Manufacturing adopts IoT, open systems, de-siloing and collaboration

via Flickr © pickinjim2006 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

via Flickr © pickinjim2006 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Or at least that’s the hope of the ecosystem builders
  • They see learnings from IT and now the telecoms industry being applied to manufacturing
  • And they see industrial IoT driven by 5G and the cloud as the way in

The Hannover Messe 2019 is on this week in Germany. Industrial technology is the speciality and the show seems to exhibit more and more crossover with telecoms every year. Of course there’s IoT and the expectation that 5G will really bring that sector to age. But even the buzz topics match up: “Discover future technologies like AI, blockchain and edge computing,” cries one large exhibitor.

This convergence is being platformed and ecosystemised with at least two major announcements so far.

There’s the Open Industry 4.0 Alliance, which claims to be building an open ecosystem for the digital transformation of industrial manufacturing plants.

And there’s the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP), launched by Microsoft and the BMW Group which styles itself as a “new initiative to drive open industrial IoT development and to help grow a community to build future Industry 4.0 solutions.”

Those buzzwords ‘open’, ‘ecosystem’, ‘platform’, ‘IoT’ betray the fact that the push is on to promote the benefits of open systems, de-siloing and collaboration and extend the learnings of the IT industry out to the industrial sector, where the technology is still very often proprietary and non-interoperable.

The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance is formed from the mechanical engineering, industrial automation and software industries, although the alliance is open to all companies. The founders say they want to overcome proprietary solutions and give a decisive boost to the digital transformation of the European industry. The goal is to get 80 per cent of the machines in a smart factory to speak the same language

Founding members include Beckhoff, Endress+Hauser Group, Hilscher, ifm, KUKA, MULTIVAC and SAP and other members include Balluff Group, Gebhardt Fördertechnik, Pepperl+Fuchs, ARVOS GmbH | SCHMIDTSCHE SCHACK, SAMSON and WIKA Alexander Wiegand.

The alliance points out that operations in factories, plants and logistics centers in midmarket and large enterprises are characterized by heterogeneity — many different systems from many different manufacturers with proprietary and varying standards in connectivity, data management, IT security and collaboration. This hotchpotch brings with it all the usual barriers to agility and scalability.


The Open Industry 4.0 Alliance offerings 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.

SAP acts as a sort of technological anchor tenant and glue to the alliance and the point is made that connections 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.” Microsoft performs a similar role for  the Open Manufacturing Platform.

Microsoft and BMW

At Hannover Messe, Microsoft and the BMW Group also announced a new community initiative to flatten silos and boost systems interoperability in the manufacturing sector where, it claims,  production and profitability can be hindered by complex, proprietary systems that create data silos and slow productivity.

The Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) is designed  to support the development of smart factory solutions that will be shared by OMP participants across the automotive and broader manufacturing sectors.

The goal is to significantly accelerate future industrial IoT developments, shorten time to value and drive production efficiencies while addressing common industrial challenges.

The initiative is built on the Microsoft Azure industrial IoT cloud platform and the OMP is intended to provide community members with a reference architecture with open source components based on open industrial standards and an open data model.

In addition to facilitating collaboration, this platform approach is designed to unlock and standardize data models that enable analytics and machine learning scenarios — data that has traditionally been managed in proprietary systems.

“Microsoft is joining forces with the BMW Group to transform digital production efficiency across the industry,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Microsoft Cloud + AI Group. “Our commitment to building an open community will create new opportunities for collaboration across the entire manufacturing value chain.”

With currently over 3,000 machines, robots and autonomous transport systems connected with the BMW Group IoT platform, which is built on Microsoft Azure’s cloud, IoT and AI capabilities, the BMW Group plans to contribute relevant initial use cases to the OMP community.

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