German technology major Bosch says Industry 4.0 has definitely become a part of the factory scene, which has contributed around 1.5 billion euros (Rs 11,653 crore) in the past four years to its sales revenue.
Starting as early as 2022, Bosch wants to generate annual sales of over a billion euros with Industry 4.0. It will showcase its offerings for the factory of the future at Hannover Messe (April 1-5, 2019), wherein autonomous transport vehicles deliver components to digital workspaces, robotics solutions support workers in manufacturing, and quality inspection is performed with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). Using 5G technology, the communication between machines and systems will run smoothly and in near real time.
Realising the huge potential of Industry 4.0, Bosch says it started early and in 2012 it started connecting manufacturing and logistics. This strategy helped improve its competitiveness, and Bosch’s Industrial Technology business sector is witnessing robust growth. As per preliminary figures, the company claims the segment grew by almost 9 percent last year, with sales touching 7.4 billion euros (Rs 57,491 crore).
“Industry 4.0 pays off. Digital and connected solutions are making factories more efficient, more flexible, and more productive,” said Bosch board of management member Rolf Najork, who oversees the business sector.
Citing an example of its capabilities, the company says its plant at Blaichach in southern Germany introduced modern manufacturing technologies that increased ABS and ESP volumes by 200 percent over six years – without expanding facilities or making acquisitions.
Autonomous transport systems for intra-logistics market
“If you take the idea of the factory of the future to its logical conclusion, distinctions break down and you see that manufacturing and logistics have to be thought of as one element. This is the only way for Industry 4.0 to succeed in practice,” said Najork.
At Hannover Messe, Bosch Rexroth will present the ActiveShuttle, a autonomous transport vehicle, which carries materials from the warehouse to the precise spot on the production line where they need to be.
An integrated hub platform facilitates autonomous loading and unloading; equipped with laser scanners, the ActiveShuttle finds its own route, can recognise other vehicles and people – and can also learn: the transport system creates its own map of the site and updates it continuously.
According to Bosch, the three pillars of success in the factory of the future are people, machines and data, and to ensure they work together harmoniously, they need intelligent software.
“Industry 4.0 would be inconceivable without software. With our Bosch Connected Industry operating unit, we are further expanding our leading position in Industry 4.0 and pooling our software and services expertise under the name Nexeed,” said Dr Stefan Abmann, who heads the Bosch Connected Industry business unit. This unit helps the company’s customers monitor transports, manufacture products quickly and efficiently, and deliver those products safely, securely, and on time.
AI: a key to the future
With the help of artificial intelligence, the machines can learn to be smart and anticipate, which harbours a huge potential as they can relieve people of time-consuming, strenuous tasks.
“Bosch regards AI as a key technology. Our goal is for all Bosch products to be equipped with AI, or for AI to have played a part in their development and manufacture, by the middle of the next decade,” added Najork. For this, Bosch will present ViPAS, an AI-based system for visual quality control. Equipped with a gripper arm, cutting-edge camera technology, and intelligent software, the system is convenient to operate.
In a pilot project at the Bosch plant in Nuremberg, ViPAS completed 12,000 test procedures with a success rate of 99.9 percent. The next step is to further refine it in-house to get the technology ready for use at various plants.
5G to accelerate Industry 4.0
The new 5G mobile communications standard will play a key role in many Industry 4.0 applications. The new technology transmits data up to 100 times faster than the previous standard (4G). According to Andreas Muller, a Bosch researcher and chairman, 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA), “5G will be the central nervous system in the factory of the future.”
To shape the new mobile standard right from the outset so that it meets the future needs of industry, Bosch says it took on the chair of the organisation, which was set up in 2018. To date, the initiative has brought together more than 40 companies and research institutions from around the world. The technology company plans to test 5G in its own plants before the end of this year.
At Hannover Messe, Bosch says it will be join its partners Nokia, Qualcomm, and BigRep to present the advantages of the new standard. To do so, the companies are bringing connectivity to a 3D printer for the first time with the help of 5G. This will make it possible to take some of the control elements that would normally be integrated into the machine and outsource them to a local manufacturing cloud. Machines with this feature are leaner, cheaper, and easier to maintain.