What’s the goal for manufacturing in the United States? Do we want to see lot of new, Industry 4.0 factories built? Rexroth’s Dr. Steffen Haack says it’s not necessary. New factories may seem hopeful and make good headlines, but they’re not always the path to prosperity.
Older facilities can be updated. Often, production processes are already going well. The older machinery lacks sensors and isn’t connected with other machinery. So the new machines, with their ability to collect and disseminate data, seem far advanced compared with the older machines.
But the machinery that’s already in place in many facilities can be equipped with sensors and connected with other devices. Manufacturers don’t really have a choice between the amazing smart factory of the future and relics of the past.
“Not everything that is or will be technically possible fulfills the actual goal, which is to improve the competitiveness of manufacturing companies,” said Dr. Haack. “With the Rexroth IoT gateway, we have developed a practical solution for the subsequent connection of installed machines and systems. In a package with sensors, it records and preprocesses status data, independently of the control. This information increases availability and improves process quality.”
Retrofitting older machines allows manufacturers to continue to work with current processes that the current workers understand. Gathering data and using it to identify areas of opportunity will let manufacturers increase productivity and efficiency. It helps identify the parts of the process that need upgrading.
That means that gradual improvements can be made in the ways that make the best use of current resources. New investments can be chosen because they will make the most difference.
The best reason to build a new factory is to take advantage of a beneficial location. Otherwise, focus on improvement instead of novelty.
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