At a Hannover Fair press conference in April, Hilscher and other founding members announced the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance, a neutral organization aiming to accelerate the delivery of IIoT/Industry 4.0 automation solutions. The OI4 founders 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. Hans-Jurgen Hilscher, Hilscher CEO (standing at right in picture) said: “Our customers can expect an open approach. For example, Hilscher solutions must be able to process several fieldbus technology standards.”
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, based on existing standards such as IO-Link, OPC UA and RAMI.
Focus on Feasibility and Benefits
According to the OI4 Alliance, 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 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.
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 that 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.