The ZEISS Approach to Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is revolutionizing product manufacturing and services worldwide, including at ZEISS. A combination of ever tighter integration in the Internet of Things, intelligent robots, and 3D printers has paved the way for just-in-time, individually tailored consumer goods, cars and machines. Instead of mass-produced commodities, today’s digital factory produces made-to-measure products on demand. To facilitate this process, RFID tags give components, products – even living things – their own digital identity, making it easy to track them down in automated logistics environments. Meanwhile ZEISS has created an intelligent digital platform for quality assurance in the realm of Industry 4.0. Its ZEISS PiWeb software prepares measurement data and converts it into meaningful information, aiding communication between human beings and machines.

The steam engine triggered the first industrial revolution, the conveyor belt prompted the second, and the microchip ushered in the third. The fourth industrial revolution – Industry 4.0 – is based on software. Specifically, software which links up the Internet of Things with intelligent robots and controls production processes individually. Before a product is actually manufactured in the digital factory, it undergoes a virtual process of design and testing. When it reaches the manufacturing stage, every step is monitored by optical, thermal and physical sensors. RFID chips – tiny microchips with built-in radio technology – give things a digital identity. They store digital data, communicate with machines, and enable the contactless transmission of information to stationary RFID gates. With its digital solutions, ZEISS is one of the pioneers of Industry 4.0 – both in-house and at its customers' sites.

ZEISS PiWeb lies at the heart of the digital factory

ZEISS has created a core component of Industry 4.0 in the form of its ZEISS PiWeb platform. ZEISS PiWeb provides a centralized means of collecting, storing and analyzing a range of measurement and quality data from products, machines and systems. Sensors count quantities, measure distances, and determine the temperature of workpieces – so if something goes wrong on the production line, or if key parts are missing, then ZEISS PiWeb sounds the alarm. RFID chips give an identity to information on process and measurement data, enabling it to be used for targeted analysis. Diagrams, graphics and tables of statistical analyses provide visual representations of the measurement data and present it on multiple screens in the PiWeb control panel – a perspective similar to that of the control center used by air traffic controllers.

ZEISS PiWeb understands more than just the world of ZEISS

ZEISS PiWeb can be integrated seamlessly in digital factories across a wide range of sectors and industries. The ZEISS team from Industrial Metrology (IMT) has programmed the platform to support open standards and interfaces, making it easy to incorporate machines and systems from other companies as well as ZEISS measuring systems. The automated ZEISS Smartzoom 5 digital microscope shows how digital communication looks with ZEISS PiWeb. The Smartzoom 5 enables users to visually examine parts such as screws, circuit boards and metal components and check them on the screen. The microscope can generate complete reports – including text and images – at the touch of a button. It can also automatically send information on production and quality assurance to PiWeb, even across multiple locations.

Industry 4.0 involves the entire company

From metrology, semiconductor manufacturing and medical technology to microscopy and optical systems, the concepts behind Industry 4.0 have an impact on all ZEISS business groups. Every single department is engaging in one way or another with the achievements of the digital factory, and even apprentices – the youngest members of each team – are receiving training in this area. It was just recently, in spring 2015, that external trainers from the University of Stuttgart came to Oberkochen to give an insight into some of the secrets of Industry 4.0 through the ServiceLernLab. ZEISS also uses an RFID-based supply chain for its own logistics processes, covering everything from production to warehousing and dispatch. Whether they're making lenses, microscopes or planetariums, the teams at ZEISS kanban-based production facilities use RFID chips to keep track of the content and destination of each kanban bin, and RFID tags are used to log kanban bins directly in the SAP system. Container management of the reusable transportation boxes (blue boxes) is supported by RFID technology. Before goods are sent to the customer, the radio chips and SAP packing table are used to determine whether the packages contain everything they should. If something is missing, the system automatically notifies the user so that the items can be added prior to dispatch.

"Industry 4.0 is generating new strategies for in-house process optimization as well as numerous external business opportunities for ZEISS which offer genuine customer benefits and encompass all our business groups. Among other things, ZEISS PiWeb has given us the foundations we need to build a bridge towards Industry 4.0 and bring all our digital innovations together under that one roof," says Dr. Boris Peter Selby, Head of Software Technology at ZEISS IMT in Oberkochen.

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