Feb 20, 2019

Staying ahead in the manufacturing market is all about aggressive competition, offering quality products, better services and production in a timely manner. Due to this, players in this space are under tremendous pressure to improvise their production lines in order to optimise their production and reduce costs. Considering the massive volume of components or products manufactured at a factory, one cannot afford to experience down time as it leads to heavy losses for the organisation.

Retrofitting and Industry 4.0

In this scenario, Industry 4.0 or in other words smart factories and related concepts such as IIOT, machine learning, predictive maintenance, and artificial intelligence are the answers to this problem. However, purchasing new machines in line with these smart technologies is a costly affair and is not practical especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This is where retrofitting comes in.

Industry 4.0 retrofit solutions enable an old machine or system to get access to new technologies or features. For instance, a connected sensor can be installed on an old machine or a particular part can be replaced with a new part with improved features.

Benefits of retrofitting

When a machine is retrofitted, the specific machine or system acts like a smart machine and sends out data which proves beneficial for improving productivity, efficiency, processing speeds, machine reliability, increasing the life span of the machine as well as reducing maintenance costs. For example, Bosch installed its IOT (internet of things) gateway on a traditional 300-kg cast-iron lathe. The connected system comprised sensors, software, and IOT-compatible industrial controls. Via these solutions, the team could track and monitor the condition of the lathe in real time and even optimise its operations.

Challenges of retrofitting

The global Industry 4.0 retrofit solutions market is worth billions and has become a popular option amongst manufacturers. However, there are a few hurdles in this segment. Connecting traditional machines or systems with smart technologies and with each other is not an easy task. The team responsible for carrying out the retrofitting process must possess knowledge on the subject as well as be able to optimise the process of each machine or system.

In addition to this, during retrofitting, manufacturers must be careful on the security front as the introduction of a new element to an old system could pose security risks. As the network is connected, one weak spot can expose the entire network and make it susceptible to cyber attack. Hence, updating a protocol with continued security and constantly carrying out risk assessments is essential to keep the system or network secure.

Retrofitting has gained momentum in the manufacturing industry as it enables players to take full advantage of the revolutionary technologies without it being a costly affair. By undertaking effective security measures, retrofitting proves to be a boon for the growing manufacturing industry.

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