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Avoid proprietary stand-alone solutions: ifm is part of Open Industry 4.0 Alliance

LTR: Dr. Thomas May (Dr. Thomas May, Managing Director, ifm Corporate Group), Dr. Rolf Birkhofer (Managing Director, Endress+Hauser Group), Reinhold Stammeier (Chief Digital Officer, KUKA), Dr. Marius Grathwohl (Head of Organisation, MULTIVAC), Hala Zeine (President Digital Supply Chain and Manufacturing, SAP), Gerd Hoppe (Corporate Management, Beckhoff), Hans-Jürgen Hilscher (Managing Director, Hilscher).

At Hannover Messe 2019 European companies from the mechanical engineering, industrial automation and software industries announced the foundation of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance with a detailed cooperation agreement. In addition to ifm, the companies Beckhoff, Endress+Hauser, Hilscher, KUKA, Multivac and SAP are the founding members. The alliance is open to all companies; other members of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance include Balluff, Gebhardt, Pepperl+Fuchs, Schmidtsche Schack, Samson and WIKA. Members of the alliance are committed to creating a standardised and open ecosystem for operating highly automated factories and plants, including logistics and services. The alliance is working to avoid proprietary stand-alone solutions to better enable digital transformation in European industry. The companies plan to work with future members to create what is known as an Open Industry 4.0 Framework on the basis of existing standards such as IO-Link, OPC UA and RAMI.

Focus on feasibility and benefits

Operations in factories, plants and logistics centres in midmarket and large enterprises are characterised by heterogeneity — with things of many different classes, from many different manufacturers. Proprietary and varying standards in connectivity, data management, IT security and collaboration create additional effort and impede the rapid and comprehensive scaling of Industry 4.0. The founders and members of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance pledged to provide customers with an open, standards-based, and compatible offering for a product’s entire journey — from the object on the factory floor to service. Customers can select what they need from a set of modular, compatible and scalable solution and service components. In each case, these build on the core competencies of the founders and members of the alliance and represent a low-risk, manufacturer-independent option from existing and known suppliers in the discrete manufacturing and process engineering industries. The connection to SAP solutions helps ensure that business processes such as manufacturing execution, warehouse management or plant maintenance are collaborative across company boundaries with partner companies. The open and interoperable approach including four modules provides attractive opportunities for companies of all sizes. The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance aims for 80% of the machines in a smart factory to speak the same language. “Our customers demand open and compatible collaboration, where every company can contribute and demonstrate their own strengths. The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance is the answer to these demands!” said Dr. Thomas May, Board of the ifm group of companies.

Open and interoperable solution

The open, standards-based offering of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance includes four modules — Device Connectivity, Edge, Operator Cloud and Cloud Central — plus an associated service offering. Device Connectivity establishes the connection to the machines and sensors. Edge is the central node for all the important and locally necessary functions in the factory. Operator Cloud is the central node in the customer’s company and also has an open layer and supports all enterprise-centric functions and applications. Finally, Cloud Central enables the bidirectional exchange of data between companies, such as master data and measurement data from calibrations, as well as information including technical documentation and repair manuals.

First solutions at SPS 2019

The first proofs of concept have already been completed in 2018. Additional proofs of concept by members and their customers will be presented at SPS 2019 in Nuremberg at the stand of the Alliance (hall 5, stand 160) from 26 to 28 November. Moreover, ifm will present a solution for fan applications as live demo at their own stand 302 in hall 7.