Industry 4.0 – secure the future, grasp opportunities

Manufacturing companies are facing numerous challenges: energy and resource efficiency are becoming increasingly decisive factors for competiveness; innovation cycles are becoming shorter and markets more volatile.

The vision for Industry 4.0 addresses these challenges with the development of intelligent, integrated production units – which will also have an impact on the process industry.

The term "Industry 4.0" was coined in Germany because the subject forms a fundamental part of the high-tech strategy of the German government. The underlying concept of an "Internet of things" can be found world-wide, however, in relation to the future of industry. 

As a global company and technology leader, Siemens will play an important role in shaping the future of industry. Developments that focus on Industry 4.0 will make a contribution.

The concept behind Industry 4.0 is that, in the future, plants will consist of intelligent, autonomously operating production units (cyber-physical systems, CPS) by means of interdisciplinary engineering. The company-wide networking and interaction of CPS turn these intelligent plants into flexible value creation networks. But in order to make this vision a reality, some challenges must still be overcome. 

The prerequisite is an infrastructure that provides a flexible access to information not only at the plant but also beyond. Production resources and products must have their own intelligence in order to perform functions independently, and digital and real plants need to merge. 

Some prerequisites for this already exist, while others still need to be further developed or are yet to be conceived. For this reason, Industry 4.0 will not immediately become a reality in day-to-day production in the process industry. Nevertheless, experts are sure that companies in this industry will be part of this innovative and flexible value creation network – although to varying degrees, based on the sector and processes involved.

Intelligent units

The omnipresent communication between CPS requires correspondingly powerful communications networks that connect all levels of the plant and that still meet industrial requirements, such as, for example, Profinet. 

This increased networking means, however, that the protection of IT systems and networks from attacks and disruptions will play an increasingly important role. Security certification of communications components and defense-in-depth industrial security concepts are essential. Siemens has already devised suitable solutions for this purpose, which will be further developed in the future. 

An important issue for the operation of a process plant will be how autonomy and self-organization can be reconciled with the high availability and security requirements of process automation. 

The flexible production described by Industry 4.0 can be best conceived in a batch environment. Intelligence that is correctly applied can even increase plant availability. 

For example, intelligent production units are already providing their current technical status and at the same time processing the maintenance information of components such as valves, pumps, heat exchangers, and even complete plant sections. 

These data are further processed as part of asset management. This will contribute to a reduction in downtime and a further increase in productivity. As products and production resources become ever more intelligent, mechanisms for the integration and exchange of more complex information must be in place. 

The plant's automatic "plug and play" at the field device level is supported by simple integration mechanisms, as are plant modules such as package units. Here, domain-specific object models will play an important role. Modular control system approaches, based on these object models, are also conceivable, with the capability to display material flows and integrate MES functionality via automation integration.

The digital and real worlds

The merging of the digital and real worlds in the process industry means that plants and products must each always contain a corresponding model. This model describes how and why a product or a plant was conceived, developed, produced, and used. 

Each physical object must contain an explanatory model, that is, a formal description of its characteristics. The Siemens Digital Enterprise Platform concept, with its comprehensive approach to the plant lifecycle through the phases of process development, plant engineering and construction, commissioning, operation, and maintenance, is already achieving this engineering vision for Industry 4.0 in the context of Siemens product portfolios. 

Today, Comos planning software, for instance, can already transfer data directly into automation engineering in Simatic PCS 7. 

As the quantity and complexity of information continues to increase, simulation tools such as Simit will become indispensible not only for plant design, but also for engineering tests and for training. And, as plants become ever more flexible, processes and operating conditions must also be simulated in order to establish the optimum operating point. Tools for Advanced Process Control will play a crucial role.

Investment in the future

Although the time horizon of Industry 4.0 can still not be precisely defined and the design phase is not yet entirely complete, companies should set their course for the future – and this is especially important in the areas of industrial communication, security, maintenance, MES, simulation, and the Digital Enterprise Platform. 

Today, Siemens is already offering a wide array of products and solutions that will serve as an important foundation for a reference architecture in the Industry 4.0 environment. 

[More information: www.siemens.com.au/futureofmanufacturing]

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