Plastics machinery companies have been talking a lot about Industry 4.0 for about four years now — it became a big topic of discussion for the first time at K 2013 in Germany. But have any processors really bought into the idea?
I've been watching for signs for a while now, and in the past few weeks there seem to have been some breakthroughs.
Here's a quick rundown:
• This week we posted a story from our colleagues at Plastics News Europe about automotive Plastic Omnium's plans to open four new plants in 2018. Tucked away in the story, there's a mention of a plant under construction Greer, S.C., that will be "a pilot facility for the future plant 4.0.”
“This investment places us at the leading edge of new methods of production combining robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence, which will subsequently be rolled out at all the group's plants and significantly improve our industrial efficiency,” said Laurent Burelle, chairman and CEO of Cie. Plastic Omnium.
• Yesterday also came a scoop from Roger Renstrom, our longtime West Coast correspondent, that Seattle-based machinery manufacturers' rep Turner Group Inc. has formed an independent technologies division in Aliso Viejo, Calif.
John Ward, former vice president of sales at Arburg Inc., is chief operating officer of the new division, which is called Turner Technologies. The unit will focus on assisting plastics processors as they step into the modern era of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing processes.
• Finally, Bill Bregar's Best Practices column this month covers another company that is focused specifically on commercializing Industry 4.0 technology (also called internet of things). In this case, it's for injection molders.
Watch our Aug. 7 print edition for the full story. (The photo I'm using in the teaser hints at who is involved).
I guess I'm confessing to some inner geekishness when I say I find this stuff exciting. But we've been hearing about Industry 4.0 for a while now, and over the past year or so our reporters have been asking our machinery sources for examples of processors actually using the technology.
We have plenty of questions: What's the cost? What's the payback? Have they worked out the bugs? If you know about more processors using Industry 4.0, let us know. We'd like to talk to some of the beta testers.