Chancellor Merkel has just visited the stand, and Henning Kagermann shook hands with his old SAP colleagues. She has no time for that now. Appointment reminders light up almost continuously on her smartphone. She turns it face down and speaks quickly – in a mix of English and German.
“Design, production and logistics are converging fast in digital factories in response to customer requirements,” Hala Zeine explains and lets her gaze wander across the stand. “We have reconstructed the industrial supply chain in order to explain the process to the visitors. They wander along the value chain and use the available technologies,” she says enthusiastically. But for the majority of the visitors there is still a lack of transparency and connectivity with regard to processes and data.
“Supply chain management is exhausting. We want to change that and need more interoperability.”
She looks at her colleagues at the table – communicators, press spokespersons. “Shall we?” – “Yes, but with a news embargo.” And then she continues enthusiastically, referring to the press release scheduled for the following day: Together with Beckhoff, Endress+Hauser, Hilscher, ifm, Kuka and Multivac, SAP is in the process of founding the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance. Hala Zeine will present this venture to the public on Tuesday. The alliance members intend to create a standardized and open ecosystem for the operation of highly automated factories and plants, with the full integration of logistics and services. The alliance aims to overcome isolated proprietary solutions and give a decisive boost to the digital transformation of European industry ̶ the dream of real-time flows in the supply chain are about to become reality. Others are dreaming this dream too ‒ most recently BMW and Microsoft.
Magic costs money
Together with the future members, the alliance enterprises are planning a so-called Open Industry 4.0 Framework based on existing standards such as I/O Link, OPC UA and RAMI. “Or a LinkedIn for industry assets,” as Zeine describes it. Free of charge? “Yes.” But if you want to make full use of LinkedIn, you need premium access for leads, direct messages, etc. There are also plans to connect the framework to SAP’s solution portfolio. “The users pay for the ‘magic’, but we won’t compel anyone to switch to SAP. If required, companies can retain their MES. After all, the systems are intended to work together.” The goal: 80 percent of the machines in a smart factory should speak the same language. “Companies don’t want to tie themselves to a single large supplier.” According to the founders, ML applications and other services can be ‘magic’. Zeine looks at her smartphone – the messages continue to come in – and compares the new alliance with Apple and then corrects herself: “Actually, it’s more like Android, i.e. open.”
The open, standards-based concept of the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance consists of four elements: Device Connectivity, Edge, Operator Cloud, Cloud Central, plus related services. Device Connectivity establishes the links with the machines and the sensors. The Edge is the central node for all important and necessary local functions in the factory. The Operator Cloud is the central node in the customer’s company. This Operator Cloud also has an open layer and supports all company-centric functions and applications. Finally, Cloud Central enables the bi-directional exchange of data (in particular master data, but also measurement data derived from a calibration) and information (for example, technical documentation or repair instructions) across company boundaries. The cloud data centre is located in Frankfurt. “We will be presenting the first proofs of concept this summer,” Hala Zeine promises. SAP and their alliance have come at the right time. Her colleagues urge her to hurry up: she is due to appear on the podium together with Siemens. Is this a meeting of new competitors? “No, it’s called ‘coopetiton’. In some areas they work closely together; in others a competitive situation may arise. That’s the way the business world is today,” sums up Zeine.