Many people believe that we are now entering a new industrial revolution - Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution - where manufacturing is led by a number of cyber-physical systems.
Cyber-physical systems normally comprise of computers, networks and physical processes all integrated together. Sending information back and forth, the computers and networks monitor and control the physical processes, with feedback from the physical processes also impacting the subsequent computations.
Using cyber-physical systems allows manufacturers to merge the physical world with the virtual world. This is also sometimes called the Internet of Things (IoT) which describes how 'things' such as a piece of production equipment, is embedded with software, sensors and network connectivity, thereby allowing the physical object to collect and exchange data.
Put simply, "this means that industrial production machinery no longer simply 'processes' the product, but that the product communicates with the machinery to tell it exactly what to do" (Germany Trade & Invest).
BCG has identified 9 technological advances that form the building blocks of Industry 4.0; simulation, system integration, internet of things, cyber security, cloud computing, additive manufacturing, augmented reality, big data and analytics and autonomous robots.
Already used in manufacturing, it is the integration of these technological advances that will transform production. This means, that rather than various areas of a manufacturing plant working in isolation, through the implementation and integration of these 9 technological advances, all production processes will also be integrated together.
In the ultra-flexible Industry 4.0 production environment, intelligently networked compressed air systems provide the optimal compressed air power and quality required. Moreover, potential issues within the compressed air network are identified at a very early stage so that appropriate service measures can be taken before a fault even occurs.
An advanced compressed air controller with secure networking abilities - such as the Kaeser Sigma Air Manager (SAM 2) - is a key technology in the advanced world of Industry 4.0. As the central mastermind, it controls the entire compressed air supply system and - via IoT (Internet of Things) - it is responsible for data streaming to a centralised application (in this case the Kaeser Sigma Smart Air application).
All compressed air system performance parameters are transferred from this sophisticated master control system to a data centre (the Kaeser Data Center) in real-time via a powerful Ethernet-based network (the closed Sigma Network). Here the parameters are analysed, processed, supplemented with expert knowledge and output to various mobile end devices (monitoring cockpits).
By monitoring key operating parameters, such as airend discharge temperature (ADT), pressure dewpoint or differential pressure, compressed air system efficiency can be kept in the optimum range at all times.
Thanks to real-time transmission and evaluation, data is always as up to date as possible, even in the event of sudden adjustments to production.