“The idea of this infrastructure is that you don’t have to add all this additional capacity to your own in-house capabilities,” says Swink. “You have this integrated infrastructure out there, where everyone is playing – large, medium and small companies from all different industries with all different technologies. It’s like crowdsourcing. All you have to do is say, ‘I need this kind of thing’ and people show up.”
The UCLA-based Clean Energy Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CESMII), funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), is beginning to create this marketplace. This year CESMII will put out a call for companies willing to develop apps for the infrastructure, with the DOE paying 50 percent of their development costs. Developers who qualify must agree to make their apps available in the marketplace for a reasonable fee.
Companies will realize many benefits when they can easily access such tools. “The payoffs are huge, in performance and energy and productivity and safety,” says Swink.
No matter how manufacturers approach Industry 4.0, they shouldn’t wait too long to join the revolution. “We see this trend happening much sooner than we expected,” says Ben-Assa. “The competition is fierce in this market, and people understand that they cannot allow themselves to stay behind.”