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LATEST TRENDS IN INDUSTRIAL BEARINGS Industrial bearings in the time of Industry 4.0: Where is it heading?

Jan 21, 2022

From a pressing machine to a power plant, nearly every part of industrial equipment depends on bearings in some type of form and make. The linkage of industrial bearing manufacturing to the notion of Industry 4.0 can benefit bearing manufacturers in numerous aspects. The article talks about how the implementation of Industry 4.0 will pose dual benefits for bearing manufacturers, bearings as a smart component and bearing manufacturing via smart machines.

Industry 4.0 embodies the spirit and is often implemented interchangeably with the concept of the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). It is a vision that warrants the adoption of technologies, such as Internet of Things (IoT) and connected machining, to generate the capabilities required for smart factories. With the aid of interconnected systems and access to real-time data, it puts forth a holistic approach to manufacturing. Industry 4.0 aims to facilitate novel methods of production, real-time optimisation, value creation and addition by intelligent networking of products and the means of production.

4IR transforming the way of product envisioning and maintenance

The key premises of Industry 4.0, therefore, encompass interconnectivity via IoT, data transparency and decentralised decision-making. In a nutshell, 4IR can transform the way products are envisioned, designed, manufactured and maintained. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies and their synchronisation with existing manufacturing processes can enhance operational excellence, thereby transforming organisations. It emphasises on data-driven manufacturing and digitalised production, which in turn ensures precision & accuracy in machine tools to produce error-free, optimum quality products in high volumes for all industries. It enables the close monitoring of the machine performance on each sub-station with a web-enabled connectivity and maintains them in an optimal condition, resulting in substantial production benefits.

The industrial bearing industry

What does this mean for the bearing industry? The implementation of Industry 4.0 will pose dual benefits for bearing manufacturers and for the industries using machine tools having rotary motions, invariably requiring bearings for smooth operations.

The industrial bearing segment has witnessed a copious turnover in the past decade and with the current demand slated to rise, there is a vested interest for bearing manufacturers towards data-driven manufacturing. Bearing elements are present in all moving parts of machinery and the vital parameters of its performance rely entirely on its dimensional accuracy & manufacturing process controls. The linkage of industrial bearing manufacturing to the notion of Industry 4.0 can benefit bearing manufacturers in numerous aspects that include but are not limited to part traceability, process optimisation and energy savings.

Bearings are the key components for any machine requiring a rotary motion and support the moving parts of a machine tool that is critical to the functionality & accuracy of a machine. The condition of the bearings used in the industrial machines greatly influence the performance characteristics. Detecting and measuring variables related to the condition of these bearings would be a real achievement for effective machine monitoring and enhancing the performance of the operations.

Bearings as a smart component

Manufacturing industrial bearings as smart components or products, boils down to intense data logging and analysis of information. Digital sensors in a machine’s bearings would be a good facilitator for collecting and analysing various parameters in relation to takt time, procurement frequency against demand, planned and unplanned maintenance, lifecycle of FG and the service intervals, etc. Smart sensor installation at critical positions can furnish operators with vast amounts of data. This constructs a visual portrayal of the process layout and serves as the baseline for product and process strategies for continuous improvement. Scrutinised data analysis can aid in keeping a tab on the overall equipment efficiency, thereby reducing the risks of downtime that arise from unplanned breakdowns.

Bearing manufacturing via smart machines

A smart manufacturing machine is one that is equipped with smart sensors, PLC and the one that employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFI). The UI panels will trigger the required action based on machine parameters that fail to comply with the set norms. This could be by the virtue of kanban cards or a dashboard notification to relevant teams. The panel in sync with the sensors can aid with the RCA process by identifying the key contributors for maintenance operators to focus on, thereby considerably reducing the downtime. Data monitoring aids in planning preventive maintenance schedules more efficiently and the reduced downtime is proportional to improved productivity. Machine Learning algorithms guarantee that the machine triggers warnings at the onset of failures and adapt to the mitigation measures set in the past. This data enables the manufacturer to introduce process controls or poka-yoke into the system for enhancing operational intelligence. Horizontal deployment can be facilitated by machine-to-machine (M2M) algorithms that can smoothen the communication between various wirelessly connected paraphernalia in the process lifecycle.

Augmented operator of bearing manufacturing

The brain of the whole system is the augmented operator whose goal is to automate the system to its fullest. The operator is responsible for production, process controls, on-the-go maintenance and in-process errors, if any. The augmented operator, in collaboration with smart machinery and sensors, records these errors in the database for analysis to avoid repetition & quick mitigation in the event of a reoccurrence. Additionally, the sensors will immediately detect any impending breakdown and can automatically trigger the cyber-physical system to initiate the containment actions followed by the fault-repair SOPs which have been preprogrammed into the interface. Machine Learning and AI can facilitate the augmented operator to better the analytics from being plainly maintenance after breakdown or preventive maintenance to predictive (proactive), thereby improving productivity, machine run time, Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and empowering manufacturers to dedicate resources to newer business strategies.

The bearings industry’s alliance with Industry 4.0

In conclusion, Industry 4.0 is a transformation that is of the essence to fulfill the present day demands of the global supply chain network and factory operations. The execution of 4IR in the industry bearing segment will aid in its adaption to the rapidly evolving technological capabilities, enhance operational efficiencies as an outcome of improved productivity & accuracy in scheduling with respect to demand, predictive maintenance and cost management. Peak efficiency is an outcome of the amalgamation of productional or operational techniques with smart digital advancements, the by-product of which would be an interconnected factory of the future. As markets progress towards cost-effective strategies and solutions, the bearings industry’s alliance with Industry 4.0 will play out as the key enabler for opportunities tending to cleaner designs, efficacious manufacturing, thereby guaranteeing seamless product supply with minimal disruptions & human intervention.

Courtesy: Timken India

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  • Bearing elements are present in all moving parts of machinery and the vital parameters of its performance rely entirely on its dimensional accuracy & manufacturing process controls

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