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Bosch Adds Artificial Intelligence to Industry 4.0 – Plastics Technology

At the virtual Hannover Messe in Germany in April, Bosch Group (parent of Bosch Rexroth) celebrated “10 years of Industry 4.0” with new products, a review of its own experience with “connected factories” since 2012, and a preview of its pilot implementation of a new “universal AI solution for manufacturing” in its own plants. Developed by the Bosch Center for Artificial Intelligence, the new AI-based system reportedly “detects anomalies and malfunctions in the manufacturing process at an early stage, reliably reduces reject parts, and improves product quality.” The AI solutions uses Bosch Connected Industry’s proven Nexeed manufacturing execution system (MES) to automatically collect, process and analyze data from a variety of sources in near real time. Sensor data from machines and cameras serves as the basis for detecting fluctuations in a wide range of manufacturing processes, based on patterns learned from prior data. Nexeed Industry 4.0 software “translates” and visualizes the data, and the AI system offers recommendations for action to plant personnel—or could take direct corrective action in certain cases. The main tools in this process are custom-configured dashboards that present relevant data to human managers and operators.

The pilot user of the AI analysis platform is Bosch’s Mobility Solutions business sector. Its plants using the system are already saving €1 million to €2 million/yr. One factory, for example, was able to identify and eliminate disruptions in process flow with the help of AI. As a result, cycle times of the lines dropped by 15%, Bosch reports. Bosch plans to roll out the AI system to 50 of its powertrain plants worldwide, connecting to more than 800 production lines. More than 1 billion data messages will be stored on the analysis platform each day. Bosch plans to deploy the AI solution across the company at its roughly 240 plants starting at the end of this year.

The first commercial AI product from Bosch, introduced at Hannover Messe, was the Balancing Energy Network, an energy-management system that employs intelligent software to control and optimize energy flows in factories. Bosch also premiered new 5G-enabled wireless data exchange in near real time, which is currently being tested at around 10 Bosch plants worldwide. Also new at the Hannover fair was an enhancement of Bosch Rexroth’s Industry 4.0 offerings to connect hydraulic pumps, valves and drives, shown at NPE2018. New digital on-board electronics for hydraulics offer open interfaces for Bluetooth and IO-Link, so plant personnel (equipped with a suitable app) can access components and change parameters using a smartphone—independent of the machine controller. The first components with this feature are new proportional pressure-regulating valves with an integrated pressure sensor and a connection for external pressure sensors. They are said to control pressure independent of volume flow. They offer condition monitoring, as well: Via the app and the Diagnostics button, they can call up operating data such as temperature or operating hours.

Bosch’s commitment to Industry 4.0 is amply illustrated by its wholesale deployment of its own technologies throughout its global manufacturing facilities since 2012. Bosch plants now feature connectivity of over 120,000 machines and 250,000 devices such as integrated cameras or robots. Some 22,000 machine controllers and more than 2000 production lines in over half of Bosch’s plants are connected via Nexeed software. Around 100 international customers—including BMW, Sick and Trumpf—also relay on Nexeed. Industry 4.0 has generated more than €4 billion in sales in the past decade, and more than €700 million in 2020 alone.

Bosch offers its 240 global plants a standardized “Industry 4.0 toolbox,” which can be expanded or deployed as needed. Following an investment in Industry 4.0 of around €400 million, Bosch expects to save almost €1 billion over the next five years. Its connected solutions increase productivity by as much as 25%, boost machine availability by up to 15%, and reduce maintenance costs by as much as 25%, the company claims.