Industry 4.0, or the industry of the future, will guarantee the autonomy of production lines, made smarter by the combination of ever more advanced technologies. It is however, necessary that these technologies are able to communicate with each other, within increasingly large and complex ecosystems, in order to streamline, secure and optimize the production and logistics processes.
We are far from the time when Henry Ford said, “A customer can have a car painted any color he wants as long as it’s black”! Customers now demand tailor-made products, but at the same price and with the same efficiency as those produced in bulk.
Industry 4.0 will be able to offer this to customers, as soon as the production chains can self-configure according to their specific needs. This means increased interaction between production and logistics entities, which must necessarily become more reliable and secure. This is to ensure not only the safety and integrity of the information systems, but also the conformity and performance of the products and their delivery.
Making production and supply chains smarter, in other words more efficient and agile, implies an evolution of production means and practices.
The interconnection of machines and systems that extend beyond the boundaries of the enterprise to include the entire ecosystem (customers, suppliers, partners, …) will be based on two main axes:
- Horizontal integration refers to the integration of different computer systems used in the different stages of the manufacturing and planning process of various activities. These activities involve the exchange of goods, energy and information both within a company as well as amongst several different companies (for example, inbound logistics, production, outbound logistics, and marketing).
- Vertical integration refers to the integration of different information systems at different hierarchical levels (eg sensor, control, production management, and manufacturing, execution and planning levels)
The goal of both integration axes is to provide an agile, end-to-end and configurable solution.
In order to accompany this industrial transformation via the integration of value chains, there will obviously be a need to make all IT tools communicate: CAD / CAM software (Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing), MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) or ERP, whether they belong to the enterprise internally, or to remote factories, partners or administrations. Manufacturers will have to augment their data exchange systems with tools in order to supervise, automate and secure their production and supply chain, especially that the promised billions of connected objects will even further complicate the new meshes of interconnection.