Jonathan Newell discovers how Bosch regards people, machines and data as the three pillars for successful implementations of Industry 4.0
From a technology standpoint, Industry 4.0 relies on a robust industrial internet of things (IIoT), comprising cloud or “fog” computing, edge intelligence using a proliferation of smart sensors and high bandwidth, low latency connectivity provided for, to some extent, by 5G New Radio.
However, smart factory pioneers at Bosch see the enabler of the factory of the future as having three supporting pillars, of which the way data is handled is just one.
A vision of the future
At the Hannover Messe event earlier this year, Bosch showcased the latest phase of its long-running commitment to delivering and using Industry 4.0. As part of its presentation, it described its vision of how the factory of the future will look.
According to Bosch, the only fixed elements of the factory of the future are the floor, the walls and the roof, with everything else being movable and connected. Machines drive in and out as needed, assembly lines grow longer or shorter, autonomous transport robots deliver components to workers. Robots work directly with human colleagues, relieving them of dangerous or strenuous tasks. Power is transmitted wirelessly via induction loops in the factory floor.
Workers, machines, and components are connected via intelligent software systems and mobile devices. An ultrafast 5G wireless network enables real-time data exchange, while artificial intelligence improves product quality through early fault detection. This reduces the burden on workers, leaving them with more time for other tasks, such as programming algorithms, developing new business models, or taking on other creative tasks.
Three pillars of success
It is the interaction of the data, the factory machinery and the people working in the organisation that Bosch sees as the key to success. According to the company’s board member whose responsibilities include the Industrial Technology business sector, Dr Stefan Hartung, the smart, lean and flexible factories of the future will all share the interplay of hardware, software and services orchestrated by people as common factors. “The three pillars of success in the factory of the future are people, machines and data,” he says.
The role of robotics
Bosch has always been keen to practice what it preaches and has been active both internally and with its customers on the development of collaborative robotics projects that make the best use of automation and smart sensing to perform dangerous or repetitive tasks whilst giving employees more opportunities for tasks more aligned to human skills.
Hartung stressed the importance of robotics, saying that a recent study shows it has driven an increase in jobs so far in Germany. The study reports that while robots are replacing some jobs, this is more than compensated for by job growth elsewhere. “In the Industry 4.0 era, people are as indispensable as ever,” Hartung emphasises.
To reinforce its support for the intelligent and sustainable use of robotics within the context of Industry 4.0, Bosch is providing assistance to its supply chain and customer base, as explained by Rolf Najork, the managing director of Bosch Rexroth.
“We are already helping our customers optimise the management of their production lines and plants but in the future, there will be even greater demand for flexibility, transparency, and speed. Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will play a central role in this,” says Najork.