The manufacturing industry is rapidly changing right before our eyes, as the fourth industrial revolution, also known as industrial 4.0, creates a new factory floor more digital than ever. Today’s need by manufacturers to optimize the productivity of their expensive equipment, reduce waste, maximize yields, and reduce cycle times has led manufacturers to start adopting intelligent manufacturing technology into their factories.
Historically, manufacturing has always been on the slower side when it came to adopting innovative technology, but the potential of industrial 4.0 has changed that notion as of late. Just a couple of years ago, in 2019, the industry 4.0 market was at USD 70 billion, but thanks to the recent explosion in adoption, the market is now expected to grow at a CAGR of 17 percent, putting the industry 4.0 market at USD 210 billion by 2026.
It comes as no surprise that the industry 4.0 market is growing and thriving, as the technology it encompasses holds virtually an endless amount of potential for those in the manufacturing industry. Amongst the vast array of new devices and applications available today, manufacturers are utilizing real-time data analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and, most notably, the Internet of Things (IoT) to create “smart” factories.
“Smart factories are the culmination of the new technologies being leveraged in manufacturing,” said Bill Hurley, Chief Revenue Officer at Veea, a company that combines edge computing, connectivity, and security solutions, including Smart Computing Hubs that are placed into industrial settings to simplify the provisioning and management of sensors of many varieties. “Highly digitized shop floors that continuously collect and share data through connected machines, devices, and production systems are enjoying tremendous gains in quality, yield, and safety. By adding sensors to equipment to acquire and process real-time data, our solution delivers manufacturers a complete, 360-degree high-fidelity virtual data-driven integrated view of all operations, from suppliers and supply chains.”
Hurley explained that the technologies help beyond providing insights and helping to manage inventory more efficiently. For example, IoT systems can relieve this task from the workload of human employees, saving the business money because fewer staffing hours will be spent on mundane tasks, which frees employees up to focus on the core tasks of running the business.
“The advantages are obvious,” Hurley explained, “but there have been many challenges over the last few decades given the variety of sensors, different network protocols, the need to address both the wired and wireless worlds, and many different definitions of the terms smart factories and, generally, Industry 4.0. We have advanced the software and system integration models and can now far more efficiently get these devices working together in harmony.”
Hurley also explained that with “zero-touch” intelligent provisioning software, operators can easily add new devices into the mix. “Keeping tabs on an entire assortment of devices is no easy task, but luckily for manufacturers, by leveraging smart computing hubs, factories can handle all their devices remotely from one single view, optimizing the efficiency of all the technology itself.”
A smart computing hub is hardware or software that connects devices on an automation network and controls communications among them. Smart hubs, which connect either locally or to the cloud, are useful for the internet of things (IoT) devices that use LoRa, Zigbee, Z-Wave, or Bluetooth, all of which are in demand with the growing adoption of technology. For the manufacturing industry, these can truly help take industry 4.0 to the next level.
“Smart computing hubs orchestrate the information across factory floors systems at a single site or multiple sites and provide out-of-the-box tools to unify product manufacturing information from disparate data systems including ERP, PLM, and BIM,” Hurley said. “This helps make it easy on manufacturers to make sure all processes are running seamlessly and to identify and solve a problem swiftly if there is one.”
Smart computing hubs also help manufacturers gain flexibility and maintain and manage product variances. With a hub, factories can decrease quality variability due to ad-hoc modifications as well as the non-productive time and manual efforts trying to execute standard production work.
While industry 4.0 is still relatively new, the global industry 4.0 market already sits at $116.14 billion USD, with projections estimating the market to grow at a CAGR of 16.4 percent, bringing the number up to $337.10 billion USD by 2028. These numbers reveal that the digital transformation of manufacturing is going to become more common as we enter further into a new digital age. This makes smart computing hubs critical for manufacturers unless they are willing to fall behind the competition due to a lack of digital proficiency.
“Smart edge technologies also boost security, physically and digitally, which is critical as cybercriminals are rising right alongside digitalization and industry 4.0,” Hurley explained. “Some hubs today utilize the most powerful commercially available encryption for all network connections on the local network and for WAN connections to cloud-managed services and cloud-managed security functions. With either a primary or a failover WAN connection, smart hubs can exceed the functionality and features of most next-generation firewalls and provide an unprecedented level of business continuity – which for manufacturing plants is extremely important. Even a few minutes of downtime can result in financial losses and damage relationships with customers and partners. That’s why at Veea, we are passionate about ensuring that every sensor on every machine and every gateway and application is fully secured. This is critical to generating the highest ROI for industrial companies who get the value – more yield, better quality, greater predictability – without having to worry about the dark side.”