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Time for processors to leap into Industry 4.0

Issue: May 2018

Industry 4.0 will be getting a lot of attention at NPE2018.

You’ve heard the words and phrases related to the trend: Internet of Things (IoT); Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT); the cloud; smart factory; predictive maintenance. Phrases such as “common interface” and “common language” signify the ways that machinery and equipment communicate with one another.

The focus on Industry 4.0 at NPE should come as no surprise; it has far-reaching implications for the plastics industry. The question is, what does Industry 4.0 mean for processors and what should they look for at NPE?

Angie DeRosa, managing editor

Perhaps we can help demystify things a bit. This issue focuses on Industry 4.0 and what attendees can expect to see during the triennial trade show, with several stories dedicated to that topic. Machinery and equipment manufacturers are preparing their hardware and software services to help processors take the leap into Industry 4.0. As you walk the show floor, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Only you know where your company is on its journey, so tailor your questions to your own needs.

The common thread that emerged from the sources I interviewed is that processors will want to make sure they are adopting some aspects of Industry 4.0. Even the ability to analyze small amounts of data from manufacturing operations can make a huge impact, for example, in machinery run times, mold use and raw material consumption.

For many processors, the improvement to the bottom line is well worth the technology investment.

Plante & Moran PLLC, the Chicago consulting firm, has conducted a review of 116 processors in North America that have embraced certain aspects of Industry 4.0. Some of the common benefits among the companies include higher asset utilization ratios and lower costs.

Jeff Mengel, a partner with Plante & Moran, said that these companies have an 86 percent higher value-add loaded labor dollar, which is a measure of productivity, compared to the average processor. Consider this fact as well: These processors have 138 percent higher EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). The average processor has 11.3 percent EBITDA, but for those that are in the higher echelons of Industry 4.0 adoption, the EBITDA is 26.9 percent.

“The advantages are dramatic,” he said. Mengel encourages companies to start the journey and lay out a roadmap. The early stages of Industry 4.0 are not unlike the beginnings of computer adoption in the early 1980s. “Industry 4.0 is in its early stages,” he said. “Some people will be early adapters. It is a journey, not a destination.”

Many companies, industry associations and other organizations are working to streamline how data is managed. You will see a lot of that at NPE. Auxiliary equipment supplier Conair Group, for example, officially will launch its SmartServices Platform. This web-based service is designed to help managers turn plastics processing data into action.

“Today, data is everywhere, seen on HMIs scattered through every plant,” said Sam Rajkovich, VP of sales and marketing at Conair. “Every HMI represents a piece of equipment that is optimized to talk about its job, but not really optimized to communicate, together with the other equipment, to the people who manage the plant. To managers, that data can get jumbled together with other information, interruptions and alarms so that it distorts, rather than clarifies, what is happening on the plant floor. You can’t tune it out, because you might miss something urgent, but keeping those data streams in focus, channeling and managing them is very difficult,” he said.

Conair’s goal is to channel the data into a platform that will allow processors to intelligently manage their plants. The streams of data can be filtered to support decisions and actions that will result in smoother operations, sustained productivity and maximum equipment performance and uptime.

For its part, Euromap, the umbrella industry group for European plastics machinery firms, will hold a press tour of machinery makers’ booths during NPE2018 to highlight its work on machinery interfaces. The group develops information models for plastics and rubber machinery based on OPC-UA — an interoperability standard for secure and reliable exchange of data in applications such as industrial automation.

Harald Weber, director of Euromap’s technical commission, said that the interfaces it is developing for injection molding machines are the most advanced of its projects and the working group for extruders is making huge progress.

“Important for all working groups is that the main European machine manufacturers are working together on common interfaces. [At the NPE press tour], some of these companies will tell about their motivation to participate in the working group and explain the benefits.”

Those companies include KraussMaffei, Engel, Battenfeld-Cincinnati and Wittmann Battenfeld. We will include coverage of the press tour and Industry 4.0 in a future issue of Plastics Machinery Magazine, so watch for that in these pages, and let us know where 4.0 is taking your company by sending an email to editorial@plasticsmachinerymagazine .com.

In our Product Innovations section this month, we have included booth numbers for companies exhibiting at NPE.

Angie DeRosa, managing editor