Major events cast long shadows – and so it is with technology. Without the advent of printing there would have been no Reformation or French Revolution, and without the steam engine, no industrialisation. Efficiency increases through automation would be inconceivable without electronics and computers. And the same is true of the global digitalisation we are seeing today. The thought that we can map our environment and display it on a smartphone might still seem a little futuristic to sceptics, but for visionaries this development opens the door to tomorrow’s world and beyond.
While automation brought substantial effciency improvements by reducing workloads and saving time, digitalised networking of complex industrial processes creates completely new opportunities for value enhancement. Exactly when it will actually be possible to monitor and control industrial workﬂows using only a smartphone dashboard is a matter for speculation.
But even today digital control modules, apps and services are already capable of speeding up industrial processes, providing powerful support to users and operators, helping to make manufacturing and processing ﬂows more ﬂexible. It may sound surreal, but it’s not.
Getting one’s bearings
Suppliers and producers network closely in fnely tuned operations. Production runs can be individualised at no extra cost and precisely executed. Inventories are kept to a minimum, all thanks to digital technologies and artifcial intelligence. However, transferring businessrelated processes to virtual spaces does harbour risks, such as theft of sensitive data as a result of the cyber attacks that have begun to proliferate as digitalisation and intermeshing progress. These are threats that enterprises have to guard against.
K 2019 offers excellent opportunities to meet and discuss with machine manufacturers and software vendors to explore what is technically feasible and practicable.