Silent revolution: conventional automation converges with IT
Hannover Messe 2018 is shining a bright spotlight on the topic of “Integrated Industry – Connect & Collaborate” in its IAMD (Integrated Automation, Motion & Drives) and Digital Factory halls, where companies will be showcasing their own self-transformation processes as well as their latest solutions and business models resulting from the combination of IT with integrated automation.
“IT and industry originally converged from two different places, but thanks to the influence of digital transformation, they are now pulling in the same direction and can no longer be viewed as separate entities,” says Arno Reich, global director of IAMD and Digital Factory and a member of the Hannover Messe team. “Automation providers now have enormous software competence and are upgrading their products and services based on digital technologies. At the same time, IT and Internet companies are turning to industry and adapting their previous offerings due to the attractiveness of this new application area, the keyword being ‘platform economics.”
To tap the potential of digital transformation in industry, companies need to rethink and change. As a result, automation providers are also becoming software providers and mechanical engineering firms are offering digital products and services. The VDMA has extensive data on how the mechanical engineering industry is driving digitisation forward. The association’s studies show how apps, big data analytics and digital platforms are rapidly gaining in importance. Around 20 percent of mechanical engineering companies are moreover planning to spin off their digital business projects into corporate subsidiaries.
“We are currently experiencing a sea change,” says Rainer Glatz, managing director of the Electrical Automation and Software and Digitisation associations within the VDMA. “For a number of years, digitisation technologies like PLM, MES and CRM have had to contend with the argument that they are too expensive. This has changed. Digitisation is increasingly seen as an engine for new business models as well as additional revenue.”
In addition to IT giants like Microsoft , SAP , IBM or Amazon Web Services , whose platforms and tools support digital transformation in industry, industrial enterprises have also set out to offer digital solutions and platforms via their subsidiaries. The new ideas emerging from this clearly stem from the networking and cooperation of myriad players.
For example, the Swiss electrical engineering group ABB and IT service provider IBM are jointly developing industrial products based on the use of artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, Turck has acquired software from IoT specialist Beck IPC and intends to use it to drive its Cloud services. The goal: a sensor-to-cloud platform for all sectors of industry. Bosch and SAP are also cooperating through a strategic partnership for the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, with the goal of expanding their collaboration in Cloud technologies and software solutions. Meanwhile, Festo and Huawei are launching a new business model. This involves robotics as a service based on real-time data transfer from robots to the cloud. Robotics specialist KUKA is also undoubtedly a digital pioneer. Based on KUKA’s Connyun IoT platform, VINCI Energies will be implementing integrated Industry 4.0 solutions, from basic design to full system integration, with the goal of ideally intersecting with manufacturers’ growing demand for data-driven process optimisation. Finally, close cooperation exists between the IFM Group and SAP. This includes secure data exchange between sensors and SAP’s cloud platform as well as other development projects related to the cloud-based management of large sensor and actuator networks.
Apart from networking and collaboration, another key aspect consists of openness. MindSphere is the cloud-based, open IoT operating system from Siemens. And Axoom also sees itself as an open, digital business platform that wants to shape the future of production along the value-added chain within the context of Industry 4.0. The focal point here is the comprehensive connection of machines, software and processes, with people as the decisive factor.
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