Retrofit: Making machines ready for industry 4.0 with IoT

Der Tipp – Retrofit

Retrofit is one of the hottest trends in the field of digitalization and Industry 4.0. The term is composed of the Latin word "retro" (for backwards) and the English verb "to fit" (for adapt). Retrofit stands for the sustainable principle of "turning old into new": Which in this case means that many manufacturing companies from a wide range of industries can take advantage of the benefits of digital technology with comparatively little effort. This is because they are not only relying on new machines, but are also modernizing their old equipment with retrofit, thus making it fit for Industry 4.0. The Internet of Things (IoT) plays a key role in this. Which ones exactly, we explain in this blog post. 


From old to new - retrofit as a sustainability principle

The digitalization process has significantly increased the technical requirements in many business areas. For an existing machine, this means that if you want to continue using it in the interests of sustainability and not dispose of it, the existing components are replaced by modern parts. Mechanics play hardly any role in this process; it is more a question of new, digital technologies in the areas of control, drive and automation technology. Here, the technical development has advanced incredibly fast in recent years.

If an entrepreneur now decides on a retrofit instead of a new acquisition, he benefits from numerous advantages. First and foremost are the lower investment costs, which experience has shown to be much lower than buying a new machine. If the required new components are implemented appropriately and professionally, the plant is fit again for the demands of Industry 4.0 - with the known and desired effects:

- Longer machine service life

- Reduced downtime

- Lower production costs due to higher energy efficiency, productivity and product quality

- Compliance with legal requirements (emission regulations, safety requirements etc.)

- Possibility of valid and fast acquisition of process and machine data for industry 4.0


Other advantages of a retrofit that should not be underestimated, are: no lengthy approval procedures, no cost-intensive conversions or new buildings within the manufacturing process and little training required for recommissioning - the machine operators have already internalized the basic functionality of the system for many years.


Retrofitting as an accelerator for digitalization and industry 4.0

Machines networked via the Internet of Things and data collected in this way form the indispensable basis for successful, efficient digitalization. With the help of retrofitting, every company can make its existing machinery fit for Industry 4.0 without having to invest directly in completely new equipment. The solution: The existing plants are upgraded with modern sensor and communication technologies at low cost. This not only enables them to record and analyze the necessary production data, but also makes networking, which is a basic requirement for a digitalized production process in the sense of Industry 4.0, easy to implement.

Modern sensor technology ensures that machines can measure physical variables such as temperature, power consumption or pressure. These measured values or data are read out and digitally recorded via an IoT Gateway. This is an intelligent approach that does not require any intervention in the existing control system of the plant. In the next step, the networked machines transmit the data via the Internet to special software that analyses and visualizes the collected values and, depending on requirements, merges them with other production data. At this point, it becomes clear what IoT can achieve: A dashboard allows the machine statuses to be checked at any time and from any location - the ideal basis for efficient planning, control and optimization of production processes. Because only under these conditions is it possible to calculate and reliably forecast key production figures such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) or the degree of utilization in the next step. Every company should know, for example: A functioning Predictive Maintenance can only be realized by the possibility of reliable forecasting of key figures - and this is exactly what intelligent automation of production makes possible. 


How-to: Making machines fit for industry 4.0

Every company that does not want to lose touch and wants to remain competitive in the international arena can gradually make the digitalization of its machinery a reality by retrofitting. Sensible, structured planning helps to identify which machines should first be made fit for Industry 4.0:

- Actual and requirement analysis

The first necessary step: Analysis of existing equipment and production processes - which machine is suitable for retrofitting and use in a digital Industry 4.0 environment? The following questions help to define the requirements for the retrofit components: Which indicators and measured values should be recorded? Are there already installed sensors? At which points does it make sense to retrofit sensors? Which exact technical requirements should be met in this context?

- Cost-benefit analysis

A classic comparison of the costs incurred by a retrofitting with the costs of a new acquisition.

- Component selection

The requirements analysis has been prepared, and now the selection of the required retrofit components for new sensor technology, hardware and software is made on this basis.

- Implementation

It goes to the practical implementation or the technical conversion of the machine: dismantling of the old and installation of the new components, installation of the hardware and software installed and the implementation of the networking of the machines.

- Commissioning / data collection / data evaluation

When the new components are put into operation, the measurement and digital acquisition of the data begins automatically. These are visually displayed via dashboards and evaluated by the installed software or the used IoT platform.

- Measures and actions

The collected and evaluated data form the basis for concrete measures for production planning, control and optimization. 


Conclusion: Retrofitting as an ideal introduction to digitization

Digital retrofitting can normally be implemented on any machine, no matter how long it has been in operation. The necessary retrofitting components are offered by ROBIOTIC GmbH, for example. Companies can use many advantages of the current digital technologies through sensibly implemented retrofits - at comparatively low cost. Retrofitting is therefore the ideal entry point on the way to the digital industry 4.0 of the future. Because one thing is certain: networked production within a Smart Factory will be the standard that will determine the success of many manufacturing companies in the foreseeable future.


veröffentlicht am : 2020-04-02 17:20