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According to the Monitoring Report Digital Economy 2014 by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, 36 percent of German industrial enterprises have introduced ICT-based innovations since the beginning of 2013. However, Germany is not the only place where this issue plays a major role. "Interest in Industry 4.0, the project of the future, is growing around the world," says Prof. Detlef Zühlke, Chairman of the Board and initiator of SmartFactoryKL e.V, a technology initiative. Uniform global standards could certainly make the issue much more interesting and less complicated, according to a presentation Zühlke held at the Japan German Industry Forum in November.

SmartFactoryKL is a manufacturer-independent research and demonstration platform where innovative information technology is tested and developed in a realistic manufacturing environment. Partners from science and industry form the consortium which is coordinated by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Kaiserlautern.

Together with a dozen well-known industrial partners, the initiative set up an entire production line for the first time at HANNOVER MESSE 2014 where modules by various manufacturers with different control architecture worked together seamlessly. Its modular set-up and standardized interfaces allowed the demonstrators to adapt to changing demands in a matter of minutes.

"Through Plug & Play solutions and the uniform standards shown by the demonstrator, it was possible to assimilate other partners into the consortium and integrate even more themes," explains Detlef Zühlke. 15 partners will present new modules and infrastructure boxes. Their slogan is "Industry 4.0: Advances in Networking".

Furthermore, the initiative is drawing up a collective report. "We are working on setting down initial standards on paper in order to create a basis for implementing Industry 4.0 into German manufacturing plants," explains Detlef Zühlke. After HANNOVER MESSE is over, the infrastructure boxes available on the market should "incite plant manufacturers to follow up on the concept and provide solutions for operational use," according to Zühlke.