© VDI ZREIn order to remain competitive as a company in an environment with increasingly rapid product innovation cycles and growing diversity of variants, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) must also address the challenges and opportunities of digitisation. In the manufacturing sector in particular, digitisation of production is being driven forward at an increasingly rapid pace on the way to Industry 4.0. Opportunities for cost savings through digitisation¬ arise across the entire product lifecycle: from raw material extraction through manufacturing, logistics, distribution and use to recycling of the goods produced. In this context, product development plays a prominent role due to its influence on innovations and processes throughout the entire product life cycle.
But in addition to the business benefits, digitisation also offers enormous potential for increasing resource efficiency.
The evaluation of past events in production processes and the collection of current process data represents the traditional reactive business intelligence (BI) currently used in many companies. However, to fully implement Industrie 4.0, data must be analysed and correlated in real time. This way, it becomes possible to clearly identify causes in order to subsequently eliminate them.
If artificial intelligence (AI) is also used, future problems can even be predictively avoided. A study is currently being conducted on behalf of the VDI Center for Resource Efficiency on the further potential for the use of AI in the manufacturing sector - especially in terms of resource efficiency.
The digitisation of processes is a precondition for Industry 4.0. In the following, two types of classification into individual digitisation levels are presented to illustrate the path toward Industry 4.0.