24 Jul 2024


Industry group wants 80% of machines to speak same language

A group of European suppliers of equipment and software for smart factories have formed an alliance that wants to ensure that 80% of the machines in smart factories will speak the same language. The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance, whose founders include Beckhoff, Endress+Hauser, Hischer, ifm, Kuka and SAP, is committed to offering an open “ecosystem” and framework to achieve interoperability between equipment.

The alliance – whose other members include Balluff, Pepperl+Fuchs and Wika – is committed to creating an open, standardised ecosystem for operating automated factories, including logistics and services. It wants to avoid standalone proprietary systems and plans to create an “Open Industry 4.0 Framework”, based on existing standards such as IO-Link, OPC UA and Rami (the Reference Architectural Model for Industry 4.0).

The alliance members argue that proprietary protocols and the variety of standards for connectivity, data management, IT security and collaboration, are creating extra effort and impeding the rapid scaling of Industry 4.0. They are pledging to offer users an open, standards-based offering for a product’s entire journey – from the factory floor to servicing.

The users will be able to choose what they need from a set of modular, scalable components and services. These will build on the core competencies of members of the alliance and are said to represent a low-risk, manufacturer-independent option from well-known suppliers in discrete manufacturing and process engineering. SAP’s involvement will help to ensure that business processes such as manufacturing execution, warehouse management and plant maintenance, are collaborative across boundaries with partner companies.

The open, standards-based offering is based on four modules, plus a service offering. The modules are:

•  Device Connectivity, which establishes connections to the machines and sensors;

•  Edge – the central node for all of the functions needed in the factory;

•  Operator Cloud – the central node in user companies that supports enterprise-centric functions and applications; and

•  Cloud Central, which allows bidirectional exchange of data between companies – such as master data and measured data, as well as information such as technical documentation and repair manuals.

The first proofs-of-concept were implemented 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, before releasing the first results in the second half of 2019.