Smart Factory: Local or Global?


Our vision of the smart factory is often focused on global connections. Information swooshes across the global supply chain. Virtual reality provides training and remote repair brings experts to machines before they break down, as each component takes responsibility for its own monitoring and service.

Rexroth points out in a recent article that this vision, while the technology is certainly in place, is not the only way that smart factories will work. Products will communicate with workstations, which will recognize their operators and make sure that tools are in place and configured to suit the process.

Your workers will have badges that identify their native language so that the workstation kiosks will use Marshallese for Marshallese workers and Spanish for Spanish speakers. The smart screwdriver will be prepared with the correct torque as sensed by the workstation. Communication within the factory setting will be smooth.

So smart factories will operate globally and locally. Just as we use the internet now for global communication, factories will be able to do the same. We’re just bringing in the machinery.

But we can’t expect the vision of Industry 4.0 to work this way without international standards. We need to be able to communicate well with machinery and the machinery needs to communicate well with other machines. Open source, standardized communication has to be built into machines for global connectivity.

Local use can manage without international standards, but we already use global sourcing of parts and machines in most manufacturing. It’s unrealistic for most industries to imagine that they won’t need international connections for effective collaboration in smart factories.

As data security issues are dealt with and factories begin updating machinery, we’ll begin to see the practical value of Industry 4.0 technology — but only if we recognize that smart factories must function both locally and globally.

In the meantime, call us for your Rexroth electric motion control needs.

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