by staff writer
Advances in Industry 4.0 technology make it easier for smaller shops to get on board
Industry 4.0 has been a hot topic for years, but there is ambiguity about if small and medium-sized businesses can leverage the technology in meaningful ways.
The main advantages gained through Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology come from optimization. With margins tight and contracts competitive, optimization helps smaller shops improve scheduling, quoting and costing in ways that were once only available to much larger firms. And it doesn’t require a massive retooling—it can often come incrementally through planned upgrades, and it’s available from products you may not expect.
A cut above
L.S. Starrett has launched a system of remotely reporting sensors and gauges. It operates on the latest wireless networking technology using short-wave radio frequencies to connect cell phones, computers and wireless electronic devices, enabling the speed, bandwidth and range a manufacturer would need when retrofitting an operation as opposed to revamping the shop floor. Known as DataSure 4.0, it uses multiple gateways for data collection, where conventional systems generally use just one. This flexibility will come in handy for any shop looking to avoid a massive investment in digital infrastructure.
Another area that small and medium-sized shops can see significant ROI is in coolant management. A machine’s coolant can tell you a whole lot about your process efficiency, machining accuracy and tooling choices—it’s like reading tea leaves, except wetter and not safe for consumption.
With this in mind, Swiss company Liquidtool Systems has introduced Liquidtool Manager, an intelligent, IoT-based solution for monitoring coolants. It’s unique in that it combines a plug-and-play sensor with a cloud-based platform for intelligent, automated measurement. This kind of innovation can help many smaller metalworking companies take a crucial step to Industry 4.0.
Wear and tear
Speaking of tooling, many tooling companies now provide tooling data management systems. Better tooling management has a significant impact on machine uptime. Sandvik Coromant’s research has found a 20 per cent increase in machine utilization can provide a 10 per cent higher gross profit margin. Manual tool monitoring can only get you so far, which is why Sandvik developed its CoroPlus Machining Insights platform. The software connects CNC machines and transmits more information than a machine itself is capable. This includes manufacturing data to improve workshop efficiency and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). What makes this kind of innovation so valuable to smaller shops is that it isn’t limited to new machinery. Most machines are able to connect to the network, and adapters make older machines compatible. Integrating this level of Industry 4.0 technology with legacy hardware is the kind of game changer smaller shops need to make the leap into Industry 4.0. SMT