Programmable Logic Controllers and Industry 4.0

The Programmable Logic Controller (or PLC for short) can automate specific processes, machine function or even whole production lines. As industrial devices, they can be used as part of a network with other PLCs, or simply as standalone units.

In recent years, PLCs have played their part in the digitisation of manufacturing, alongside other important elements which enable machine connectivity and process automation. The digitisation of manufacturing has evolved so quickly that the term ‘Industry 4.0’ has been coined.

Industry 4.0 is the term used to represent a wide range of new technologies which promise to accelerate the pace of change in manufacturing. A combination of sensors which are always connected, artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain storage will allow sense to be made of masses of information. This represents nothing short of a new industrial revolution.

With 5G internet connection, we can also expect to see a massive increase in Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, whereby sensors speak to each other in real time, with no lag, sending data directly and instantly to the cloud in order for it to be made sense of and acted upon. This ability to send live production data to the cloud will pave the way for real-time reporting.

In this new era of Industry 4.0, programmable logic controllers are likely to play a noteworthy role as the main control, input centre and HMI for workers. PLCs will continue with processing real-time manufacturing processes, but with the addition of Industrial IoT, the information relayed via input sensors will enable PLCs to collect data and transmit it to machine learning programmes.

This data will be able to be processed by artificial intelligence algorithms and be crunched to reveal anomalies and to autocorrect any errors in real-time.

For many, this is all in the future however. The reality for a lot of manufacturers in the UK at the moment is that there’s quite a long road to travel down before the benefits of Industry 4.0 are available. Budgets aren’t there in many smaller manufacturing businesses to invest in the latest technology infrastructures and software, and such investments need to be considered carefully.

There are some complex questions to be answered by manufacturers about how, and when they should transform their processes towards Industry 4.0. By starting to look at and understand all of your technology, processes and connectivity, manufacturers can also start to understand weaknesses and look at areas to improve on.

A deeper understanding of every process and customer is important if manufacturers are to understand how Industry 4.0 can play a transformational role in their business. Staff are very important holders of knowledge, and should be involved in every stage of information gathering for new technology-based solutions.

Comprehensive Programmable Logic Controller services from DualTEC

From our base in Keighley, West Yorkshire, our experienced and dedicated team offer programmable logic controller installation and maintenance services across the UK. If you have any questions or are looking to enquire about any of our control panel services get in touch on: 01535 609314 or email us at: info@dualtec.co.uk