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The revolution is coming: the main directions of industrial automation development

Progress on the spot is not worth it. This concerns, not in the least, the automation of production processes. Industrialists and equipment developers want to know what kind of technologies to expect in the coming years, what technical innovations to save money for in the first place, what to look for when organizing the workflow at the enterprise. The text below is about this.

“Industry 4.0”

The initiative on active implementation of CPS (cyberphysical systems, implying integration of computational processes in various physical processes) was announced in 2011 by several significant representatives of business, science, and politics.

It is expected that automation of production lines will soon receive effective self-diagnostics and adaptation capabilities using standard Internet protocols for data transmission, and human participation in the manual control, monitoring and programming will be minimized.

The process of gradual modernization was called the fourth industrial revolution “Industry 4.0”, and the specialists outlined five main directions for development. Let’s consider each one in more details.

Big Data Development

Фото: Тренд автоматизации - Big Data
  • The need to increase constantly the amount of data to be processed forces us to abandon the “services” of humans and obsolete computers at many stages of production. “Industry 4.0” when using automation systems implies the following their capabilities:
  • training;
  • recognition of visual images;
  • possibility of spatial analytics;
  • collection of detailed statistics;
  • modeling of various situations (freelance ones included) and development of measures for their development or, conversely, prevention.

Initially (in 2008, when the term was introduced), the category “Big Data” included data streams from 100 GB per day. Already now, the arrays accumulated and stored on the carriers of large enterprises are several hundred times larger, but this is not the limit yet.

Collaboration works – cobots

Фото: Тренд автоматизации: Коллаборативные роботы - коботы

Robots, working at most industries today, do not have any opportunity to contact people (they are often in fenced areas for security purposes), they are programmed by specialists who have been studying this craft for more than one year. Such machine performs tasks little (it is highly specialized), the dimensions and weight of the robot are still impressive, moving it without using heavy equipment is problematic.

“Industry 4.0” implies development of robots, getting rid of the above disadvantages and their transformation into trunks – automatic mechanisms that work in direct contact with the person (collaboration), which will be able:

  • to learn independently, to avoid emergencies;
  • to move within a few production shops;
  • to enter a tactile contact with a person (for example, to  transfer individual elements or parts on the assembly line).

It will not be necessary to learn programming and control of such machines for several years, you can set the operating mode by a simple touch.

As expected by 2022, the average annual rate of introduction of trunks will be  60%. These are the figures from the report of analysts of the “Technavio” company, which should be trusted.

Ecological cleanliness

“Industry 4.0” implies active development of several areas that allow minimizing the negative impact of production on the environment. In the next decade we will get:

  • reduction of the amount of harmful emissions to the atmosphere;
  • development of alternative energy sources (emphasis on renewable energy);
  • establishment of specialized waste recycling facilities for reuse.

The environmental problems are regularly discussed by the governments of many countries, there is a clear interest of the first persons of the states, hence, control over compliance with measures to conserve natural resources, clean air and water will be strict.

Easy control of automatic systems

The fourth industrial revolution requires a change in the way software is created. The main requirement is a convenient, intuitive software interface for simple control of complex equipment. Work in this direction is actively conducted by such giants of industry as Cisco, Siemens or ThyssenKrupp.

The personnel servicing the automatic lines should be able to learn quickly how to work with new equipment, not to waste time for searching the desired item in the program menu. Relatively speaking, you need to make sure that the number of button presses is minimal.

The modern software will be able to take many decisions independently when changing readings of the sensors (which will be much more in number), human participation will be required less and less. The reduction in the number of jobs in enterprises is expected  down to 47% in the next 20 years.


Фото: Тренд автоматизации: кибербезопасность

IT managers consider the threat to information security in modern industries critically dangerous. This is the opinion of 67% of representatives working in large companies (an increase compared with the previous year – 43%). The industrial giant “Schneider Electric” published a statement about the growing threats of cyberattacks back in 2013, today the problem has only worsened.

The modern automated process control systems are not isolated; they are a part of the “Internet of Things” (industrial) concept. From here there is a very real possibility of penetration into the databases or programs controlling the work of the equipment from the outside. There are many reasons for hacker attacks:

  • causing damage to competitors;
  • a change in the political situation (for example, when attacking a defense industry enterprise);
  • personal insults to existing or former employees of the company, contractors.

The objects of interest for the attackers are distributed control systems, controllers involved in production management, SCADA systems, and components of human-machine interfaces.

All existing risk factors are easy to be eliminated. The main problem is the lack of understanding of the real threat to security services in enterprises. “Industry 4.0” assumes that the presence of information security departments in each industrial company will become a standard, the same as security guards at the entrance.

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