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Integrated Industry

Open standards are the key to Industry 4.0 success

Data exchange formats such as AutomationML describe plant components in such a way that they transfer the information on geometry, kinematics, and logic in a vendor-neutral manner. They are a key requirement for retrofit projects and digital twins alike.

21 Feb. 2018
Roland Ackermann
Open standards are the key to Industry 4.0 success (Photo:

The transformation of existing machines into the age of networked production is difficult. Modern systems are already supplied with suitable interfaces and protocols, but retrofitting is often complicated. The same basic rules of digitization apply, as in all Industry 4.0 and IIoT projects. However, an important prerequisite for successful retrofit implementation are open standards such as AutomationML and OPC UA , which, unlike other digitization fields , are on the right track. One reason for this: even big players do not have the necessary combination of expertise and know-how in individual cases, rather they rely on cooperation . Non-proprietary standards really thrive here as well.

The Automation Markup Language (AML) enables the uniform exchange of engineering data and is also fundamental to the implementation of simulations ( digital twins ) in production systems (and vice versa). This XML-based language has already become very well established. The leading developer organization under the umbrella of the Institute for Ergonomics, Factory Automation and Factory Operation (IAF) at the University of Magdeburg is home to almost everything that has a reputation in this area, from vehicle manufacturers such as BMW, Daimler and VW, as well as automation companies such as Festo and ABB, sensor technicians such as Balluff, various software providers, and universities. Sick and the University of Pforzheim have recently joined as new members. For example, AutomationML is a central basis of the German-Swedish project ENTOC (Engineering Tool Chain for Efficient and Iterative Development of Smart Factories); the 5th AutomationML User Conference is scheduled for the October 24th and 25th in Gothenburg, Sweden.

In the meantime, an open consortium under the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI) has submitted a reference architecture model for Industry 4.0 ( RAMI 4.0 ) as part of the Industry 4.0 platform. At the same time, the open-source cooperation project openAAS (open Asset Administration Shell) describes an “open management shell” for Industry 4.0 components based on OPC UA.