Industry 4.0: operationalising the Connected Enterprise

Posted on 23 Apr 2016 by Jonny Williamson

Rockwell Automation has provided recommendations for taking Industry 4.0 hype and transforming it into a Connected Enterprise reality.

This year, Industry 4.0 appears to be the dominant theme being talked about. From the MACH Exhibition in April, to Hannover Fair and The Manufacturer’s Annual Leaders Conference, smart technologies and digital factory propositions are front and centre.

As automation has started to adopt digitalisation, it’s become apparent that no manufacturing company will be able to manage without networked production or networked plant equipment.

While connecting its own production systems, Rockwell Automation developed a five-stage model called the Connected Enterprise Execution Model.

The company’s specialists use this framework to provide recommendations that help successfully implement the Connected Enterprise.

  1. Baseline assessments

The first stage involves a company evaluating its existing IT infrastructure and production systems. This will flag up various areas for improvement, such as security vulnerabilities or a lack of monitoring for key performance metrics.

A comprehensive infrastructure and network assessment will establish to what extent it can be upgraded, or whether it needs replacing. Using this information as a basis, the company can develop a strategy that integrates people, processes and technology securely and establish goals to achieve it.

  1. Secured and upgraded network and controls

A real Connected Enterprise cannot exist without a unified, integrated network. It is a prerequisite for a networked company, enabling communications between the automation, control and business systems.

Applying standard Internet and Ethernet protocols like EtherNet/IP (CIP version) helps integrate operations data with the rest of the enterprise and future-proofs in relation to the ongoing growth in Internet enabled devices.

Companies will need to define the security requirements for this type of overarching system and develop a unified security strategy. This should comprise multi-level security mechanisms to block attacks across all the production systems.

  1. Defined and organised working data capital

Big data is just as important to Industry 4.0 as elsewhere. Only the “right” data can deliver meaningful insights that will be used as a basis for decision-making.

A fundamental requirement for this is a unified network structure that comprises both IT and operations technology (OT), and one that eliminates the potential errors resulting from manual data entry and analysis.

It is able to show data and information in the right context, enabling staff to share insights much more quickly and easily with other colleagues and departments as well as with customers and partners.

  1. Analytics: Operational benefits

The availability of real-time data – and the ability to analyse it quickly – is crucial for the continuous improvement of the production process. Data-based analytics can be viewed real-time with dashboards, and can be monitored contextually, as well as against historical performance data.

It also can be securely shared and presented organisation-wide using bespoke, secure reports. By feeding manufacturing data back into the ERP system, companies can draw conclusions about the way production orders are being processed and calculate unit prices much more accurately.

  1. Optimise and collaborate

The Connected Enterprise unites and shares valuable information not just across people, devices and processes, but also across sites. Information is even shared across the supply chain, ensuring processes are optimised end-to-end.

This enables companies to react faster to supplier and customer activities, business opportunities and changing market conditions. They can implement standards, while benefiting from best practices, as well as the expertise of their entire supply chain.

A key requirement for successful collaboration is compliance with stringent security standards by everyone involved, as it enables companies to immediately detect and block threats and unauthorised access attempts.