The Fourth Industrial Revolution (also known as Industry 4.0) is the ongoing automation of traditional manufacturing and industrial practices, using modern smart technology. Event Streaming with Apache Kafka plays a massive role in processing massive volumes of data in real-time in a reliable, scalable, and flexible way using integrating with various legacy and modern data sources and sinks. This blog post covers multiple use cases for Apache Kafka in Industrial IoT and manufacturing across different industries.
10000 Foot View – Event Streaming with Apache Kafka for Manufacturing
Large-scale machine-to-machine communication (M2M) and the internet of things (IoT) are integrated for increased automation, improved communication and self-monitoring, and production of smart machines that can analyze and diagnose issues without the need for human intervention. The term “Industrie 4.0”, shortened to I4.0 or only I4, was coined in Germany, including reference architectures such as RAMI 4.0.
These scenarios in manufacturing require the processing of high volumes of data in real-time at scale. Mission-critical deployments without downtime or data loss are the norm. Integration with edge devices/machines, IoT gateways, enterprise software, and many other systems are essential for success. An open, elastic, and flexible architecture is a must to integrate with the monolithic legacy world, but to be also future-ready for building cloud-native, standards-based, hybrid applications. Support for dominant IoT standards such as OPC-UA and MQTT is obligatory.
Due to these requirements, Apache Kafka comes into play in many new I4.0 projects:
I already discussed the usage of Apache Kafka for manufacturing and Industrial IoT (IIoT) from various perspectives:
- Hybrid + global Kafka architectures for factory and cloud deployments
- Kafka for edge computing in the plant for data integration, pre-processing, aggregation, real-time analytics
- Modern, open, scalable data historian based on Kafka
- Building a digital twin with Kafka and related Digital Twin architectures
- Kafka-native integration with PLCs
- Integration of between Kafka IIoT standard software such as SAP ERP and S4/Hana
The following explores the same idea, but from a different angle with the focus on use cases, business value, and real-world examples from companies such as Audi, BMW, Tesla, Bosch, and others. Of course, there are some overlaps with the above articles, but I still hope to share some additional value and perspectives.
Why Apache Kafka in Manufacturing and Industry 4.0?
Here are a few reasons why Apache Kafka gets more and more adoption in I4 projects:
- Real-time messaging (at scale, mission-critical)
- Global Kafka (edge, data center, multi-cloud)
- Cloud-native (open, flexible, elastic)
- Data integration (legacy + modern protocols, applications, communication paradigms)
- Data correlation (real-time + historical data, omni-channel)
- Real decoupling (not just messaging, but also infinite storage + replayability of events)
- Real-time monitoring
- Transactional data (MES, ERP, CRM, SCM, …)
- Applied machine learning (model training and scoring)
- Cutting edge technology (3D printing, augmented reality, …)
These are not new characteristics and requirements. Real-time messaging solutions exist for many years. Hundreds of platforms exist for data integration (including ETL and ESB tooling or specific IIoT platforms such as OSIsoft PI). SCADA systems monitor plants for decades in real-time. And so on.
The significant difference is that Kafka combines all the above characteristics in an open, scalable, and flexible infrastructure to operate mission-critical workloads at scale in real-time.
Use Cases for Kafka in Manufacturing
The following list shows different use cases where Kafka is used as a strategic platform for mission-critical event streaming at companies I talked to in the past:
- Track&Trace / Production Control / Plant Logistics
- Quality Assurance / Yield Management
- Predictive Maintenance
- Supply Chain Management
- Servitization leveraging Digital Twins
- Additive Manufacturing
- Augmented Reality
- Many more…
Stay tuned for dedicated blog posts on the above topics focusing on the use case perspective. Please let me know if you want to see any other specific use case or maybe even have implemented something else already by yourself!
Slides and Video Recording
Over the next weeks and months, I plan to write a dedicated blog post per use case and update the above list with a link to it.
For now, here is the high-level presentation covering all of the above use cases with architectures and specific implementation examples.
What are your experiences with Apache Kafka in Manufacturing and Industry 4.0? Which projects did you or do you plan to implement? What challenges did you face, and how did you or do you plan to solve this? What is your strategy? Let’s connect on LinkedIn and discuss it!