Heraclitus’ good old saying that “nothing is so constant again change” applies particularly in times of digitalization. The transformation has affected all areas of the economy and especially manufacturing companies that refuse to change are doomed to fail. Just like those who hope to be able to sit out with the silent thinking or internal island solutions of the long-established digital revolution that was the beginning of Industry 4.0.
While progress in industrial production has been linear in the past five decades, the path to Industry 4.0 is increasingly proving to be disruptive. The focus is on the one hand on digitization of previously analog processes and technologies, on the other hand on changing the characteristics of the business models. Industrially manufactured products are always offered as a combination of the product itself (hardware) and a service that is tailored to it.
In a study on the role of IT in this mixed situation, the industry association Bitkom comes to the conclusion that Industry 4.0 is nothing less than an “economic game changer” with enormous effects on global economic contexts. In particular, companies that had mastered their data had enormous potential. Above all, the time factor counts. Because the current market changes are happening at an unprecedented pace and – which poses serious problems for previous market leaders – are being pushed forward by startups from outside the industry with enormous force.
Industry 4.0 has the disruptive potential to massively expand the traditional business models, which are often narrowed down to one core product. Machines and products are now ubiquitously equipped with software and can be networked with the Internet using communication functions. The resulting Internet of Things (IoT) enables a new level in the optimization of the value chains – a whole product portfolio is created around the existing “core product”.
In Industry 4.0, IT has the role of a fire accelerator that spurs on the value creation processes. With intelligence. Industry 4.0 not only includes intelligent products, but also intelligent logistics, intelligent energy and much more. The development and use of artificial intelligence (AI) and self-learning systems play a central role.
Detlef Krause, Area Vice President Germany ServiceNow, sees the close link between IT and OT (Operations Technology) as the key to future-proof production conditions that are completely independent of wage discussions and the availability of workforce in a global world: “The previously strictly separated Production islands with their complex industrial applications (OT) and classic IT landscapes (IT) have to grow together quickly. ”
The background: OT, i.e. the operative technologies (hardware and software that monitor and control the performance of physical devices), were only used in areas such as industrial control systems in the past and, unlike in the IT sector, the operating technology for these systems was not yet connected to networks.
For Krause to grow together, however, a common basis is needed. ServiceNow, the US market leader in the field of digital workflow platforms, offers a real problem solver with its Now Platform. Many existing platforms configured as System of Record can map processes, even if they are more static and inactive as information storage systems. In contrast, the Now platform as a system of action is clearly designed for interaction and integration.
This creates new options for the manufacturing industry in particular. Because the prerequisite for the automation of OT is a high degree of automation within IT. Global player Siemens has already taken this step. With the Now Platform, 98 percent of global IT processes have already been automated. A previously highly complex, manual work approach has been greatly simplified, costs reduced and the efficiency of global IT increased. Dr. Matthias Egelhaaf, Program Director Siemens, is convinced that the Now Platform “will increase the speed of business beyond IT.”
General Electrics, the world’s largest digital industrial company, also sees automated IT as the basis for optimizing its production processes. GE now uses the ServiceNow platform as an ubiquitous ITSM system for all divisions worldwide. No longer the platform (previously used) was adapted, but the processes. With resounding success and $ 7 million in annual cost savings.
This ensures that not only the data, but also the workflows of the individual areas such as production, development, marketing, logistics, customer service and of course IT interlock without any silo boundaries. To orchestrate, manage and control all of this, however, a comprehensive platform such as t
hat from ServiceNow is required. The Now Platform is closely linked to the infrastructure of a company and is prepared to support important features such as predictive analytics and predictive maintenance for the manufacturing industry – and of course the Internet of Things.
IoT components are in good hands on the Now Platform insofar as the IoT is only limited to networked devices at first glance. The field should be broadened and the processes should also be brought into focus. ServiceNow’s Chief Innovation Officer Dave Wright initially sees great potential in the digital transformation of manual processes: “We will be able to see the condition and performance of the connected OT systems, and we will be mobile from anywhere Interfaces can access this data, ”says Wright.
For this reason, ServiceNow is currently working on the next release of the Now Platform to officially present the IoT Connected Operations that are already in use by pilot customers. This enables IoT data from various sources on the Now Platform to be linked with all the other services of the user company in order to orchestrate workflows from it.
ServiceNow will also enable companies to build the digital twin of a system through a configuration system. “You can practically take a business description and digitize it so you have all the operational parameters in a digital system,” says Dave Wright. The rules engine could then be used to determine what should happen when individual parameters reach a certain value. On this basis, event or usage-based maintenance plans for industrial plants could be created and the maintenance staff controlled. Which in the best sense are activities that can be part of marketable services.