Industry 4.0 is a new industrial revolution that will allow companies to improve their production processes substantially, thanks to a combination of new technology and collaborative work. In industry, production improvements have always been linked to technological advancements, but with Industry 4.0 there is a paradigm shift: the processes themselves inform us about which improvements to apply.
My name is Ramón López Carreras and currently I am part of Schneider Electric's global water team, as Director of Business Development of Smart Applications. These applications allow operating the existing infrastructure from a new perspective, assessing the current condition of our systems and proposing improvements to make them more efficient.
Industry 4.0 has arrived to turn everything upside down. Its approach is not to aim for zero error in order to improve the current production process. Instead, it analyses the process to see if there is a more efficient one. Companies have been forced to become digital to be able to automate their processes, thus generating a wealth of data (known as Big Data), but they have not always taken full advantage of that data. Industry 4.0 is based on making use of all that information stored by companies for years.
Advanced software applications use the stored data as input variables; they are analysed using rules or algorithms and we obtain the deviation from the best efficiency point as an output, so that we can act accordingly to improve performance. The rules and algorithms can be simple conditions, mathematical formulas or even complex genetic algorithms, which are one of cornerstones of Artificial Intelligence.
In the case of water companies, automation arrived a few years ago. Most companies have a high degree of digitalisation, which allows extracting data from different systems: Control Systems (SCADA); financial or client data from other systems, like ERP or CRM; georeferenced data from infrastructure (GIS); maintenance data from critical equipment (CMMS); electricity and network consumption data, etc. Additionally, it is inexpensive to have massive information in real time from smart sensors (IoT).
Industry 4.0 aims to replace your current process or make it evolve to a more efficient one, and therein lies the revolution
To make the most of all this information, Schneider Electric has developed an inclusive platform known as EcoStruxure® that allows extracting data from the different sources the client has, in order to increase the efficiency of the operation and maintenance of infrastructure. The platform is designed to digitalise any process, from the field to corporate applications, and combine all of that information to help the client detect inefficiencies and propose other more efficient alternatives.
In the water sector it is even more urgent to implement solutions that improve integrated water cycle management. Conserving this scarce resource is a priority for any company in the sector. Schneider Electric has specific solutions that enable more sustainable operations, optimising pressures in the networks, analysing the best efficiency point of pumps, decreasing the maintenance time of equipment, reducing real and apparent losses, analysing the energy used, etc.
In addition, Schneider Electric has a broad range of clients who have already benefited from these solutions and who confirm the outcomes with substantial improvements in their processes. As examples we may mention the Punta Gradelle waste water treatment plant in Italy, the Utrecht waste water treatment plant in the Netherlands, and the Aquapolo plant in Brazil.
In essence, Industry 4.0 aims to replace your current process or make it evolve to a more efficient one, and therein lies the revolution. It entails a leap into the unknown, outside of the comfort zone of many companies, and only those that are technologically ready will be the first ones to get there. The mission of Schneider Electric is to help our clients take that leap. We have the most advanced technology and the experience in five continents to be the ideal partner in this venture.