Systems Integration in Industry 4.0

As I mentioned in the original Industry 4.0 blog, nine key enablers support Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing.  Because of the various systems involved, Systems Integration will be key to keeping it all together.

The key enablers of Smart Manufacturing include:

  1. Cyber Security/Blockchain
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. IIoT- Industrial Internet of Things
  4. Big Data
  5. Systems Integration
  6. Autonomous Robots-Cobots
  7. Additive Manufacturing- 3D printing
  8. Augmented reality
  9. Simulation/Digital Twins


Since 5G speeds will allow us to collect all kinds of data in real-time, integrating the data types from various systems will become important.  That is where systems integration comes in.

Imagine that you are a manufacturer and you have your ERP system that collects your enterprise information.  You have PLC (Programmable logic controllers) controlling your machines.  Quality control inputs data into your cloud-based inspection system.  You track warranty costs in a PLM (Product Life Cycle Management) system.  Your sales and customer information are collected in Salesforce.  Finally, you want to deploy sensors on your key pieces of equipment to receive real-time performance information to improve your maintenance program.  How will you manage these disparate systems?

Systems integration will become key to keeping all of this working together so you can develop information from raw data points.  As you can see from the above example it is like putting together a puzzle.  Every piece needs to be in place for you to complete the puzzle.  While every business is different, here are some steps that most organizations follow when beginning the process of Systems Integration.

1.  Requirements Gathering

What does your business hope to gain from undertaking an Industry 4.0 digital transformation?  What do your systems do today and what would you like them to do?  Do you know what customers expect from you regarding systems and scalability?   Will you be invited to a larger company’s private blockchain to collect data?  These are all questions that you and your integrator should explore.

2.  Analysis

Given the wants and needs of your company, the analysis stage is where your integrator will offer solutions for your company to consider.  Every company is unique to a certain extent and the analysis phase will allow for solutions to be offered that will meet the needs of your business.  Smart® Value Streams can help in collecting the information needed to aid in the analysis.

3.  System Architecture and Integration Design

Completing the system architecture first will allow for the System Integration design phase to go smoother.  The architecture phase is like it sounds, they develop blueprints of the subsystems that will make up your integrated system.  Here a plan of integration is architected.  Following the blueprint laid out by the system architecture, the Integration phase can begin.  This is usually the most time-consuming aspect of an integration project.  A digital representation of the architecture is developed and trialed.

4.  Implementation

Depending upon how many systems need to be connected, this step can be very time consuming and data integrity and testing is key.  Engineers will have to ensure that bugs have been removed so that your company can successfully use the integrated system as desired.  Data testing and business process improvement need to be validated.  Employee training needs to occur and a “go live” date established.

There are lots of moving parts in a System Integration transformation.  Use your experienced project managers and Lean methods such as agile, scrum and process management to aid your success!

As always it is an honor serving you and I hope that you and your company are getting better every day!

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