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Helping to drive 4IR

21 June, 2017

Lenze UK is focused on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), or Industry 4.0. The company says this is an evolution, not a major change for the company, as arguably it has been engaged in 4IR since its founding in 1947. Its market place is primarily machine builders and it aims to enable them to build the flexible intelligent machines demanded by 4IR. Smart Machines & Factories spoke to Lenze about the effects of IOT on the motion control industry.


What will the effects of IoT be on the motion control industry?


One of the most important drivers of IoT is the customisation of products in every facet of our lives. Only highly-flexible, intelligent and connected machines are able to manufacture customized products with the highest degree of productivity, quality and resource efficiency in large-series production. The factory of the future will only have temporary production lines and will continuously reconfigure itself – ideally fully automatically.

However IoT also significantly increases technical complexity in mechanical engineering. OEMs are undergoing the most fundamental change since the introduction of digital control; we are entering an era of unprecedented machine intelligence.


How can OEM’s manage the complexity of these innovative machines?


The most significant factor for our customers is optimized engineering. This is not only because of the increasing complexity but also an ever growing lack of technically skilled employees. Time-to-Market is also becoming more and more important.

The key to making complex technology manageable and engineering processes simpler, is consistent modularisation of machine concepts and standardisation of varying functional units.


When will those effects start to kick in? When would you say the machinery industry will have completely accepted IoT?


According to a study in Germany by Quest Techno marketing, already half of all mechanical engineers rely on modular, intelligent machines. The number of these machines will increase twice as quickly over the next few years as generic machine production and will have achieved a market share of 80% in three years.


What are the major hurdles slowing or preventing motion-control firms from adopting IoT technologies and processes? And how might those hurdles be overcome?


As we see it, it's no longer only about connecting drives and transmitting data, but rather providing software to support the OEM in the development of flexible, modular machines.

With the application of “FAST” software, Lenze has developed a toolbox which makes frequently used machine functions available as standardised technology modules.

Various machine module functions no longer need to be programmed; they are simply created by adjusting parameters. For example, the “FAST” software toolbox makes functions for individual production processes of materials such as films, and cutting and sealing available. This toolbox also includes Pick & Place applications with robots.

Customer-specific factors can simply be integrated into the FAST software modules. Our standard is to realise 80% of machine functions in 20% of the time. This way we create time for the most important factors of our customer’s process – the special elements in a process and distinguishing features of their machines.


Should motion control companies concentrate on getting IoT into their products or embedded in the processes they use to make motion-control devices? Wouldn‘t clients be more apt to adopt IoT technology if the company selling it were using it?


Of course we always use IoT technology to manufacture our own products. We have a particularly innovative electronics production process and use a large number of robots for handling tasks. We need to continuously develop our production to be able to manage the complex variety of our product portfolio, to increase the performance of our plants, to improve the availability of the plants using predictive maintenance procedures, to promote sustainability, and, in particular, to optimize energy efficiency. Another very important requirement for us is traceability - the ability to track production down to every last component.


Is Europe closer to realizing IoT than the USA? Would you explain the difference, if there is one?


Large globally-active companies in various production areas define the state of technology when it comes to production. Examples are Daimler, Volkswagen, P&G, Nestle, and Kraft Foods. On the one hand, they strive to create a consistent technological standard in their factories across the globe and, on the other, purchase machines in the USA, Europe, and, increasingly, in Asia. For this reason, we can't identify any fundamental differences in the implementation of IoT in the USA and Europe.

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