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After the revolution is before the next revolution

Can a screw talk to a bolt? Should a block of steel tell a milling centre how to machine it? These are just a few of the issues production engineers may have to consider, and tool and die shops could be part of the equation whether they like it or not.


What the experts say they are expecting


Currently, forecasts of what Industry 4.0 will become sound ad hoc, which is exactly what some of the resulting system will be, according to Germany’s engineering association VDI. In a recent presentation, it said a shift from centralised control to decentralised self-organisation will include ad hoc networking. Moreover, established value-creation chains will disintegrate into ad hoc organisations of value-creation networks.

This revolution will create a number of advantages:

1. Production will be highly flexible, highly productive and at the same time save up to 50% in resources,
2. The production of individualised products at the price of a mass-produced good will become reality,
3. The compatibility of work and family will be improved by considering the individual availability of employees.

Kagermann, the former CEO of business management software supplier SAP, said the revolution will produce such virtually utopian results because of a deepening of intelligence in the manufacturing process. In fact, down at the bottom of the chain, he said he could envision that a piece of steel such as a blank “will tell the machine how it should be processed”.
What is unclear is how that piece of steel will communicate with milling centres and the like, which is important: A hallmark of this revolution is that every part destined for the end product is expected to have the ability to communicate with machines and other parts.

An organisational model ready for the future now?

The flexibility required by Industry 4.0 may suit an organisational style already in place. If a shop cannot take the lead on a project, another steps in and then splits up the work based on the availability and expertise of other cluster shops. This sounds exactly what the Fourth Industrial Revolution is all about, adjusting and adapting production to the order. However, for VDWF member shops, one fundamental requirement is missing: the type of data networking demanded by Industry 4.0.
The shops may have no choice. An expert familiar with developments noted that a major German carmaker already has a system that collects real-time data on how far the production of individual dies on the floor of the in-house tool room has progressed. This type of networking with customers will likely be required of external die and mould shops, too, experts have predicted.

Looking for help outside the shop and the company

A extension of Industry 4.0 is characterised by collaboration in four main areas: internal value-added collaboration, the integration of external value-added partners, and up- and downstream customer integration. It said shops will have to identify new approaches to find solutions within the four areas.
For example, shops should use external partners throughout the tool production process. This lets shops concentrate on core competencies, reduce internal planning and cut cycle times.

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