There’s been lots of talk about it, yet, apart from a handful of key Industry 4:0 evangelists, it still seems a bit theoretical. SDUK boss Nigel Flowers shares some developments happening now in Injection Moulding.

Rather than scenarios, Industry 4:0 sceptics are seeking tangible and practical applications before investing in Internet of Things (IoT) technology.

On the face of it, Industry 4:0 can appear futuristic and revolutionary. Yet, figures from the EEF show that just 11 percent of manufacturers think that UK industry is ready to take advantage of 4IR. Although there are major digital innovations coming into manufacturing that will transform the segment in the future, it’s not so much a sweeping change, but natural progression. For several decades now Sumitomo (SHI) Demag has been developing the technologies that will enable moulders to collect data which will assist with internal logistics, quality and efficiency.

One of the key challenges for moulders is how to analyse the huge quantities of information, both structured and unstructured, which reside in databases that are not always properly connected. Rather than operating alone in silos, there need to be an enterprise-wide shift towards standardisation.

: Adding IoT capabilities or wireless connectivity to legacy systems should feature in a moulder’s 4IR strategy.

: Adding IoT capabilities or wireless connectivity to legacy systems should feature in a moulder’s 4IR strategy.

Adding IoT capabilities or wireless connectivity to legacy systems has been a key focus for the company and enables quality control data to be shared in real time across an organisation. More than 100 UK machines were fitted with activeConnect in 2017, enabling real-time monitoring and troubleshooting of machine settings and issues, and linking customer injection moulding machines securely to Sumitomo (SHI) Demag’s service management system. activeConnect, which won Best Technology Application of the Year at the Plastic Industry Awards 2016, is improving the company’s 24-hour breakdown response time by 80%, as well as increasing first fix rate to over 90%.

Further afield, the group recently installed Industry 4:0 technology onto 40 legacy machines in China to improve connectivity and capture real time information, and will shortly upgrade 40 machines in Brazil.

Sumitomo (SHI) Demag systems are also being equipped with an OPC Unified Architecture (OPC/UA) interface, offering broader scope for connectivity and enabling moulders to use data to optimise production, make operation decisions quickly, and generate reports. The OPC/UA interface is also EUROMAP 77 compliant.

“Having a single architecture addresses one of the key concerns about standarisation, especially when year after year new machines are added to an existing line up,” notes Nigel. The company recently installed its OPC/UA on several systems at a site in Daventry, which will be connected to an InTouch management system. The InTouch system will be used as part of the company’s Advanced Injection Mouding (AIM) training course, as well as providing a comprehensive reporting tool for mould trials.

Nigel Flowers, SDUK boss discusses standardisation

Nigel Flowers, SDUK boss discusses standardisation

Additional 4IR developments were unveiled at Fakuma 2017, including a myConnect web-based platform and the launch of an automation division. Although it will be several months before these advances reach UK shores, the ability to integrate automation, machinery and parts tracking is an exciting development.

While Industry 4.0 has the potential to enact lasting, positive change in how factories operate, proclaiming it a revolution is perhaps a little premature. It is far from a paradigm shift. Nor is it a disruptive trend. The technologies that underpin this enhanced connectivity have been brewing for some time now. Consequently, they are not afterthoughts in machine development.

As we continue down the path from evolution to revolution, new manufacturing models will no doubt continue to emerge. Whatever the upcoming developments herald, and however quickly the technology is mastered, two things are certain – machine adaptability coupled with a skilled workforce will be critical to manufacturing productivity, which forms the centrepiece of the government’s Industrial Strategy whitepaper.