Resilience in Smart Factories

  • Resilience must be put on the agenda of production managers, as manufacturing systems grow more and more complex,
  • Network and software are playing an increasingly important role in Industry 4.0
  • Downtimes of production assets are not acceptable anymore. Failures of components should not disturb the whole system

On The Way to Industrie 4.0

Digital Transformation is taking place at full speed and leaves no industry untouched. This also applies to the manufacturing industry.

The generic term for this ongoing change in Germany is Industrie 4.0.

But the way to Industrie 4.0 is long and many facets have to be considered. First it starts with the goal, each production manager is chasing.

However, as “software eats the world“, manufacturers have to think about software and software architecture. In order to be successful, management needs to put this on the agenda.

Not to be forgotten and of utmost importance is the wide field of IT Security.

Finally yet importantly this article will – cover resilience and which role it plays on the way to Industrie 4.0.

Resilience in a nutshell

Resilience is a term many different areas use. This article will use a generic definition and apply it to our field of interest – manufacturing. Furthermore, the focus lays on software and networking. Certainly, other technological, processual and organizational aspects need to be considered as well for a comprehensive picture.

So, what are the basic components of Resilience?

1. Elasticity

Elastic systems have the ability to return in a good state after a disruption. This means a system with Elasticity is able to regenerate and recover. In microservice architectures, we have patterns like the circuit breaker. It allows elastic behavior on the software side.

2. Robustness

Robustness is the opposite of fragility. Changes or issues are not altering the initial structure of the system.

3. Strenghtened by disruption

This point is particularly interesting. Disruptions of the past will lead to a more robust system in the future. Therefore, a kind of knowledge base must be installed and continuously fed.

4.Agility

Agility in the context of Resilience describes the ability to proactively anticipate future changes. The system as a whole will cope with these new surroundings in an agile way.

Agility tightly couples with Adaptivity. Mandatory changes delimit the two. Agile systems respond to those changes.

5. Adaptivity

A well-known term in software development is Adaptivity. There is even an own software design pattern – the Adapter. Adaptivity, in contrast to Agility, describes how flexible and self-organized the system can cope with changes. Even more important: disruptions.

6. Redundancy

Finally yet importantly, Redundancy is a very important part. System components are redundant if there is more than one functional unit. Which is normally not necessary.

In situations of heavy load or disruption, these additional instances come into play. They prevent a loss of functionality. If, for example, your factory connects with two different ISP lines, then you have a redundant WAN connection. The famous excavator can then cut a line and you are still online.

Introducing Distributed Manufacturing Systems

Now that we had an introduction to Resilience, do you know a resilient system? Hint: You are using it every day.

As you may have guessed, it is the Internet. Explicitly designed by DARPA so that individual nodes can fail, it is an excellent example for Resilience.

Furthermore, the Internet could be a blueprint for the path to industry 4.0. Not only the research project ScaleIt funded by the German government uses web and internet technologies to make digital factories possible. Distributed systems are a good foundation to realize the required Resilience for Industrie 4.0.

Most noteworthy is that, as initially mentioned, Industrie 4.0 is a complex system. As this article shows, splitting up your software monoliths will help to scale and adapt much faster. A so-called microservice architecture is also beneficial. Especially when it comes to the realization of Resilience in your factory.

Modular components enable us to create systems in which only parts fail, but not the whole.

I will cover how an orchestrator like Kubernetes plays in here in a future article on homo-digitalis.net.

Resilience Is More Than Software

This article lays focus on software and the computer networking in context of production sites.

For a comprehensive approach towards a Resilient Factory, many other aspects need to be addressed:

  • Manufacturing Assets like Machines, Sensors follow Resilience principles
  • The company computer network setup considers the above mentioned six resilience components

The organization develops in the right direction if:

  • Processes are resilient
  • Your Organization has implemented an agile & collaborative culture
  • Your whole supply chain is resilient
  • You are approaching software changes with a DevOps systematic

With this knowledge in mind, a further step towards Industrie 4.0 can be done.


Image source: pixabay, CC0