logo (8)

Industry 4.0 was all over GIFA 2019 and is quickly becoming an industry buzzword. But what are the realities of 4.0? How close are we? Is there a 4.0 foundry up and running?

We explore the realities and challenges for foundries globally and what they might need to prepare for. Industry 4.0 is going to impact on the way that foundries operate in the future. What is not currently clear, is the road map for becoming 100% rather than taking a piecemeal approach.

What does industry 4.0 really look like for a foundry

Benefits of 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the progressive evolution of industry. Unsurprisingly it comes with a number of benefits:

  • Monitor and control all critical operations remotely
  • Collect and analyse data continuously
  • Receive feedback on product performance in real-time
  • Make better, more accurate decisions about production and product developments
  • Improve client satisfaction through improved quality and delivery timeframes

Despite Industry 4.0 being nearly 10 years old, few foundries have embraced the advantages of new connected technologies, in part due to the challenges with replacing existing equipment. For the majority of foundries the principal challenge is finance, followed by operational challenges such as managing new processes and retraining staff.

Key Industry 4.0 challenges

There are certainly advantages to Industry 4.0 but it does not come without challenges. A large percentage of foundries operate with non-compatible equipment. Significant investment is required to upgrade machines and to reap the benefits of a 4.0 system. This is why the long-term strategic gains versus the short-term infrastructure costs need to be carefully calculated.

Industry 4.0 also changes the risks that foundries will face. Hacking will become a real danger for foundries. Once entire operational systems go online, unless properly protected, they will be at risk from viruses and malicious attacks. Investing from the beginning in a secure system with robust securities will help foundries protect themselves. To give an idea of the kind of investment required to protect a network, the new Inacore shop in Ergoldbach invested €100,000 on data security.

The recruitment profile of foundry workers will also change as 4.0 becomes more readily adopted across the industry. IT skills and detailed statistical analysis will become indispensable to optimise workflows and output quality. Although maintenance will always be required at a mechanical level. However, electrical support now will come into its own as a field for larger foundries.

The final challenge remains around qualified suppliers who can integrate their 4.0 technologies with existing 3.0 (or 2.0 infrastructure). Whilst, 4.0 is cited as being realised, the truth of the matter is that industry-wide adoption has been slow

Industry 4.0 challenges for foundries

How Industry 4.0 differs from Industry 3.0

Silica sand monitored by a smart system

Mark Lewis of Omega Foundry Machinery Ltd was featured in Foundry Journal. He explained that when the sand level dropped below the re-order level, the order is placed automatically. This is an example of a reactive system, which is Industry 3.0. To take the system to the next level it would need to become proactive.

A 4.0 system would also be connected to the production control within the foundry and would use data from material consumptions. This would allow for prediction and management of the sand, chemical and consumable requirements for the coming week or month. Again orders would be placed automatically but the person controlling the process would be able to access the information in real-time.

The future of Industry 4.0 for foundries

Industry 4.0 began in Germany and has given the German market a head start. You will see the majority of research and literature comes from Germany. A PWC Industry 4.0 report predicted that German Industry would invest €40 billion annually by 2020.

At GIFA 2019 last year there were some excellent displays of Industry 4.0 compatible machinery, such as our new E-shooter. The industry is certainly making significant investments to secure the future development of foundries.  The foundries that will come out on top of the Industry 4.0 developments are those who are able to use the data to drive their processes and inform their teams.

The smart use of automation

Optimisation of 4.0 is about the smartest use of automation, which doesn’t necessarily mean automating the entire production chain. It is about the synchronisation of the physical and virtual processes.

We believe that the principal advantage for the foundries that adopt an Industry 4.0 infrastructure is the ability to become highly strategic. Calculating the total cost of production will be straightforward as will ROI. A secondary advantage is that through improved quality and processes, waste reduction will occur naturally thus making foundries greener.

Smart castings are a key component in a full Industry 4.0 foundry as they enable data gathering of the casting when in use. Load conditions can be monitored remotely and any challenges quickly identified. The constant supply of data would also drive design improvements and reduce sizing and load errors. One of the clear advantages is the ability to embed the smart sensors at critical load points, which could help ensure the safety of the casting in its application. The use of such technology allows for a “cradle to grave” monitoring and control of castings to drive manufacturing improvements.

Industry 4.0 will always be about more than technology. It is the alignment of people, technology and process. If you are considering upgrading your existing equipment, it is important to work with a partner who understands your long-term strategic objectives.

You should also be prepared for internal resistance to 4.0 as some fear the increased automation and the impact on job security. The focus on electrical systems and data analysis will also likely shift your recruitment strategy in the future as well as your training requirements.