Iain Cameron of Industrial Strategy Communications can be found on LinkedIn. This is his latest paper:
Industrie 4.0 is one of ten ‘Future Projects’ in Germany’s High-Tech Strategy 2020 Action Plan which was first adopted about four years ago. The aim is to establish Germany as an integrated industry lead market and provider and thereby preserve its position as a high wage economy. In particular, Germany seeks to develop its existing strong position in embedded systems which it estimates is currently worth about 20 bn Euros to it, a figure which is likely to double by 2020. An international marketing campaign is in place to help achieve these goals which stresses how Germany has so far managed to retain a stable manufacturing workforce by developing products and processes which lead the way in integrating new technology.
Work on embedded systems in Germany is underpinned by a national technology road map , developed by a team which included representatives of the automotive, automation and machinery manufacturing sectors plus technical specialists from universities and think-tanks. Embedded systems, combining software with sensors and actuators, are beginning to be networked together offering the basis of genuine autonomous operation.
The key concept is the Cyber-Physical System (CPS) which was first formulated in the US about ten years ago when it was identified as a priority by the National Science Foundation . CPS are building blocks of more ambitious visions like the Internet of Things, Smart Cities, Smart Energy Grids and Smart Manufacturing and they are a key element in the German technology roadmap.
Germany aims to be the lead provider of CPS by 2020 while the US see this area is a core opportunity and source of competitive advantage for the US innovation economy of the 21st century. In addition, US policy on CPS is shaped by the military potential of the technology
A CPS is a physical – mechanical system which is both monitored and controlled by computer algorithms. Examples are currently found in the automotive, aerospace, civil infrastructure, healthcare, robotics, energy management and the security and weapons arenas. CPS are beginning to be networked together, a trend which is encouraged partly by the progressive spread and development of the smartphone. MIT has some high profile CPS prototypes which include a robot tended garden used for teaching purposes.
The ambitious visions of large smart systems utilising CPS require the development of a language for integrating design across five separate levels where low level communication and operation is digital and discontinuous but the rules and algebra which formalise the middle levels is often continuous. At the lowest level are the connected physical devices. The data they generate has to be converted to information at the next level up. Above that are the key ‘cyber’activities such as identifying significant variations in the current state. This level may include ongoing analytics to develop the knowledge base. The top level holds futuristic capabilities such as self-configuration for resilience and self-optimisation in the face of disturbance. The next level down from the top is likely to be critical in practical operations for some while yet – providing, for example, human operators with remote visualisation so that collaborative decision making can occur.
The new Deloitte University pubiication, ‘ Industry 4.0 and manufacturing ecosystems’, identifies a number of challenges which exist both at the organisational level and also at the wider ecosystem level. There is the question of the supply of talent within the workforce. There is a need to develop robust standards to support interoperability while guaranteeing security. Finally there are issues surrounding data ownership and control. These systems must generate a value stream which is capable of supporting the substantial initial investment in development which is needed to bring them into being.
At the end of last year Innovate UK presented a review of CPS and other smart systems which contained an overview model. At the centre is the Service Provider Domain which includes both basic service systems and business service systems. The Service Provider Domain has horizontal links with the Operations Management Domain and the Resource Management Domain.
UK involvement in CPS is led by the Digital Catapult which is the UK hub for the main EC effort, EuroCPS, a funded programme which has built a network of all the key large European players to provide expertise and hardware platforms to smaller third parties . Largescale hardware developers hope that a viable value stream may come from the entrepreneurial insight of agile small firms with the vision to identify and develop digitally based service opportunities, an area where the UK is the European leader.
Starting in 2014, the EPSRC are funding an eight year programme at Imperial College with the Centre for Doctoral Training in High Performance Embedded and Distributed Systems. Project partners include BAE Systems, ARM, Imagination Technologies, Codeplay Software and Ocado. The centre aims to train a new generation of leaders who develop the breadth of understanding to integrate and innovate across multiple layers of system development, acquiring the necessary creativity, communication and entrepreneurial skills.
The UK Higher Education involvement in CPS also includes the Cranfield University Centre for CPS which has 15 years’ experience working on autonomous space systems. The centre has a new Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory and also works on innovative approaches to energy management, autonomous maintenance and health management.
CPS are likely to reinforce of the well-established trend for servitization – the shift from selling products to selling integrated products and services which deliver value in use. At the end of last year the Professor of Embedded Control Systems at the Stockholm Royal Institute of Technology, Martin Torgren, lectured on a CPS Agenda for Europe. He suggested that we need to think beyond tangible assets to business models for value adding services which have clear liability frameworks and credible governance. As technical capabilities permit more advanced service offerings, the key to competitive advantage may well be the expertise of service organisations possess in working with operational product data, an area where Rolls-Royce have led the way.