Canmakers globally and their suppliers, it seems, have yet to fully embrace the benefits of Industry 4.0 – also labelled the fourth industrial revolution – to the same extent that other sectors, such as the aerospace and automotive, have. But, with careful implementation, the return on investment (ROI) they could achieve by embracing this ‘transformative technology’ could be significant.
Industry 4.0 combines automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes aspects such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which connects ‘smart’ machines and devices, with cloud and cognitive computing. Provided the benefits of Industry 4.0 are not overhyped and the expectations of senior bosses are managed, its staged introduction, when combined with appropriate data security measures, offers the prospect of big operational and commercial gains, say experts in this field.
According to Pierce Owen, principal analyst for industrial research at ABI Research, which provides strategic consultancy on transformative technologies, Industry 4.0 could increase efficiency and productivity, while reducing maintenance and repair costs for manufacturers generally. “As artificial intelligence and other new technologies such as augmented reality and 5G mature, they could revolutionize the entire manufacturing sector,” says Owen. “Right now, though, we’re mostly seeing sensor-based applications lead to enhanced production KPIs [key performance indicators] to avoid bottlenecks and a foundational platform for output optimization.”
The industrial equipment suppliers – and this is likely to include those providing canmaking equipment – each has its own IIoT platform, says Owen. “Some open up to enterprise [resource planning – ERP] systems and competitors’ equipment. Others are more closed,” he explains.
The major industrial automation suppliers – Siemens, ABB, Rockwell, Emerson, Honeywell and Hitachi – all have IIoT platforms, he says.
“In addition, I have read multiple use cases about steel manufacturers that use a combination of edge and cloud processing of vibration sensor data to optimize output,” he adds. But, he cautions: “Making the initial investment, the confusing IIoT ecosystem, and getting internal buy-in stand in the way more than anything.”
Owen says that successful ROI depends on how systems are implemented. He also warns about the importance of data security with Industry 4.0. “I think, right now, you need to be extremely careful about networking control capabilities.”
For canmaking equipment supplier Roeslein & Associates, which is also a systems integrator, Industry 4.0 offers huge potential for the sector, but any benefits are likely to come in phases, the company suggests.
“For most canmakers, some type of data acquisition system exists that counts production of a machine,” says Roeslein’s systems engineering manager JC Harrison. “Adoption of 4.0 will help companies to be proactive, from automating everything associated in a can plant that has a relationship with cycle count, or hours in service. This could range from preventative maintenance to predictive maintenance.”
Roeslein has been preparing for 4.0 for several years now, Harrison reports. “We have been doing data acquisition, root cause analysis, and SCADA [supervisory control and data acquisition] systems for over 20 years now. We have been developing over the past two years a predictive machine learning system that we hope to bring to the market in 2019.
While most major canmakers have linked their manufacturing equipment to their information systems for many years, canmakers have faced different obstacles related to their own organizations, but in general all solutions adopted have been simple, says Harrison. “4.0 can be overwhelming when presented as a whole package,” he warns. “The canmaking industry could look at some of the best practice techniques of other industries and break down the adoption and implementation into parts.”
While explaining that it is difficult to be precise about the return on investment of Industry 4.0, due to the variability of different systems implemented, Roeslein encourages its clients to undertake simulation work to provide the basis for an expected ROI. “Roeslein can simulate many of the 4.0 additions to a running can line and estimate the additional product out the door,” he says.
Harrison also says that while cyber-security needs to be part of a system’s design, the concern is less for canmakers than in other industries.
He also believes that on the data side of Industry 4.0, the industry has a good pool of qualified candidates, integrators, and contractors to assist the canmakers implement systems. “However, the actual machine knowledge, which is extremely important in knowing ‘what’ to do when a 4.0 prediction is made, is lacking in almost all industries,” he claims. “In the US there seems to be a push for trade jobs again, so in 10–15 years, this shortage should go away. However, it is a real issue right now, and very advantageous to integrators and contractors who have the true canmaking knowledge.”
That’s what’s happening at the IT level, but what about at the operational technology (OT) level and the integration of computer systems with factory automation and robotic systems?
Automation and robotics
Canmaking machines continue to become more advanced, although Harrison reports that the newer can lines being installed have “islands” of data that have yet to be “mined” at each machine. “This data could be used for many of the 4.0 initiatives if used correctly,” he suggests. “As for the next areas of automation, the industry continues to desire and push the camera manufacturers in label detection, and variation. An integrated label system with the decorator would certainly be an improvement that the industry wants.”
In the canning sector, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) expects to invest around £20 million in the current financial year in automation and robotics to improve the operational efficiencies of its canning and bottling operations across Great Britain.
While there is no shortage of areas for potential investment in automation, the decision on whether it happens or not is increasingly down to commercial benefit and whether the ROI is sufficient, says CCEP’s engineering and technology director Alan Ellis.
Ellis explains that, while ROI for robotic investment comes from raising production line “uptime” – essentially, improving its overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), which measures availability, performance, and quality – the problem these days is that as canners such as CCEP move to shorter production runs and more “niche products”, that uptime falls, he says. “So, it gets harder and harder to justify robotics and automation,” Ellis reveals.
Another problem faced by CCEP, like many manufacturers these days, is in attracting and retaining staff with the correct level of engineering skills needed to keep sophisticated robots working at optimal performance over operational lives of, perhaps, 10 to 20 years when the systems used to control them tend to change every two to three years. “I’ve got engineers who have 10 operating systems to learn and manage,” he says.
But, having automated the factory, it’s all about taking that production “intelligence” from shopfloor machines up the hierarchical information pyramid to top level ERP, such as those supplied by companies like SAP. It also involves making greater use of factory level manufacturing executions systems (MES) supplied by companies such as Rockwell Automation, Siemens and others.
Ellis also sees new opportunities for CCEP in using the latest process control and IT systems to interrogate production lines with a view to modelling production in ways that permit operational improvements to be made. By analysing the mean time between failures (MTBF) on equipment, CCEP is starting to identify emerging trends, he reports.
“We see the next step as actually going into the modelling world,” he says. “So, when we see new products and innovations coming towards us, can we remodel with all that process information what will be the impact on the business.” Initially, this will involve investigating the impact of new product introductions on the supply chain but, ultimately, it will enable CCEP to investigate the impact of Industry 4.0 on its overall business, Ellis adds.
Gary Kirk, who is responsible for Rockwell Automation’s UK food and beverage, global health and personal care, and life sciences business, says that, across the board, discussions about the impact of Industry 4.0 on manufacturing operations is evolving and becoming more practical and focused on smart manufacturing approaches.
“It is about starting to connect all the levels in manufacturing plants, so that we are going from the OT to the IT environment: exchanging information securely – that is a critical factor here,” says Kirk.
“So, safe, secure exchange of information: from your manufacturing devices all the way right up to the IT layer,” says Kirk. “Previously, we would be having some discussion about data capture, SCADA. Things are moving well beyond that now … into full integration and MES. You are factoring in execution systems where decisions can be made in real time based on real information coming from the factory floor up into your SAP ERP system.”
However, Kirk cautions that for many manufacturers this will be an IT journey rather than overnight revolutionary change. “You can’t expect everyone to suddenly rush out and convert their entire factory to a smart manufacturing facility,” he says.