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In Brazil, Industry 4.0 is about striking a balance between old and new
Industry 4.0 combines physical and digital technologies to make organizations more responsive to shifting market dynamics and evolving consumer demands. But modernizing industrial environments that have operated in the same way for decades is a major undertaking. It requires in-depth assessments of existing equipment and infrastructure to determine what changes a company needs to make.
In Brazil, as in other parts of the world, some industrial market segments are ahead of others when it comes to industrial automation. In industries such as oil and gas, mining, and textiles, modernization efforts are behind those in industries such as automotive, food and beverage, and life sciences.
Brazil Industry 4.0: A need for digital transformation, safety, productivity, and more
Brazil is one of the world’s largest 10 economies. However, aging hardware and outdated software are common sights in the country’s industrial environments. Many companies have an acute need to invest in automation and digital transformation to drive efficiencies in operations and energy consumption, boost equipment availability, reduce costs, improve worker safety, and protect against cyber threats.
Safety has been a major priority since 2010 when the government issued regulations to protect workers from accidents when operating equipment such as extruders, looms, dye machines, and presses. In many cases, older machinery must be replaced with equipment that meets the new safety standards.
At Vale Automação, we get many requests from clients in industries such as textiles, food and beverage, plastics, and glass production to upgrade this type of equipment. Along with the equipment changes, we usually recommend implementing automated systems that can help customers meet safety goals while increasing productivity by reducing human interaction with machines.
We also receive many requests to boost efficiency, security, and availability by retrofitting or replacing factory equipment and power management systems. This usually involves machinery like power panels, controllers, furnaces, frequency inverters, extruders, and looms. Whenever clients are willing, we take the opportunity to deploy connected, automated systems, as well as data collection and analytics applications, to help customers improve management, implement predictive maintenance, and leverage technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence.
Heterogeneous environments: The need for interoperability
When customers come to us, they are often experiencing production pains such as chronic equipment breakdowns, bottlenecking, and inefficient processes. Helping them achieve Industry 4.0 goals is not a simple proposition. We can’t use a “rip and replace” approach because in many cases, existing equipment can be retrofitted and integrated with digital solutions. In about 90% of cases, we must overlay connectivity and automation solutions on top of existing equipment.
We often encounter homegrown software solutions that customers deployed along the way. These solutions are an entry point into modernization. But typically, they have limitations that prevent customer operations from taking full advantage of advanced digital functionality and automation, so we must replace them. We also come across applications from large competitors that must remain in place because they are critical to operations. Often, our job is to implement solutions that enable interoperability in heterogeneous environments.
To do this effectively, we conduct assessments to determine what needs to be replaced and what can be leveraged and improved by adding new features that enable automation and connectivity. For instance, we always try to steer customers in the direction of connected products, software, and services by highlighting benefits such as improved efficiency, safety, sustainability, a focus on people, and keeping an eye on the next-gen of Industrial Automation.
Partner ecosystem: Offers new approaches and solutions
At Vale Automação, we set ourselves apart from competitors with our technical know-how. Customers turn to us for our engineering expertise, consulting, and implementation services. We leverage partners for several purposes, such as equipment building, and post-implementation remote monitoring, and we stay engaged with clients for training, technical support, and as the one-stop-shop they can count on for parts and solutions whenever they need them.
Just as Industry 4.0 requires industrial organizations to think differently about how to solve problems and meet objectives, it requires technology suppliers to employ new approaches and forge partnerships in serving customers. That’s why we participate in an ecosystem of 50 partners that includes Schneider Electric.
Vale Automação is one of Schneider Electric’s Alliance Industrial Automation Distributors. This relationship gives us access to support, resources, and a wide inventory of solutions and parts that help us serve our customers with expertise and efficiency. Our partnership with Schneider, as well as the rest of our ecosystem, is extremely valuable in helping our industrial customers in Brazil take full advantage of Industry 4.0 technologies so they can compete and thrive in the digital future. As they move forward with modernization efforts, we will be there to support them at every step.