Industry 4.0 in Action – Productronica Expectations Surpassed


Philip Stoten, Owner of EMSNow Media

As it turns out I wasn’t disappointed and the halls were full of companies promoting more than just the philosophy or concept of Industry 4.0.  There were plenty of examples of real solutions and a lot more clarity on what it all actually means.  Asys Group had done a great job of showing a joined up approach with clear graphics that explained the concept alongside a connected line that used smart-watch technology alongside the more traditional interface screens.

ASM had packaged their offering as the Smart #1 SMT Factory and had examples of automation, process integration and materials logistics on their booth and at the showcase at their facility on the other side of Munich.  I was lucky enough to have been asked to moderate three roundtables on their stage during the event, which will be available as video downloads by the time you read this.  The three debates dug deep into some of the issues, challenges, opportunities and benefits of Industry 4.0 and brought together panellists from all along the supply chain including Flex, Lacroix, BMK Group and Aros Electronics from the EMS world, all of whom had embarked on the journey to the smart factory and all of whom shared their success and experience.  Also represented on the panels were Kuka, E2Open and Avnet, covering robotics, software and component distribution.

I spoke to many people during the week, both on and off camera and my impression was that, whilst a few were still either confused or unconcerned, most people understood the opportunity and were taking it seriously.

The software sector of the market is clearly key to the successful delivery and there were examples in Munich of a real understating and readiness to provide a solution that operates within the parameters of Industry 4.0.  In a roundtable discussion filmed on the Scoop booth for US Tech, Jason Spera, Aegis CEO, explained how their FactoryLogix solution was enabling Industry 4.0 throughout the enterprise, going beyond the SMT line and into box build and lean cell manufacturing and in fact into areas where SMT wasn’t always a part of the process.  Their background in manufacturing, their knowledge of CAD data and their broad industry experience certainly gives them an advantage and they clearly get the whole development of Industry 4.0.

Alongside Jason on the panel was Bjorn Dahle, CEO of KIC Thermal and Jeff Timms, who leads ASM Assembly Systems in the Americas.  Bjorn talked at length about the importance of intelligence all along the line and how they were working to ‘make ovens smarter’ using their own software and profiling hardware.  He also explained the importance of process monitoring compared to machine monitoring and the extended benefits that could be offered beyond just using the right recipe for a given product, solder paste and oven.  The whole panel agreed a holistic approach was essential and that only real collaboration and openness would lead to the right solutions.

The smart factory debate moved in Munich and I am sure its progress will accelerate in the coming months.  Productronica succeeded in delivering some real solutions and moving the discussion forward from philosophical to real implementation.  I’m looking forward to seeing much more progress in 2016.

Watch the full roundtable here

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