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Published Fri, Apr 21st 2017

The driving force behind Industry 4.0

Automation specialist Danfoss Drives has been at the forefront of technological innovation since its early days in the 1930s.

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The fourth industrial revolution – Industry 4.0 – is the move towards digital integration, which involves IoT, the Cloud and the use of sensors to collect information that is made available to powerful analytics software. The analysed data can offer precious insights into how well systems are performing, what components may be failing and if there are any vulnerabilities plant managers should be aware of.
 
The importance of adopting the new technologies, which are at the heart of Industry 4.0 has been stressed at the highest levels of the European Union, by politicians and economists alike. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor sees the trend as a way of dealing “quickly with the fusion of the online world and the world of industrial production”.
 
With access to ever-increasing amounts of data and new communications technologies between systems and users, factories are becoming smarter and more efficient. However, the levels of automation and digitisation of production lines still need to increase considerably in the upcoming years if UK manufacturing is to remain competitive on a global scale.
 
But it is not just production lines that need to get ‘smarter’; in an Industry 4.0 environment every aspect of the factory processes needs to be controlled accurately and accounted for automatically, from supply chain management to operating the factory gates!
 
The emerging technologies and processes of Industry 4.0 enable the provision of better quality customized goods or services. These can now be delivered to customers much quicker and at greatly reduced costs thanks to the high degree of integration between manufacturing and logistics departments.
 
For Danfoss Drives, Industry 4.0 is driving operations, customer communications and installations. Smart, automated production systems can build millions of highly customised drive configurations in a flexible, mass-production environment. The added bonus of course, is that by making customised components in a mass-production system the end user benefits from better prices.
 
For instance, customers can have their customised drive fitted to the motor type and system controller of their choice by simply accessing the online Danfoss Drives ordering system. Designed for broad connectivity with international protocols, the drive 
is optimized for compatibility with diverse motor and system controller technologies.
This is achievable because at Danfoss Drives all manufacturing processes are IT-driven: printed circuit board assembly, soldering, mechanical assembly, testing and shipping.
 
For this reason, it only takes two hours to place an order, have it customized and then shipped, ready to be integrated into customer’s plant. This means that maintenance operations can be made much simpler and downtime can be greatly reduced.
In addition, if a process fails in the middle of the night, customers no longer have to wait until the next day to get things moving again. They can configure and buy an AC drive directly online through the intelligent web catalogue. The catalogue is fully integrated into the Danfoss Drives manufacturing execution system, which makes for streamlined order completion.
After the order is placed, each individual drive is assigned a unique identity, which is retained throughout the lifecycle of the product. This ensures traceability and validation of each main component. Customers can be confident that the product they receive is exactly as their specifications and if something does go wrong, the fault can be easily flagged. Engineers can simply interrogate the system and the reports will list the issue or issues at hand.
As added insurance, the products and manufacturing execution systems are in constant communication to ensure that product configuration and manufacturing flow are working seamlessly.
A case in point: while the drive is being assembled, the system requests an instruction manual with a language and with text that matches the individual specifications of the customer configuration. The unique manual always contains the most up to date information and is printed moments before the product is packaged so as to ensure it contains the most recent technical guides.
After the drive has been installed in the end-user application, it monitors both its own performance and the performance of the overall application. Logs of vital parameters and alarms facilitate preventive troubleshooting, which makes preventive maintenance a simple routine operation.
 
Furthermore, the evaluation of the available internal data as well as that obtained through external sensor signals takes place in the drive, and can be communicated further via fieldbus. All this information is available through protocols that talk with customer communication systems.
 
But creating high reliability quality products is just one of the many facets of Danfoss Drives Industry 4.0 philosophy. Danfoss also delivers a wealth of relevant process information, based on knowledge of the motor current reflecting the current load conditions of the drive.
 
The accuracy, quality and most importantly, timeliness of this data enables the drive to initiate action as appropriate. Critical conditions such as over- or under-voltages, and dips in the power supply from the grid, are detected and dealt with automatically.
 
In conclusion, Industry 4.0 is the most complex and yet most rewarding manufacturing strategy for UK businesses. Launched almost a decade ago, Industry 4.0 is now truly coming of age and UK industry must no longer ignore it; making the transition and working with an expert IIoT partner like Danfoss Drives can save industry millions of pounds and thousands of downtime hours, so the time to act is now!
 
 

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