INDUSTRY 4.0 – the core of Agritechnica’s Systems & Components: Challenges for Ag Machinery Manufacturers and the Supply Industry

Industry 4.0 is currently in full swing in Europe and has a direct effect on mobile applications and related sectors which are on the forefront of this new technology through systems for condition monitoring, integrated data management and smart factories, just to name a few.

These latest developments will be on full display for visitors to experience and explore at Systems & Components this November 12-18 at Agritechnica in Hanover. This specialized platform highlights the innovative vision of agricultural mechanization and related industries.

Industry in Europe

Industry plays a central role in the economy of the European Union, accounting for 24.5% of value added1 and serves as a key driver of research, innovation, productivity, job creation and exports with industry being responsible for over 80% of exports and 80% of private research and innovation according to the World Bank.

However, looking at the mobile application industry, two markets are clearly evident – that of developed countries, including Europe, and that of emerging countries. These emerging markets hold 40% of worldwide manufacturing (a total of EUR 6,577 bn) and have doubled their share in the last two decades, whereas Western Europe has lost over 10% of manufacturing value added. In 2012, the EU Commission set the goal of boosting manufacturing’s share of GDP in Europe from 15% to 20% by 2020. This goal has already been reached with 21% of the current GDP coming from manufacturing and was achieved through the fourth industrial revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Industry 4.0

Western civilization has already witnessed three industrial revolutions. The first improved efficiency through mechanization and water and steam power. The second brought electricity and mass production (assembly lines), and the third further accelerated automation using electronics and IT.

Europe has already entered the fourth industrial revolution, Industry 4.0, with the passage to cyber physical systems and the idea of consistent digitization and linking of all productive units in an economy.

The world’s two industrial fractures

The first fracture appeared with the rise of emerging countries with the change of the global industrial footprint over the past 20 years. At that time, emerging countries only produced 21% of that figure. Between 1990 and 2011, traditional industrialized countries saw their average manufacturing value added increase by 17% while in emerging industrial countries it increased by 179%.

The second industrial fracture can be seen with the decrease in industrial employment and value added in some traditional industrialized countries. These two fractures cut right across Europe, making the continent’s industry extremely diverse.

Why does Europe need industry?

Industry is a core element of the value chain and is critical in ensuring a balanced labor market and skills pyramid. To maintain high-quality services in an area, an innovative and creative manufacturing industry is critical. Industry and services are two sides of the same coin. 40% of jobs in the European manufacturing sector are service-related, and on average, services make up about a quarter of all inputs bought by EU industry.

Connectivity in this new industrial landscape

The concept of “connectivity” is evolving – at the beginning of the 21st century, connectivity was present only in the digital world while in Industry 4.0 the digital and real worlds are connected. Machines, workpieces, systems and human beings constantly exchange digital information via Internet protocol. Cyber-physical and IT systems today are at the heart of the production systems, and in Industry 4.0, these systems are far more connected to all sub-systems, processes, internal and external objects, the supplier and customer networks.

For example, transmission manufacturer ZF has developed a product to fulfill the needs of the Industry 4.0 market. Using cloud technology and variable sensor technology, the ZF ProVID gearbox is able to access all relevant information from the drive system. The conditions are constantly monitored and recommended actions are communicated to the operator to reduce production and time losses.

The rise of robotics

Smart robots and machines play an intergral role in Industry 4.0 with the number of multipurpose industrial robots developed by players in the supplier segment and used in European manufacturing having almost doubled since 2004. In Industry 4.0, robots and humans work hand in hand, so to speak, on interlinking tasks and using smart sensored human-machine interfaces.

Amazon is fully embracing the use of robots through the creation of “smart factories” in their warehouses. As online shopping increases, there is a greater need for more efficient and connected delivery systems. Amazon’s Kiva robots move more quickly than humans and manage to avoid collision by using sensors that communicate between themselves.

Integrated data management

Data is often referred to as the raw material of the 21st century. Indeed, the amount of data available to businesses is expected to double every 1.2 years. Innovative methods to handle big data and to tap the potential of cloud computing will create new ways to leverage information.

An excellent example of “Smart Farming” is the intelligent use of on-the-go data management seen through the Yara N-Sensor. This sensor allows farmers to measure a specific crop’s nitrogen requirement in real-time through the measurement of the crop’s light reflectance every second. Subsequently, the rate of fertilizer needed can be adjusted. Through this data process, harvesting time and cost as well as amount of fertilizer used are all reduced.

Industry 4.0: What is changing for companies?

This industrial shift is proving itself to be a major opportunity. Industry 4.0 brings more freedom and flexibility into the production process. Take the 3D printing market for example. This market and related services rose to EUR 6.3 billion in 2016 and is estimated to rise to about EUR 18.8 billion annually by 2020. This approach can become a game changer thinking about production in a high- or a low-cost country.

Interdisciplinary thinking is the core of Systems & Components and key in Industry 4.0 as the dominant technologies are IT, electronics and robotics, but other knowledge areas such as biotech and nanotech are also embraced. Businesses in Industry 4.0 need both enhanced social and technical skills, thus encouraging a shift toward design thinking instead of production thinking. On the technical side, connecting the network will mean a lot of standardization, going back to the basics of engineering.

A look at the best practices of Industry 4.0

Three groups of key players – technology suppliers, infrastructure providers and industrial users – use technologies like rapid prototyping and energy-smart buildings to optimize their production processes. In the context of mobile machinery and in particular ag machinery, these are OEMs and the supply chain, service providers and farmers.

Europe’s roadmap lays the groundwork for an Industry 4.0 environment, however Japan is probably the most advanced country in this field, especially in robotics and automation. A pilot plant operated by a mechanical engineering company in Yokohama employs humanoid robots with 80% of the productivity of a human worker. The fact that the company has not laid off staff members is a clear sign that Japan is moving toward automation in response to the rapid aging of its population – 40 million people fewer in 2050. As the workforce ages, the robots have taken over more physically-demanding tasks while humans have been moved to less strenuous areas.

Socially speaking, the question of where unskilled laborers will work looms overhead. Industry 4.0 has the potential of creating 6 million jobs in Europe alone, but the majority of these jobs are moderately to highly skilled positions. How will the labor worlds of farmers, but also those of mechatronics for agricultural and construction engineering technology, change and what will be required in the future? Will the machines repair themselves, will they order spare parts autonomously and use humans as maintenance personnel only?

Basic skilled laborers will possibly be replaced through automation, thus reducing the entire unskilled labor class. Countries already embracing Industry 4.0 are shifting in this direction as the current generation is aging. There is already a greater emphasis placed on education, thus naturally creating a more skilled and formally educated group of workers. By the time that countries with a large unskilled employment population have moved into Industry 4.0, they will also be undergoing the same societal shift towards a greater emphasis on education. These phases will happen together, just as is currently occurring in Europe and other countries.

Developing leaders in Industry 4.0 solutions requires three success factors

Industry 4.0 encompasses a broad set of technologies with a huge field for innovation and creative solutions. Pioneering business models will create new opportunities for adding value, but those will depend on breakthrough innovations for technology and the ability to bring them to market. Consistent investment in R&D programs is crucial with the role of designing the best practices of Industry 4.0 solutions, technology concepts, developing technology roadmaps and enhancing start-up development.

As a whole, Europe is set on the course to remain a leader in Industry 4.0, however, technology is evolving rapidly. The danger is not keeping up with technologies required to offer integrated solutions. European companies have to gain a strong competitive position compared to the US and Asia.

Europe also needs a service infrastructure possibly including incentives for industrial users to invest in the transition to Industry 4.0 or funding for infrastructure development. Besides infrastructure, this dynamic digital environment also needs to foster new talent through education in the fields required by Industry 4.0 such as software programming, data analysis and scientific computing as well as maintenance of these new programs.

Industry 4.0 in mobile applications

The next industrial revolution is proving itself to be a source of huge opportunities for European countries. Industry 4.0 fits quite well with the European model as it makes it possible to preserve a sustainable industry, develop qualified employees, support energy transition and adapt to large-scale customization. Europe is successfully competing at a global level and promoting European leaders through Industry 4.0.

The main theme of Systems & Components 2017 is “Connectivity – Stay with us, stay connected!” Through the connection of sensors and robotics to further data management as well as condition monitoring and smart and predictive maintenance, Industry 4.0 is bringing agricultural mechanization to a new level. Europe is fully immersed in this new industrial shift and will continue to be a major player.

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