The In­ge­nu­ity of In­dus­try 4.0

EME Outlook - - Contents - Writer: Jonathan Dy­ble

Mit­subishi Elec­tric Europe on au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing: A Q&A

In the opin­ion of Klaus Petersen, the im­por­tance of digital trans­for­ma­tion mustn’t be un­der­stated. Speak­ing to Mit­subishi Elec­tric Europe’s Mar­ket­ing Direc­tor of Fac­tory Au­to­ma­tion, we find out why

In­dus­try 4.0 and con­nected man­u­fac­tur­ing alike are con­cepts that are read­ily re­ferred to as the fu­ture of heavy in­dus­try. How­ever, as we move through 2019, many of th­ese terms are be­com­ing more of a re­al­ity.

Re­cent fore­casts, for ex­am­ple, have pre­dicted that the smart fac­tory mar­ket is al­ready val­ued at $153.7 bil­lion, while it is ex­pected to grow at a rate of roughly 9.76 per­cent per year for the next five years, pro­pelled by IoT de­vel­op­ments, new tech­nolo­gies, in­dus­trial ro­bot­ics and much, much more.

One in­di­vid­ual all too fa­mil­iar with such sta­tis­tics is Klaus Petersen. A for­mer spe­cial­ist qual­ity en­gi­neer, work­ing at BMW’s Re­search and In­no­va­tion Cen­tre in Mu­nich, Petersen now stands as the Mar­ket­ing Direc­tor of Fac­tory Au­to­ma­tion EMEA for Mit­subishi Elec­tric Europe BV, re­spon­si­ble for the ex­pan­sion of the com­pany’s in­dus­trial au­to­ma­tion busi­ness.

Speak­ing with Petersen, we dis­cov­ered what to ex­pect from the fast-mov­ing and in­creas­ingly tech­no­log­i­cally-en­abled sphere of au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing.

EME Out­look (EMEO): Could you firstly pro­vide a brief overview of Mit­subishi Elec­tric Europe it­self?

Klaus Petersen (KP): Mit­subishi Elec­tric Europe has been a driv­ing force in in­dus­trial au­to­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy in Europe for more than 40 years. The brand is syn­ony­mous with in­no­va­tive, high-qual­ity in­dus­trial au­to­ma­tion so­lu­tions for al­most ev­ery sec­tor. In the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try, for ex­am­ple, our guided op­er­a­tor so­lu­tions for pick­ing pro­cesses are sup­port­ing dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion and im­prov­ing qual­ity by help­ing op­er­a­tors en­sure they use the right parts and take the cor­rect ac­tions.

With all sec­tors of in­dus­try look­ing to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and re­duce down­time, we are pro­vid­ing a va­ri­ety of pre­dic­tive main­te­nance so­lu­tions, from in­dus­trial con­trollers and edge com­put­ing, through to SCADA and right up to cloud con­nec­tion.

EMEO: How is Mit­subishi Elec­tric en­abling its au­to­mo­tive cus­tomers to boost their man­u­fac­tur­ing ef­fi­cien­cies?

KP: The key for any in­dus­try go­ing for­wards is the digital trans­for­ma­tion of the busi­ness, and the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor is no dif­fer­ent. In this con­text we are sup­port­ing our cus­tomers not sim­ply with au­to­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies but with sup­port in fur­ther de­vel­op­ing their vision. This builds on our [email protected] ctory con­cept, of­fer­ing in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions for in­dus­trial au­to­ma­tion and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy. This in­cludes sys­tems to meet the needs of data col­lec­tion, han­dling and man­age­ment – from fil­ter­ing, con­trol, anal­y­sis, trends and vi­su­al­i­sa­tion, right up to cloud con­nec­tiv­ity.

EMEO: Are there any key in­vest­ments or pro­cesses that you wish to speak of on this front?

KP: The re­quire­ments of to­day’s en­ter­prises are now of­ten so com­plex that one com­pany alone can no longer rep­re­sent this. That’s why we founded our part­ner net­work, the [email protected] Al­liance – an in­te­gral part un­der the [email protected] um­brella with over 300 mem­bers world­wide. The global net­work in­cludes man­u­fac­tur­ers of in­dus­trial com­po­nents as well as spe­cialised sys­tem in­te­gra­tors and soft­ware providers. Th­ese part­ner com­pa­nies col­lab­o­rate at an in­di­vid­ual level to of­fer flex­i­ble, op­ti­mised tech­nolo­gies and so­lu­tions for var­i­ous cus­tomer re­quire­ments.

EMEO: How have th­ese tech­nolo­gies evolved across the au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try in re­cent years?

KP: The de­gree of cus­tomi­sa­tion within au­to­mo­tive pro­duc­tion has seen

man­u­fac­tur­ing sys­tems move be­yond dis­crete au­to­ma­tion to in­creas­ingly in­tel­li­gent au­to­ma­tion so­lu­tions within a net­worked digital pro­duc­tion en­vi­ron­ment. This is where we be­gin talk­ing about ‘smart fac­to­ries’. In­creas­ingly, the tech­nolo­gies in­volved to make the digital fac­tory a re­al­ity are be­yond the scope of any sin­gle au­to­ma­tion equip­ment sup­plier and re­quire the seam­less in­te­gra­tion of ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies from a num­ber of dif­fer­ent sup­pli­ers. Hence the [email protected] Al­liance, which com­bines the ex­per­tise of mul­ti­ple tech­nol­ogy part­ners.

It’s an ap­proach that we have been fol­low­ing for 15 years. Adapt­able and scal­able so­lu­tions mean au­to­mo­tive com­pa­nies can start small or be­gin in in­di­vid­ual sec­tions of the plant, and build from there, step by step. Com­pa­nies can see the ‘quick wins’ from their in­vest­ments and build the busi­ness case for on­go­ing in­vest­ment to a full smart fac­tory.

EMEO: In your view, how ex­ten­sive will the trans­for­ma­tive ef­fects of in­dus­try 4.0 be­come in re­la­tion to the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try?

The au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try is one of the sec­tors at the fore­front of in­no­va­tion and in­dus­try 4.0, hav­ing seen early on the need for pro­cesses which would en­able in­creased prod­uct cus­tomi­sa­tion and would man­age in­creas­ingly com­plex sup­ply chains. The re­sult was that as early as 2000,


even though the terms hadn’t been coined, they were al­ready mov­ing to­wards what we would now de­scribe as dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of their plants and the build­ing of digital twins.

That trans­for­ma­tion is con­tin­u­ing at a pace, with huge in­ter­est in the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of pro­duc­tion pro­cesses to reap po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant cost sav­ings. A good ex­am­ple is the sim­u­la­tion of the assem­bly pro­cess for new car mod­els and se­ries. There are still so many pos­si­bil­i­ties for dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion that we’ll be talk­ing about the trans­for­ma­tive ef­fects of in­dus­try 4.0 in the au­to­mo­tive sec­tor prob­a­bly for 10 years to come. But that is why it’s so im­por­tant to have a dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion strat­egy – to im­ple­ment what makes sense, what is gen­uinely help­ful and what will de­liver real re­turn on in­vest­ment over a de­fined timescale.

EMEO: Look­ing ahead, how can Mit­subishi Elec­tric help its au­to­mo­tive cus­tomers to con­tinue to max­imise their pro­duc­tive po­ten­tial and re­main ahead of the curve?

KP: Without doubt ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is go­ing to play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in the digital fac­tory, across all sec­tors of in­dus­try. It’s a core tech­nol­ogy for Mit­subishi Elec­tric, and you’ll find it across so­lu­tions such as vision sys­tems, con­trollers and more. We see AI’s learn­ing and pro­cess op­ti­mi­sa­tion ca­pa­bil­i­ties as of­fer­ing huge po­ten­tial in au­to­mo­tive pro­duc­tion.

Big data anal­y­sis is an­other im­por­tant area that we are fo­cused on and where AI is also in­creas­ingly be­ing used. We are cur­rently de­vel­op­ing a so­lu­tion fea­tur­ing AI func­tion­al­ity for ap­pli­ca­tions in the area of edge com­put­ing that will serve the need for real-time data anal­y­sis on the plant floor, with a typ­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tion be­ing pre­dic­tive main­te­nance. Us­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate sen­sor tech­nol­ogy, for ex­am­ple, dif­fer­ent ma­chine states could be recorded in real time to recog­nise the cur­rent ma­chine sta­tus, de­tect po­ten­tial faults on the hori­zon, and im­me­di­ately of­fer rec­om­men­da­tions for ac­tions to the ma­chine op­er­a­tor – or even ini­ti­ate re­me­dial ac­tions au­tonomously.

Due to the im­por­tance of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence for our com­pany, we have said that we want to po­si­tion our de­vel­op­ments in the field of AI as its own brand, Mais­art (Mit­subishi Elec­tric’s AI cre­ates the state-of-theart in tech­nol­ogy). Thus, this puts the em­pha­sis on the fact that Mit­subishi Elec­tric is strate­gi­cally ac­tive in this field.

Klaus Petersen

“Without doubt ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence is go­ing to play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role in the digital fac­tory, across all sec­tors of in­dus­try”

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