Bosch pools Industry 4.0 expertise in the “Connected Industry” innovation cluster
Editor / Provider: Bosch | Updated: 3/24/2015 | Article type: Security 50
The work pieces of Industry 4.0 are intelligent. They are equipped either with barcodes, RFID chips, or internet-enabled sensors. Thanks to partially or fully automated information gathering and transmission, a virtual copy of the physical world can be created... This makes constant coordination and improvements between locations or even beyond the walls of the company possible.
Bosch has concentrated its activities in the field of networked production manufacturing in a new innovation cluster. “We are pooling our Industry 4.0 expertise in the Connected Industry innovation cluster. This will make us large enough to provide our customers and the 15 Bosch divisions with the flexible and agile support they need to implement Industry 4.0,” said Dr. Werner Struth, member of the Bosch board of management. “The topic of Industry 4.0 is strategically important because it offers Germany a historical opportunity to enhance its competiveness as an industrial location.” In the area of networked production, Bosch is both lead supplier and lead user.
New business ideas for a connected world
Based on the ongoing “Industry 4.0@Bosch” project, the innovation cluster currently counts around 100 associates. By further combining its manufacturing expertise with its sensor and software know-how, Bosch expects to see additional progress in the development of new business models. To this end, a network of experts will be created at the global provider of technology and services. Specialist groups have already been established at many of the company's locations, and more than 100 pilot projects are underway. By the end of 2015, the innovation cluster will count some 200 associates. In cross-sectoral innovation clusters such as this one, Bosch develops new business ideas for a connected world. The company has established other clusters in the areas of connected building, connected mobility, and connected energy.
Pursuing a dual strategy: lead provider and lead user
Bosch offers hardware and software for networked production. As a manufacturer, the company is also a user of Industry 4.0 technology. The global provider of technology and services has extensive expertise in the realm of production, which it has acquired through the manufacture of millions of automotive components, for instance, or in the production of individual complex packaging machinery. This expertise is complemented by the software know-how of Bosch Software Innovations, the company's own software and systems provider. In addition to this, Bosch has long mastered the software embedded in things. All of this means that it is better prepared for networked production than almost any other company.
APAS: Cooperation without protective barriers
Dr. Stefan Aßmann is the head of the new innovation cluster. The Bosch engineer previously held positions as site manager in Germany and abroad, and was also head of engineering for special machinery at Bosch. Under his leadership, many Industry 4.0 solutions have been industrialized, among them the APAS automatic production assistant. This robotic arm is the first and thus far only assistance system in production that cooperates with people without a protective barrier. Aßmann reports directly to the Bosch board member Dr. Werner Struth, who is in charge of production coordination and thus also oversees the topic of Industry 4.0.
Major improvements to productivity
As a result of networked production processes, Aßmann expects productivity to increase by up to 30 percent. “With Industry 4.0, we can also remain competitive in Germany in spite of it being a high-cost location. Networked production is set to become the new normal. This is clear at this year's CeBIT, we will see it again at the Hannover Messe, and it will certainly continue to be a hot topic in the years to come.”
Focus on users
“We are developing new solutions for networked production and are putting them into practice at our locations in Germany and abroad,” said Aßmann. “Moreover, we offer many of the solutions we've developed to external customers. We also provide a broad range of software as well as drive and control technologies for industrial automation. Customers can use these solutions efficiently for their own projects. With this portfolio, we have demonstrated our expertise as lead provider and lead user in connected industry.” And yet, according to Aßmann, technical innovation is not the only consideration. “In order for Industry 4.0 to be successful, connected solutions must focus more on users and their requirements than on the technology or product.”
In order to meet the standards required for networked production, Bosch is also cooperating closely with other partners in Germany and abroad. One example is the company's collaborative project with Tech Mahindra and Cisco. Together with these two partners, Bosch is pushing the networking of industrial tools forward as part of the Industrial Internet Consortium. The first outcome of their collaboration is the ability to determine the position of the Bosch Nexo cordless nutrunner on the shop floor with extreme precision. This positioning information is used to automatically select the correct torque for the respective task, making it possible to tighten safety-relevant bolts with exactly the required torque, for example. It is also possible to automatically document these settings to ensure and test product quality. Potential applications include the maintenance and construction of engines and aircraft.
One line, two hundred modules
In Homburg, Bosch already has a multiproduct line that can produce two hundred different hydraulic modules up to batch size 1 very flexibly. This is because the line's nine stations are connected to one another in a smart network. Thanks to an RFID chip on the workpiece, the stations recognize how a product should be assembled and which work steps are required. This also enables the efficient production of small quantities. This is necessary because some modules are needed more frequently than others. The multiproduct line is capable of producing several different modules simultaneously. The corresponding work plans are automatically retrieved and displayed as photos or films on monitors – they are even tailored to the associate's level of education and native language. Associates thus receive the best possible support with their work. Out of 2,000 different components that are automatically made available when they are needed, they assemble 200 different variants of hydraulic modules. These modules control the work and traction hydraulics in trucks or tractors, for instance to tip loading beds or lift a plow. At the end of December 2014, this multiproduct line won the “Industry 4.0” award, which was presented by the specialist magazine Produktion in cooperation with ROI Management Consulting AG. The award honored the key elements of Industry 4.0 that Bosch has already put into practice: decentralized intelligence, fast connectivity, context integration in real time, and the autonomous performance of tasks.
Industry 4.0: background
The work pieces of Industry 4.0 are intelligent. They are equipped either with barcodes, RFID chips, or internet-enabled sensors. Thanks to partially or fully automated information gathering and transmission, a virtual copy of the physical world can be created. The network of software programs, mechanical parts, and electronic parts communicates around the world via the internet. This makes constant coordination and improvements between locations or even beyond the walls of the company possible. But business models are expected to see the most dramatic change, for instance in the area of new operator models. In the future, manufacturers of production machinery may retain ownership of their machines. Rather than selling them, they may offer their customers specific produced quantities or operating hours. The potential for the development of new and profitable business models is practically unlimited.