Manufacturing - Industry 4.0

In the German manufacturing community everyone talks about Industry 4.0. But hardly anyone could say what it really is and what that supposed to mean. I’ll shed a little more light on it and show the relationship to MBSE.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is a project of the German government in the context of their high-tech strategy to establish Germany as a pioneer in solving the global challenges of our time. The term industry 4.0 refers to the thesis that we are at the beginning of the 4th industrial revolution.

End of the 18th century the 1st industrial revolution was triggered by the usage of mechanical machines powered with steam. The 2nd industrial revolution was the introduction of mass production enabled by electric energy at the beginning of the 20th century. The increasing usage of IT and automationin the 1970ties is known as the 3rd industrial revolution.

Each industrial revolution was a huge change of our industrial landscape. That’s why we call it revolution. It was existential for the companies to follow the mega change. Therefore every company of at least the manufacturing domain should carefully listen to the current discussions about industry 4.0.

The 4th industrial revolution is characterized by the communication of the systems of the manufacturing process with each other. The workpieces carry the information of their purpose and communicate it to the manufacturing machines. Such a setting is also called smart factory. They enable dynamic engineering processes to meet individual customer requirements and last-minutes changes.

The network of the manufacturing systems is also called internet of things. The physical objects have virtual represenations that are connected. An example is the shipment tracking system of courier companies. Another name for the internet of things is cyber-physical system. There are some discussions about both terms. I see no benefit to treat them differently and use the terms as synonyms.

Of course there are lot of interesting points about the impact on the manufacturing processes and techniques. I like to view on the 4th industrial revolution from the viewpoint of model based systems engineering.

Relationship to MBSE

Modeling and Systems Engineering are techniques or disciplines to handle complex systems. Complexity is defined by the number of different elements and their connections. Systems Engineering comes into play when you have complex connections between elements of different engineering disciplines. Looking back software engineering was the first discipline that exceeded the complexity threshold closely spaced by the electrical engineering discipline. Now the mechanical engineering disciplines crosses the complexity border and has an increasing demand for MBSE.

Complexity Engineering Disciplines MBSE

The gap between systems engineering and mechanical engineering is much bigger than the gap between systems engineering and software or electrical engineering. I’ve observed in many projects that mechanical engineers find it difficult to apply MBSE methods & tools. I’ll put more focus on the interface between the two disciplines and improve them to bridge the gap. Currently I plan a collaborative project between industry and research institutes to develop a method, languages and tools to connect a SysML model with CAD.

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