Industry 4.0 – the era of modular plants has begun?
The factory of the future is a topic which is becoming more and more discussed over time. This trend has been coined “Industry 4.0” or “Chemistry 4.0” in the chemical industry and it is characterized by the information technology (IT), the increase of the interaction human-computer-machine and the introduction of flexible plants. IT and digitalization have allowed to reshape traditional production structures by introducing modular plants or plug and play plants. These plants are driven by faster time-to-market, competitiveness and flexibility in the production area. In this document, benefits and challenges of modular plants in the chemical industry are further discussed.
The factory of the future is a topic which has gained traction over time and it has been coined Industry 4.0 or Chemistry 4.0 in the chemical industry (1-3).
The implementation of Industry 4.0 has already been started by major companies and promoted by numerous governments across the world (4-8).
Industry 4.0 takes advantage of the information technology (IT) and the interaction between operators, computers and machines, which enables more independent or autonomous equipment units (1-3). In other words, machines become “smarter” and are able to control each other without the need of an operator. The digital and IT revolution have allowed to redesign production structures and modular plants have been introduced to the production area.
These types of plants are characterized by short changeover times as a result of modular automation (each unit is operating like a stand-alone plant) (3). Modular automation gives autonomy to the equipment units, in which each module (set of equipment units) is capable of recognizing and intera ...