Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things, the Smart Factory of the Future… it’s all possible because of… telephones?
Actually, the technology required for the connected factory has been around for some time. But getting factories from their current dumb, dark, unconnected state to the bright, new, visible, smart factory of the future is difficult. It’s expensive. It makes people nervous. And getting it to the top of most manufacturers’ investment lists has been difficult.
That could change, because the tried and true technology of smartphones can be brought into existing factories and used to make those essential connections.
If you use beacon technology, for example, you can equip a sensor to recognize items that swim into its ken. This is how beacons in retail stores can text a beer coupon to a customer just as he gets close to the beer display. Chances are, he’ll check his phone, see the coupon, and buy some beer.
This type of sensor can be bolted onto an existing machine. The identifier — the equivalent of the smartphone in the beacon scenario — can be attached to a product. The machine recognizes which product is heading its way… or rather the sensor does, and communicates with the machine. The machine follows its programming and responds appropriately to the specific product.
In other words, the machine itself doesn’t have to be replaced by a smarter machine. The sensors which use smartphone-style tech are affordable, and so can be used in large quantities if needed.
Want a robot to stack pallets if there are pallets to be stacked, but to do something else when there are no pallets? You got it.
Without a new machine.
This change in approach can make factories much smarter in a much shorter time. Not only is the needed technology more affordable, but it’s also more comfortable for decision makers. And without the necessity to replace and reconfigure large sections of the automated systems which are already in place, the whole project is more practical.
It won’t get pushed ever further out into the future just because the scope is so large.
The future will be with us faster than we think. If you’re using Rexroth electric motion control systems right now, though, we can help you keep everything running sweetly. We specialize in just this one thing, and we have decades of experience with it.