Although there are no simple answers as to why progress has been slow, there are three main obstacles that the industry is facing against a full realisation of Industry 4.0:
The goal of connectivity should be to do with data collection and data management. A truly connected enterprise would be able to effectively manage the data that comes out of an organisation and the data that goes in. Many PLCs are currently struggling with this reality, particularly because the big data emanating from Industry 4.0 comes from so many different and diverse sources. Most of the data is either unused or used only for very specific, tactical purposes.
Inadequate interoperability across incompatible technologies, systems and data types contributes to this problem of data not being leveraged strategically. Without integration of machine and sensor data, businesses won’t be able to handle topics such as condition monitoring, predictive maintenance or traceability – which are key components of the smart factory. To overcome this, companies need cutting-edge platforms that can fully leverage the value of manufacturing big data using machine learning, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.
Far too many conventional IT systems struggle to store, manipulate and govern the diverse data that Industry 4.0 demands. This not only leads to lost productivity, but additional technology headaches as more people are required on the shop floor and unable to fulfil their duties from remote settings.
This is frustrating for many reasons: the integration of Industry 4.0 should be somewhat smoother than the reality to date, because the advances in technology over the past two decades demand it. But enabling new equipment, and being able to register and link with the software required for a seamless integration, is still proving elusive to many. There are also barriers due to a lack of standardisation and a lack of knowledge or understanding of the technology available.
Open-source software solutions may be the best solution to this issue in the short and medium term, though in the long term, businesses will find that structural changes are needed from the top and bottom across the organisation.