Industry 4.0 Robotic Applications in Today’s Manufacturing Environment

industry 4.0 robotic applicationsIndustry 4.0, or the industrial internet of things (IIoT), refers to industrial manufacturing processes where all equipment, devices and computers are connected. This creates an environment rich for big data analysis and self-correcting procedures, among many other possibilities.

This may seem like a far off future for manufacturers, but the truth is there are concrete examples of Industry 4.0 happening today. The capabilities of IIoT may be closer than you think.

Industry 4.0: The Zero Down Time Solution (ZDT)

General Motors (GM), like most of the automotive industry, is an innovator in automating production. Alongside FANUC and Cisco, they developed ZDT – a cloud-based software platform to analyze data collected from robots across GM’s factories.

The program was actually launched in 2014 and was initially built to eliminate downtime, but as more and more data was collected, the system’s capabilities grew. Now, even as ZDT's capabilities continue to grow, the system is providing some remarkable returns.

The Compounding Benefits of ZDT

GM’s ZDT program has provided quick ROI. In fact, they say they've avoided over 100 significant unscheduled downtimes since the program was launched. This is a significant savings in the automotive industry, where downtime can cost over $20,000 per minute.

Part of what has yielded such great ROI is their facilities' ability to perform predictive maintenance. Data captured from robots indicates what is going to fail before it fails – allowing for downtime to be avoided, but also for maintenance to be performed only when it is absolutely necessary to production.

Another feature of ZDT that GM and partners are working towards is real-time process improvement. While this is not yet possible, once enough data is collected from robot performance, the goal is to create a system that diagnoses itself based on minute changes in processes, which can then be adjusted to boost overall efficiency.

Industry 4.0 provides as yet unforeseen benefits for manufacturers. Despite that fact, companies like GM are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in automation and implementing the future of industry 4.0 today.