Digitalisation: the driver of innovation

Digitalisation: the driver of innovation

Transformation to Industry 4.0 is picking up speed

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Current studies show that digital transformation within German industry has picked up speed noticeably recently. Weidmüller too is taking big strides in the direction of Industry 4.0. With u-mation, the Detmold-based company is continuing along its strategic path towards becoming a supplier of holistic automation and digitalisation solutions.

According to the outcome of a recent survey carried out by the Weltwirtschaftsforum (The Global Competitiveness Report 2018, Klaus Schwab, World Economic Forum), Germany is one of the world’s most innovative countries. The German economy achieved fourth place in the global digitalisation rankings. The Industry 4.0 Index 2018 (Deutscher Industrie 4.0 Index 2018, A survey by Staufen AG and Staufen Digital Neonex GmbH), which surveyed a total of 450 German companies, confirms that these days, Industry 4.0 concepts and solutions are widely deployed domestically. Over half of the companies surveyed (52 percent) have already implemented local or even company-wide projects. In comparison, four years ago, this was the case with just 15 percent of the companies. In this year’s survey, some 10 percent of the companies admitted that they had not yet addressed the topic of digitalisation. However, trend researchers say that is only a question of time until the technological development starts to kick in for the remaining 10 percent. This is because of increasing pressure from the competition, if for no other reason.

How far have companies progressed towards the smart factory?

Potential is a long way from being fully exploited

The courage to embrace change is clearly present in German industry but the potential is still a long way from being fully exploited. Currently, the emphasis across industry is to a large extent on individual projects, while comprehensive digital transformation is taking place principally in the automotive industry. Here, about 20 percent of the companies can already be designated as being a smart factory.

But holistic digitalisation and automation concepts are increasingly being called for, even in mechanical and plant engineering and in the electrical engineering industry. As part of the move towards Industry 4.0, interaction with machines will change in many respects, not just in terms of the processes but also as a result of the requirements for analysis, maintenance and operation option that are being placed in machines.

These current trends are being reflected at Weidmüller in the growth figures being returned by the Division Automation Products & Solutions, which, in comparison to last year, have increased by 25 percent. This good result can be credited to the strategic combination of the disciplines of automation and digitalisation. Today, Weidmüller is bundling a holistic offering of modular automation hardware and versatile engineering software that is combined with some sophisticated digitalisation solutions, under the name of u-mation. This also includes the area of Machine Learning that falls under the remit of the Industrial Analytics business unit. With u-mation, Weidmüller is creating the basis for the intelligent connection of all process levels, from the sensor to the cloud and beyond.

Modular and flexible

The central element of the portfolio is the u-control 2000 controller, which is compatible with the remote I/O system u-remote and the u-create software family. Many different application options can be created as the individual elements can be freely combined with each other. So for example, the main controller of a stand-alone machine or even a complete production line can be implemented, using the controller module and the u-create studio engineering software. In combination with the browser-based application u-create web, it is possible to commission decentrally produced machine parts from a remote location. The increasing demand for IoT solutions has also been catered for. Using the u-create IoT software, which is also browser-based, sensor information can be pre-processed and sent to a cloud. One of the uses for this function is the implementation of data processing measures, such as remote maintenance or Analytics solutions. As applications become ever more complex and more diversified, intuitive operation has an important role to play. The interface between human and machine is created by the high-resolution u-view multitouch panels and the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) software u-create visu, a web-based visualisation solution developed by Weidmüller GTI Software, which has been a part of the Weidmüller Group since June 2018.

A glimpse into the digital future

The future in the area of digitalisation and automation is clearly defined. In the smart factory, central control mechanisms will successively be replaced by intelligent networks. Machines will interact directly with each other, in order to organise their processes and to carry out continuous optimisation. The software will thus gain even more importance in the years ahead. At the same time, data-based analysis processes will offer more options to extract added value from the available data, resulting in the further expansion of high-margin service business, for example.

Manufacturing companies, which today are already laying the foundations for Industry 4.0 through individual projects, will be focusing increasingly on cross-functional and holistic concepts, going forward. Weidmüller is supporting them with solutions that offer end-to-end communication. In the future, Industrial Connectivity will also represent a significant part of the automation and digitalisation offering. In addition to this, hardware, software, engineering and consultancy will be combined intelligently, to support customers as they embark on their digital transformation journey.

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