Digitization is making advances within both industrial production and welding technology. Nevertheless, it is often difficult to discern the practical benefits among the muddle of terms such as Industry 4.0, Big Data and the Internet of Things. In this interview, Professor Christian Brecher, Chair of Machine Tools at RWTH Aachen University and spokesman for the Cluster of Excellence for production technology, provides insight into the topic:
What do you understand by Industry 4.0?
Industry 4.0 refers to the digitization of industrial production. The main idea behind this is to use data to provide added value.
What role does Big Data play in welding and production?
Generally, data within production processes is fast-moving, often lacks structure, and the cause-effect correlations are complex. Simply collecting data isn’t expedient, so we need algorithms that structure the data in a targeted manner and break it down to an appropriate level. We need Smart Data instead of Big Data so that companies can use it to generate added value.
To what extent has industrial digitization already been adopted by industry at large?
Much has already become a reality, from data collection to process automation and digital communication, right through to the use of cloud solutions and artificial intelligence. Whether companies actually use such technologies is dependent on their industry, size, and strategy. At the moment, it is often the case that only isolated solutions are used for individual applications.
How can welding technology, for example, benefit from digitization? What should the next steps be?
Firstly, a digital model needs to be created; this generally applies for all production technology. This means that new software will need to be developed to process the collected data. This will then form the basis for systematic learning across different disciplines. Once the resulting knowledge becomes widely available, everyone will benefit from a higher quality of support in their decision-making. This will give us a better picture of the reality and thereby enable us to make better decision more quickly.
Despite this, many companies are hesitant to invest in networked production systems. What opportunities do you see for companies to invest in digital solutions?
Companies that invest in networking and digitization will be able to optimize their operations. Digitized production systems can open doors to completely new business models in the long-term. To achieve this, the most important thing for companies is to recognize and make use of the wealth of data they have.
You will find further information on Industry 4.0 within welding technology and also on how data management can assist the welding process in the white papers here on our blog.