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'Industry 4.0' connects CEO to factory floor

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By Rachel Arthur+

Last updated the 20-May-2014 at 09:15 GMT

Smart manufacturing is revolutionising the way factories work, according to business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.

Speaking at the Growth, Innovation and Leadership conference in London, Muthukumar Viswanathan, practice director industrial automation and process control, Frost and Sullivan, calls the next ‘evolution’ ‘Industry 4.0.’

He says smart technology will reshape the industry, in a similar way to how mechanisation, electricity, and IT have impacted the world in previous decades.

Industry 4.0

It’s a combination of smart things happening, talking together, individually operating by sensors and communicating with each other to form a cyber-physical system,” he said.

We believe this cyber-physical system is going to be the nature of the factory, going forward.”

Smart technology will allow traceability of products, and link different processes together. It will allow for flexible production systems, and for smaller batches to be produced profitably, he added.

Viswanathan said collaboration needs to happen throughout the process, from the design phase to manufacture and logistics.

The decision making process will be particularly integrated to the manufacturing process. The CEO sitting at the top of the chain can make real time decisions based on what’s happening on the shop floor. That’s the sort of vertical integration we’re talking about.

When we talk about smart integration we are talking right down to the bottom level, and I think one of the key challenges is to understand how we can make these shop floors smart, from the basic building block level.”

However, Viswanathan said a challenge is to ensure there is a broadband infrastructure which can cater for all the data. Cyber security is another issue, he added.

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