German and US firms, which showed they had some concerns around having the right skills to capitalise on Industry 4.0. What roles can you see becoming more important for manufacturers?

Michael Freyny: Digitalisation skills are critical. The younger people coming through are digital natives but we have generations of existing workers who will need to rapidly reskill and retool.

Industry 4.0 sees the blurring of many lines because traditional and discrete stages from design through to manufacture are now being merged through digitalisation and modern technology. The greatest challenge will be the rapid adoption of new skills and digital tools. Then this needs to be combined with industrial knowhow. The old definition of manufacturing makes way for a new definition. This brings with it a new composition of workers and skills where you will see the person with the monkey wrench also using a computer tablet and more people being competent with computer diagnostic and other digitalisation tools.

By the year 2000, some two billion gigabytes of data had been accumulated worldwide. Today,

the same volume of information is generated in a single day. Big data is only useful if you can turn it into smart data. That requires people with incredible analytical abilities, with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The future also requires cross disciplinary collaboration to solve problems. Philanthropists Graham and Louise Tuckwell recognised this recently with Australia’s largest ever donation of $200 million to the ANU, specifically for this purpose.

The solution will come through new ways of teaching at schools which are solution-based and multi-disciplinary with a focus on STEM. We will also need new university programs that recognise the needs of future workforces and on the job learning that provides an engaging and practical approach to adopting new technologies and tools for employees needing to transition to this future.

Manufacturers’ Monthly: Australia recently joined the global conversation around standardisation. What are some things that need to be addressed globally in terms of standardisation? How should our policymakers approach this?

 Michael Freyny: Firstly, as a nation Australia needs to recognise that globalisation fundamentally changes our approach and we are no longer isolated. Essentially if we want Australian companies to be successful then they must be able to participate in global supply chains. A German study of SMEs asked the question ‘What are the greatest challenges connected with implementing Industry 4.0?’ The highest response was ‘standardisation’. On a global level, adopting global standards is simply a ticket to the game. Unless you do this then you won’t exist.

Siemens Australia and New Zealand CEO Jeff Connolly is the chair of the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce and I’m pleased to say that Standards Australia is now also part. The first working group is around standards and reference architectures. It’s great to see that Standards Australia are connected to the German-led Plattform Industrie 4.0, which means we have an opportunity to not only align and adopt Australia’s approach, but also to make a valuable an active contribution to the future of digital networking standards globally.

Manufacturers’ Monthly: If manufacturers are curious but wary, what are some places you’d advise them to examine and dip their toe in?

Michael Freyny: As a result of Industry 4.0, in the future billions of machines, systems, and sensors worldwide will communicate with each other and share information. This enables companies to make production considerably more efficient, with greater flexibility.

With Industry 4.0 the physical world is merging with the virtual world. Siemens PLM Software is used to virtually develop and test products before even a single screw is turned. Products reach the market as much as 50 per cent faster. Simulation makes this possible – often referred to as a digital twin – a virtual image of the product into which different designs of its individual components can be inserted and tested along the entire development chain. This approach was used to simulate the landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover in 2012. The landing was tested 8,000 times using Siemens PLM software.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is such a broad array of digitalisation tools that everyone from a surfboard manufacturer, Firewire Surboards, which had humble beginnings in Australia and now distributes to 40 countries, through to a hi-tech automotive manufacturer such as Maserati, which built their latest Ghibli using a digital twin. You can start small or big.

PLM is helping facilitate many competitive advantages for companies. It allows things like rapid prototyping, system simulation, customer customisation, workforce collaboration and the ability for fully design, test and simulate not just the product but the entire production process and value chain.

Manufacturers’ Monthly: What is the role of PLM in meeting the increasing need for manufacturers to create connected products?

Michael Freyny: PLM is all about being able to connect globally, improve lead time, manage engineering and manufacturing process improvement. This is the future of product efficiency and competition. Most companies are still managing product data and related manufacturing processes in an isolated manner. Over the last 10-15 years, the focus of PLM and related engineering and manufacturing software products was about how to control data. Global product engineering and manufacturing will demand a fresh look on how to manage manufacturing. This will require a global connected approach in managing information about product manufacturing and supply chain options based on market demand and factory environments.

Manufacturers’ Monthly: In a conversation recently an experienced executive with a real enthusiasm for the concept, he said he saw manufacturing being “turned on its head” and batches of one becoming more the norm. What do you have to say on this?

Michael Freyny: I know teenagers who customise their sports runners so they have something unique. Consumer and business demand is moving towards making a “batch of one”. When I was at Hannover Messe last year the Siemens stand had mini perfume bottling line where you could instantaneously put a designer message via an iPad on your bottle without slowing the production line.

At our electronics and automation factory in Amberg, Germany, products already talk to the production line. We’re already seeing this and living this at Amberg. Here we make electronics and automation equipment that other companies use to improve their own manufacturing processes.

Amberg showcases Siemens’ concept for a “digital enterprise.” The factory already employs production methods that will be the standard in many manufacturing facilities in a number of years. Products in the plant control their own assembly by directly communicating specific requirements and their next production steps via a product code to the machines.

Cosmetics manufacturer Dr. Kurt Wolff manufacture different products on one single machine. BMW in Munich have several different models on the one production line in Munich – so you can see the trend.

(Part two will appear tomorrow.)