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What is Industry 4.0

What is Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is one of the most advertised and commented on subjects in the process automation the last years, but why? Is the Industry 4.0 really something that will interested or change the whole process automation market, and will industrial process and automation change as a result? iAUTOMATION will help you understand what industry 4.0 is, and what it could bring to process automation and industry as a whole.

What is Industry 4.0

From the last industrial revolution to now a lot has changed in the way we use and view the industrial processes. Where is used to be all about more speed, more production and less human involvement, for industry 4.0 the focus is primarily on maintainability and efficiency of the complete life cycle of a process or industrial system. Therefore, industry 4.0 can in short be described as having one persistent database in the design, engineering, production and maintenance processes. This allows for the following concepts to be realized:

  • Using independent technology as instruments in a data driven control system
  • Using IT technologies like data mining for efficiency gains to better understand a process
  • Integrating new and more interactive ways for human machine interfacing like VR
  • Digital twins for efficiency gains, maintenance optimization or future expansion modelling
  • More quickly scaling production

Why Industry 4.0? and why now?

The concept of industry 4.0 many drivers. The engineering companies like the central database because the can use it to use the data in building their systems, the producing company like the fact of more efficiency gains due to better data analysis, and the maintenance company can easily get information on the equipment used that needs to be serviced. We can do these things now because of the increased capacity of computer systems but also the introduction of virtualization and optimization of resources in multi tiered IT solutions.

Because the integration of the complete life cycle into a single data system has benefits for all people involved in the factory, and will make it cheaper and more efficient to run the process and the whole factory, Industry 4.0 has become more and more interesting. The IT systems that facilitate these concepts are capable of doing so, and so industry 4.0 is now something that can be introduced to large scale operations.

Using a digital twin for instance uses a lot of IT processes like:

  • Process information and data analysis for accurate representation of physics
  • Process documentation and digital drawings conversion to 3D models
  • Simulation of process flows and control data for representation of process control objects
  • Digital datasheets for automatic parameterization of equipment simulation

and so it needs a lot of IT systems to be able to use a digital twin to do the optimization of process efficiency or maintenance simulation.

COMOS for Industry 4.0

Industrial evolutions

Industry 4.0 Database and IT enviroment

Any database can be used for industry 4.0 as long as i can have all the connectivity needed to operate. Although most databases can be made compatible, there is one main tool we at iAUTOMATION use for integration and consolidation of data, and this tool is COMOS by Siemens. COMOS does not only offer a database, but also a complete engineering toolkit to create and maintain the needed object sets and engineering data to facilitate use of this database in a Industry 4.0 concept.

When looking at delivering an industry 4.0 concept for use on an industrial site, a proper IT backbone needs to be installed as well. The iAUTOMATION Virtual Production Platform is capable of housing an Industry 4.0 IT platform including the process automation system. This virtualization system has all the needed computing power, availability, data storage capacity and storage safety that industry 4.0 requires to be useful during the life cycle of the site.

Industry 4.0 Software tools

Besides the COMOS system a collection of other tools can be used to come to the same result. The objective of such a software integration is to come a base of object that can be synchronized to a main database. This way, when a process engineers specs an instrument, the process draughtsman can place it on a drawing because it appeared in the database. This drawing is then also placed in the database and can be used as a base for the simulation, HMI and 3d visualization the building teams. The datasheet created by process engineer, is also uploaded to the database, as a component of the instrument object in the database, and can be used as input for parameterization in the automation system.

For each object in the new plant (Valves, instruments, pipes, motors) there should be an object in the database with references to the documents it is used on. Those documents should also be accessible in the database, and should refer back to the object in the database. The object in the database also has all the data associated with the object as data in the object, data like: Tag, name, type of object, usage or spec parameters, and any other collected information during engineering. This data will be kept and stored in the database throughout the life cycle of the plant, and can thus be access whenever the plant owner would like during any stage of operation or maintenance. A replacement object can for instance be purchased by getting the same spec equipment instead of getting the exact same model. Even this small change can lead to significant savings.

Using industry 4.0 on an existing site

Industry 4.0 can be used on an existing site by setting up a database and collecting all data there is on the plant. This way, a company like iAUTOMATION can rework all that data in a full or partial Industry 4.0 concept for any plant. This can help when a plant is considering expansion or updating/upgrading. For instance, from the reconstructed designs in the database we can generate software for a control system and do a full system test and simulation instead of having to convert or interpret the existing automation software.

An industry 4.0 system should always have a database with basic engineering data, from that the owner can choose to implement the following additional functionality for his existing site:

  • Process Simulation
  • Maintenance consolidation
  • 3D Visualisation of the process installation
  • Automation software integration

How to start with industry 4.0

Starting with industry 4.0 is often quite an investment, and the life cycle of the site should be considered before starting with industry 4.0. If the site has enough life in it to start industry 4.0, an informative meeting with iAUTOMATION can already get you started on the way the industry 4.0. We can advise you on the best solution for your site, and help you to collect the data and create your own industry 4.0 digital data system. Often it is juist a case of selecting a software vendor, and putting in all your data into the system, from those object we can then recreate most of the drawings from the hard copies. If there is no existing documentation, or if they are not kept up to date, iAUTOMATION can even create all the digital documentation from doing surveys onsite to get all the information needed to digitalize your site.


iAUTOMATION is an automation specialist that focuses on industrial automation, IT and the links between these two fields. With many years of experience in the industrial automation and IT world, iAUTOMATION is a mature partner that will benefit you.

iAUTOMATION provides complete projects for the industrial automation world with a specialty in PCS 7 consultancy and engineering. But other systems are also known to us and can be implemented by iAUTOMATION.

With knowledge of virtualization, networks, domains and IT management, iAUTOMATION is also a very suitable partner for all your IT questions and projects. We will always assist you with great enthusiasm and knowledge in your projects, and try to relieve our customers by proactively and positively tackling your project.

    About the author

    Dennis is Technical Director at iAUTOMATION, where he is responsible for all the technical queries and technical solutions that iAUTOMATION provide. Dennis also helps customers and the iAUTOMATION consultants with the technical side of projects and designs. Dennis has a lot of experience with process control systems and IT infrastructure, this is why his experience is key in projects that include both these areas of expertise like MES, virtualization and process automation projects.

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