PROSTEP | Newsletter

PROSTEP is getting companies ready for Industry 4.0

By Martin Holland

Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT) offer an opportunity to link products and services intelligently and use them as the basis for developing new business models. However, small and mid-sized companies find it difficult to decide just where to start. PROSTEP's Industry 4.0 Readiness Workshop extends the VDMA's Industry 4.0 guidelines to include PLM-related aspects and helps point businesses in the right direction.

Linking products and production equipment intelligently not only helps optimize product development and introduce greater flexibility into production – it also ultimately permits the development of innovative product-as-a-service offerings. However, the question facing many companies is where should they start with their Industry 4.0 initiatives? With small steps in development, manufacturing or service or with the one all-embracing drive: The design of new IT-capable products as the basis for new, service-oriented business models?

The answer depends to a great extent on the level to which each individual company is ready for Industry 4.0. The starting point for PROSTEP's Industry 4.0 Readiness Workshop is therefore determining where a company currently stands when it comes to Industry 4.0 and defining where it wants to be in one, three and five years' time. The short, medium and long-term measures necessary to achieve these aims are determined on the basis of this information. To drive implementation in the company ahead quickly, measures that can bring about quick wins are identified. Involving employees from all areas of the company encourages acceptance of the new processes and implementation projects.

In order to analyze a company's existing Industry 4.0 capabilities, PROSTEP uses a toolbox of methods that takes account not only of the current state of production but also of the way the products are equipped, for example in terms of sensors, networking, data storage or monitoring. This toolbox also helps define the objectives to be achieved. It was originally developed by the VDMA in cooperation with the Department of Computer Integrated Design (DiK) at Darmstadt Technical University and the wbk Institute of Production Science at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT).

PROSTEP has extended this toolbox to include PLM-specific criteria that can be aligned with the company's PLM capabilities. It examines, for example, the question of the form in which the product data is kept: Whether the 2D drawing is still the master, whether the data is file-based or managed in a PDM system, whether the 3D model is the master, or even whether there is already a digital master. PROSTEP considers the question of the availability of the product data to be so important because PLM and digital masters provide the basis for Industry 4.0 solutions. One of the most important measures for the introduction of Industry 4.0 is to do away with paper-based business processes and build end-to-end digital process chains. Because it is often engineering departments that provide the data for these processes, the digital master should be a key element in any company's Industry 4.0 strategy. 

One highlight of the day-and-a-half long workshop is the creative phase in which the participants develop ideas for new products and business models and identify areas with potential. PROSTEP's experts provide them with support using design thinking methods and illustrate these with corresponding sample implementations. Experience has shown that a company's own employees often have a very good idea of where potential lies. This combination of methodology, experience, employee knowledge and examples from other companies makes it possible to identify many areas that offer considerable potential for implementation. 

From the customer's point of view, a key benefit of the workshop is the utilization of an appropriate methodology by experienced consultants, who are thus able to compare the results with those of other workshops. The current and target states are recorded and documented to facilitate management decisions and help identify the first steps toward Industry 4.0 – all at a clearly identifiable level of internal effort and expense.