The digitization train is slowly gaining momentum

Under the slogan “Industry 4.0”, the digital transformation was proclaimed eleven years ago as the “fourth industrial revolution”. What happened to the digital revolution? Where is the German industry in terms of digitization? We interview experts from the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance.

Author: Armin Barnitzke

The revolutionary impetus of the “fourth industrial revolution” has now given way to a healthy dose of realism, pragmatism and also disenchantment: “Industry 4.0 was announced as a revolution, but it turned out to be an evolution,” says Nils Herzberg, spokesperson for the Open Industry board, for example, 4.0 Alliance and Global Head Strategic Partnerships for Digital Supply Chain and Industry 4.0 at SAP.

According to Marius Grathwohl, chair of the industry-focused working groups of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance and vice president of digital products and transformation at packaging machine manufacturer Multivac, the industrial (r)evolution is still in the exploration and testing phase. . “Cyber-physical systems are not yet widely used. But the foundations are being laid for it. The machines are equipped with the necessary infrastructure for connectivity.” However, a surprising number of companies are still busy implementing a traditional shop floor IT connection with MES and SCADA systems.

No interoperability

“The digitization train is slowly gaining momentum,” confirms Dr. Christian Liedtke, President of Membership and Sales of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance and Director of Strategic Alliances at Kuka: “There are many solutions, but there is no interoperability, that is, there is no ability to bring the interaction of different machines and components to the rail while meeting common technical requirements.” the rules bring.

Why is that? As Liedtke observes, many companies are coming to terms with the current situation. “The processes are working well, they are already very mature in many sectors, especially with a view to Europe.” Furthermore, the first pilot applications of Industry 4.0 often only showed marginal improvements. But that’s not surprising: “Individual improvements can only shift bottlenecks from one machine to the next,” says Liedtke: “We need cross-process and cross-factory solutions that consider the IoT as a whole. This is the only way to develop added value.

break the silo mentality

However, to achieve this goal, German industry must step over its shadow and enter into cooperation agreements: “Due to rapid technological developments, individual companies, no matter how large, are not in a position to tackle digitalization on their own,” stresses Liedtke. This is exactly where the idea of ​​the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance as an implementation alliance comes into play. “We want the digitization train to speed up. That is why at Allianz we trust in openness. Silo thinking should be a thing of the past.”

Therefore, the goal of the alliance is to build trust. “If we, as an alliance, manage to use simple use cases to illustrate the added value of cooperation, we can take the next step: we want to dare to approach value-added networks and thus finally realize the potential that has Industry 4.0 been dreaming of for eleven years.”

implement standards

Technical standards like OPC UA are of course the basis for this, but not yet the solution. SAP Man Herzberg: “The decisive factor for the success of Industry 4.0 is not the existence of the standards themselves, but their implementation in machines and software.” From the point of view of Ekrem Yigitdoel, CEO of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance, “the current standards are not yet fully there.” to the life. The true treasure trove of Industry 4.0 data can only be harnessed when it all fits into the big picture, internally and across companies.

However, digitization experts recommend taking small steps. dr Andrea Rösinger, CTO of the software company Forcam: “Companies are advised to plan the digital transformation of the factory in small, manageable steps and start with a pilot project first. This way, main production can continue without interruption.” and teams can gain experience.”

comprehensive gear change

At the same time, a cross-departmental change team must plan the entire process together from the start, thinking about the later launch and the ability of the IT architecture to integrate future applications, such as AI.

“The change team needs to formulate goals, create a phase plan, look for a powerful IT solution, define desired key metrics such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), introduce new communication rules, start a pilot project, and plan implementation,” says Rösinger. .

For Rösinger, the most important technological stages of a successful digital journey are a triple jump:

1. Connect (different) machines digitally,

2. Convert big data into smart data in real time,

3. Integrate (existing and new systems) and compose.

However, it is also important for Rösinger that the digital transformation is not only seen as a matter of technology, but also of management: “Successful Industry 4.0 projects are characterized by an open and vital 4.0 management and communication culture. That means: At all levels, managers explain goals and measures, address criticisms and concerns, and incorporate ideas from the workforce.”

Brownfield procedure

However, there are of course, especially at the beginning and especially in brownfield productions, very pragmatic questions: for example, the question of how to make existing systems adapt to digitalisation. “Because the digital connection of all machines in production logistics is the basis for a successful digital transformation in companies. Therefore, it should be possible to display every type of machine digitally, regardless of manufacturer, type and age,” says Rösinger.

There are basically two ways to digitally connect existing systems:

  • In older environments, especially for machines not equipped for network communication, the separate hardware upgrade approach is a good idea “so that data can be recorded and transmitted using sensors,” says Ricardo Dunkel, director Open technician. Industry 4.0 Alliance.
  • Machines with network-enabled controls are connected via IoT software adapters, i.e. plug-ins for machine controls, which are available from the manufacturer or must be programmed individually. “It’s important to bring the different data and protocols together in terms of content to harmonize the variety of information,” says Dunkel.

However, in existing environments in particular, it is important to keep an eye on the existing system and data architecture and identify available solutions for digital expansion and efficiently combine them with existing ones, concludes Ekrem Yigitdöl. “In the brownfield approach, the main street is predetermined in some way.

As soon as the route of travel and the motorhome are chosen, the company must decide what is important to them. “And the intermediate destinations of the journey must be chosen in such a way that they can be reached quickly and efficiently,” says Yigitdöl. It remains to be seen where the overall digital journey will lead. Because Kuka-Mann Liedtke is also clear: “IoT projects are a way. You have to accept that IoT projects have no beginning and no end.”

Open Industry 4.0 Alliance

13 Tips for IoT Success

How do IoT projects become a success? Hendrik Nieweg (Executive Vice President of IoT Solutions at Device Insight), Dr. Christian Liedtke (Head of Strategic Alliances at Kuka) and Bastian Jehl (IoT Solutions Engineer at Kuka) provide advice:

  • Make the project team interdisciplinary. IoT projects only work across departments.
  • Involve the people who work with the machines every day. They know best where to optimize.
  • Focus on one use case. Don’t search for the perfect use case, just start.
  • Please note: IoT projects are the supreme discipline and highly complex.
  • Practice managing expectations. Independent IoT projects do not guarantee the next million in revenue.
  • Take your time in selecting your project partners. Too many parts do not always lead to the best solution.
  • Work agile. Do not force IoT projects into existing (product) development processes.
  • Get ready to invest. And get C-level support. Inspire your CEO and CFO.
  • Accept that IoT projects have no beginning and no end. IoT projects are one way.
  • Always consider the customer. Your requirements are the focus. So bet on the attraction of the market, not on the push of technology.
  • Focus on proof of value, not proof of concept.
  • Follow industry standards.
  • Ask someone who knows about it. Benefit from the experiences that others have already had.

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