Mr. Egersdörfer has led COSMINO AG for almost 26 years and, in doing so, experienced and supported many development trends, like statistical process control, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and the progress of automation overall.
A new wave of development is now approaching us using the keyword “Industry 4.0”. Is Industry 4.0 comparable or are we in fact talking about a fourth industrial revolution?
Mr. Egersdörfer answers: “The first issue to be determined is what is an industrial revolution? People can talk about a revolution related to IT tools themselves, because established data management tools like relational databases will no longer suffice for working with Industry 4.0. In relation to production, I believe that we are talking less about a revolution and more about an evolution.”
Will manufacturing in the Age of Industry 4.0 become more independent controlled without people?
Mr. Egersdörfer: “No, definitely not. People will get powerful navigational tools for moving products, components and product carries optimally through the production process. We might call them intelligent real-time navigation modules, which will help the operators, but not replace them.”
What should manufacturing companies do now in order to stay competitive during the introduction of Industry 4.0?
Mr. Egersdörfer: (Laughing heartily) “Well, first of all do not panic.
Certainly, the starting point is to determine the current status of the company and how it operates. Many medium-sized companies are successful today because of how they are organized. However, they are often dependent on individual, highly qualified people in the organizations, which represents a risk. They are also operating under certain requirement and delivery demands. As the Age of Industry 4.0 further progresses, that is precisely the point where they will have to adjust to faster delivery times, scheduling smaller batch sizes and so forth. Companies will have to develop the ability to deliver individual products in a “just-in-sequence” manner. That is where the development of the organization, meaning the people, will be tested.
Establishing the actual status in the form of data and facts about production, such as cycle times, actual machine capabilities and availability values will suffice for the first step. After that, intelligence can be built into the production process step-by-step, meaning the IT tools: control systems, middleware and reporting and statistical management systems. Avoiding the desire to do everything at once is the most important issue.”
How long will it take to get the fourth industrial revolution up and running on the production lines?
Mr. Egersdörfer: “No one really knows when Industry 4.0 will start and what shape it will take. In fact, I’m sure that what we are now calling “Industry 4.0” will have a different name in 5 years. However, the current trend cannot be reversed and modification of the production infrastructure began long ago.
With all of the attention that has been given to the issue of Industry 4.0 by governments, the media and associations, virtually every company is aware that they will have to develop in the direction of Industry 4.0.
I can’t say if the ideas that we have about Industry 4.0 today will take effect in the future. In the Nineties, every automotive company was obligated to perform statistical process control (SPC) to improve the quality of production. If they didn’t, they went out of business. This lead to building control cards into machines that in point of fact couldn’t be controlled. People wanted to conform to the auditors’ requirements, which created an entire demonstration system especially for customers. Now, ten years later, SPC is still in use, but only where employees can control the process using control cards. Regarding the issue of Industry 4.0, I believe that we will soon step back from thinking of a revolution to thinking in terms of evolution.”
Frank Egersdörfer is the founder and CEO of COSMINO AG. Because of his activities as a Key Account Manager for numerous customers, he is also very aware of the current challenges for production companies and discusses them openly in conversations with interested parties and other customers.