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

LTR: 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).

The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance is an Open Ecosystem for the Digital Transformation of Industrial Manufacturing Plants. Founding members include Beckhoff, Endress+Hauser Group, Hilscher, KUKA, MULTIVAC and SAP SE – and ifm.

At Hannover Messe 2019, European companies from the mechanical engineering, industrial automation, and software industries are driving the foundation of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance with a cooperation agreement. Founding members include Beckhoff, Endress+Hauser Group, Hilscher, ifm, KUKA, MULTIVAC and SAP SE. The alliance is open to all companies; other members include Balluff Group, Gebhardt Fördertechnik, Pepperl+Fuchs, ARVOS GmbH | SCHMIDTSCHE SCHACK, SAMSON and WIKA Alexander Wiegand.

Members of the alliance are committed to creating a standardized 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 current Alliance members 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 centers in midmarket and large enterprises are characterized by heterogeneity — with things of many different classes, from many different manufacturers. Proprietary and varying standards in connectivity, data management, IT security, and collaboration require 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 solutions 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 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, Managing Director, ifm Corporate Group.

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 between the machines and sensors. Edge is the central node for all important and locally necessary functions in the factory. Operator Cloud is the central node in the customer’s company that is 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.

The first proofs of concept were completed in 2018, with adaptable and flexible matrix production at KUKA. The aim is to produce additional proofs of concept from members and their customers by mid-2019. The founding members are preparing their first results for the second half of 2019.