Picture the scene. The production line stops. Within seconds, a sensor detects a problem, a camera zooms in on the line and in milliseconds it sends data to a control center alerting staff to the situation. They are notified which tools are needed to repair the problem, exactly where they are and how long a robot will take to sort it out.
That’s the kind of reality we can expect in our factories of the future as manufacturing continues to reap the constantly growing benefits of AIoT. It will be especially welcomed by sectors like manufacturing, railway, construction, logistics and recycling, where scarce raw materials, increasing demand, competition for volumes and ever-tougher regulations provide a formidable set of challenges today.
Germany leads the way
A concrete response to the situation was unveiled by Bosch in 2021 with the opening of the company’s first AIoT factory in Dresden. In the silicon plate manufacturing facility, artificial intelligence will improve production and enable the rapid conversion to new products.
Factory technicians wear glasses with built in cameras and maintenance can be carried out – if necessary – from a distance of up to 9,000 km away. Every bit of data in the fully connected smart factory is collected in a central database, with the result that every second, production data corresponding to some 500 text pages is generated. In a single day, this would be equivalent to more than 42 million pages.
Industry 4.0 is about combining people, machines and data in the most optimal way. And here Bosch is in a strong position to capitalize, with IoT solutions and Artificial Intelligence applications that could revolutionize the whole manufacturing processes.
The heart of the matter
Bosch’s approach is based on the need to help streamline business operations with connectivity. Smart industrial IoT solutions will use real-time data from sensors to monitor and improve efficiency, reduce human intervention and cut energy costs, while on the factory floor, smart connected machines, tools and sensors give engineers and managers an accurate, up to date picture of their processes. Data collected can be utilized to minimize downtime caused by maintenance, unavailability of assets and any lack of staff in the factory, while workers can automatically track parts as they move through assembly lines using sensors.
Even apparently small issues, like employees mislaying their tools, can actually be really costly in large scale operations. Here, smart connected tools controlled by a “find my phone” type app will help claw back valuable minutes and hours in a working week.
And as for the machinery, edge processing, intelligent self-learning cameras and smart sensors will be key to monitoring the condition and maintenance of everything from pumps and forklift trucks to complete assembly lines throughout the building.
Cutting edge software solutions are key to this, a point borne out already by the development and implementation of software that specializes in detecting problems in the manufacturing process at an early stage, that was developed at the Bosch Centre for Artificial Intelligence.
In purely financial terms, the potential to save in industry 4.0 is huge. At Bosch we’re investing some €500m in a global digital connectivity program where some 240 facilities will employ an AI solution that could save twice as much as the original investment by 2025.
Safe and sound
Elsewhere, new sensors and cameras will boost safety and security. The Bosch Aviotec fire detection camera is a good example. This state-of-the-art IP camera has built-in video analytics, so that with the help of a trained algorithm that detects flames and smoke directly at their source, it can react much quicker to any potential dangers.
A Nordic model
At a Nordic level meanwhile, Bosch is committing to creating the factory of the future in Tranås, Sweden. Based on automation, smart solutions and AIoT, the plant is run by Bosch Thermotechnology that specializes in heat pumps. Among many plans at the factory are the installation of smart tools that “talk” with each other and self-guiding transportation robots that know when stocks are low and when assembly parts need picking up.
“In general, these new measures are likely to be introduced by the industry step by step. It may be that AIoT is implemented partly on production lines, or perhaps in different functions such as smart tools, although you could alternatively just follow the Dresden example and implement new technology 100%” says Ralf Martensson, Business Development Manager, Nordic.
“The OGS (Operator Guidance System) is already running. The next level is the Active Assist assistant system that gives the operator direct support in how to do things, which order to do them in and which parts or tools to use. What they all have in common is that they have to be connected to the MES (Manufacturing Execution System), software.
“The hope is that this state-of-the-art facility will act as a blueprint for others, not just in the Nordic region but beyond it too,” adds Martensson.
Revolution or evolution?
Far more than just another marketing buzzword, Industry 4.0 is more likely to be an evolution rather than a revolution. Smart connected devices will help both from an operational perspective, but also, in tandem with cloud technology will enable the optimization of equipment and operations too. Bosch will be right at its center.