forcam industry manufacturing brownfield IT [shutterstock: 1131960653, buffaloboy]
[shutterstock: 1131960653, buffaloboy]
Blog Digital Transformation

Key Requirements For Industry 4.0

There are many approaches to digital transformation projects concerning Industry 4.0. According to McKinsey, for example, three key principles apply: Focus on key value drivers, empower people, and renew infrastructure with the goal of an integrated technology platform.

Infrastructure renewal should focus on creating value locally before scaling globally. After all, according to the McKinsey study “Industry 4.0 – Capturing Value at Scale in Discrete Manufacturing”, many use cases deliver their value through on-site infrastructure. However, the requirement to renew infrastructure with a focus on on-site value creation presents many companies with a key challenge. For example, the digital transformation of production requires an integrated IT/OT architecture such as SAP’s Industry 4.0 Solution Blueprint. At the same time, the prerequisites for machine connectivity and data collection are different on every shopfloor.

The reason is that machines, equipment, controllers, and sensors of different ages as well as from different manufacturers are usually used, reports another McKinsey study, “Industrial IoT”. As a result, specialized solutions are needed, and they must be carefully clustered together. The study goes on to say that nothing works in the digital space without connectivity.

Connecting the brownfield

Because the vast majority of factories around the world operate with older or even completely legacy machines, so-called brownfield, one central question is: How do you digitally connect modern, new and existing older machines? In surveys, a majority of companies state that they would have to replace around 30 percent of their existing equipment as part of digital transformation. For large manufacturing companies in particular, this would mean writing off billions in investments in machinery and equipment. That would be bordering on business madness.

Strategically, it is important to protect investments that have already been made and to enable necessary innovations. Therefore, a suitable solution that is as easy to implement as possible must be found for the decisive first step of the digital journey. Only with comprehensive brownfield connectivity, even for machines delivered long before the digital age, can the other stages of the digital journey follow: Visibility, transparency, predictability, and adaptability, as defined by the German Academy of Science and Engineering (Acatech).

Connectivity must be considered and integrated from the outset in a holistic IT/OT architecture for data flow. Forcam and SAP offer such a holistic architecture in the DMC (Digital Manufacturing Cloud). With Forcam Force Edge, brownfield plants can be connected and comprehensively mapped in Level 0 to 2 in the SAP Industry 4.0 Blueprint. The Edge solution provides fail-safety while transferring all relevant data to downstream systems such as DMC or SAP ME/MII, where the collected and normalized machine data can be seamlessly integrated in all relevant downstream processes. Mani Pirouz, Global Head of Partner Innovation at SAP, explains, “Forcam Force Edge enables customers to connect their brownfield to SAP solutions and integrate with SAP processes, allowing them to take full advantage of digital twins.”

Digital twin

The factory of the future operates with an accurate and unified real-time data model in production and planning. For such a digital twin of production, connectivity is the basis. The digital twin of production is created when shopfloor data is condensed into information, i.e., the collected machine signals are standardized into a uniform digital language and semantically assigned. Big data needs to become smart data. Only then can all IT systems in shopfloor and potfloor work with a single source of truth. The Force Edge solution also takes care of this standardization and semantic assignment. Every signal is given the right meaning.

An excursion into the storefloor shows: The heterogeneity of the machine parks in manufacturing companies in all industries is great. However, three basic approaches to digital connectivity can be distinguished. First, simple and/or older machines do not have a network-capable controller. Their internet-capable connection is achieved by tapping signals and states directly from the machine using a converter, an I/O box. Common signals are: Machine on or off, production or standstill, quantity, and fault. Second, newer machines have network-enabled control. In them, signals are read out of the controller via plug-ins. These plug-ins are available in Force Egde for the most common control types. Third, modern machines as well as complete machining centers work with communication protocols such as OPC, MTConnect, or MQTT. These systems usually generate a standardized data package that is suitable for further processing without having to upstream a direct signal conversion from the control system. The challenge lies in the heterogenous data structures of the data packages and the different machine types.

Edge and cloud infrastructures

Back to the strategic level: Companies need a solution for the era of IIoT that enables desired innovations and protects investments. They need flexible and integrative IT architectures that enable transformation in the global world of digital supply and service chains. Technologically, this requirement can only be digitally mapped via hybrid solutions consisting of edge and cloud infrastructures.

This applies in particular to manufacturing networks that operate internationally as well as in real time and are multi-client capable. Hybrid edge and cloud infrastructures are therefore the future of industry. Forcam and SAP offer such a flexible edge and cloud solution for storefloor connectivity and collaboration in downstream systems.

Acatech study: Industry 4.0 Maturity Index

The term Industry 4.0 was coined in 2011 and has since been used to describe the far-reaching integration of information and communication technologies in the industrial environment. However, the term has been misinterpreted in some cases and too often focuses solely on technological elements, even though companies must also transform their organizational structures and culture.

The goal is to become a learning, agile company that can flexibly adapt to a constantly changing environment. The Acatech Industry 4.0 Maturity Index provides companies with a tool to support the transformation into a learning, agile company. The index describes six development stages for the four structural elements of each company.

Each level enables the company to add value. The index can be used to develop an individual digital roadmap to introduce Industry 4.0 in all areas of the company. Building on the findings and the model developed, tools can be developed in the future for the concrete design of the transformation in companies.

It is advisable to develop a specific procedure for individual industrial domains in order to be able to make recommendations for action that are as concrete as possible and to take the differences in individual industries into account. To this end, the peculiarities of various industries and business relationships should be examined in the course of further validations. In keeping with the principle of continuous learning, the model depends on additional information. These are provided by validation and the exchange with interested industry and research partners.

Source: Industrie 4.0 Maturity Index. Shaping the digital transformation of companies. An Acatech study by Guenther Schuh, Reiner Anderl, Juergen Gausemeier, Michael Hompel, Wolfgang Wahlster (eds.). Download:

E-3 Magazine March 2021 (German)

About the author

Andrea Roesinger, Forcam

Andrea Roesinger is co-CEO and Chief Technology Officer of Forcam.

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