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Digitalisation is being talked about everywhere and the global economic landscape is changing constantly: products call for more individuality, machines are fighting for more say and software systems demand more equality.

This is not an election program, not a political manifesto – these are the current challenges of digitization in the manufacturing industry. Wherever strictly hierarchical and closely interlinked IT and OT networks have been created for decades, today’s flexibility is essential. Rigid structures must be made more permeable and flexible. The individual systems gain more say and can freely exchange with other participants in the network. Data and information must be mobile and therefore easily available everywhere. Thinking in layers is a thing of the past, the data is freed from their boxes. The democratization of the manufacturing systems will thus promote the potential of each individual sensor.

This is how digital integration succeeds: Manufacturing Service Bus

But what does this mean for production technology? On the one hand, the concept of networking gains another dimension. So far, there has been talk of horizontal and vertical integration in this context. However, cross-directional networking should be possible (omnidirectional) since the available interfaces may not influence the future selection of e.g. optimization applications. Another aspect is the modularity. With a closer look at the expert systems, functionalities are always offered via platforms. This complicates the use of specialized applications, since the integration effort is spared due to the high cost and error rate. As an example, the subject Supply Chain Management is mentioned here. The connection to different procurement marketplaces, whether internal or external, represents a decisive competitive advantage. Without the possibility to connect different as well as future systems, these chances remain unused.

A third not to be ignored point is the scalability. The shorter innovation cycles and dynamic expansion of the manufacturing industry also increase the need for software systems to grow. Unfortunately, the change here usually fails due to barriers and breaks in the communication flows of machines, people and processes as well as the lack of transparency in production – a must on the way to Industry 4.0. The claim is to ensure the connection of IT systems and machines, regardless of which interfaces and systems is concerned. By means of self-analysis, technical systems should be able to control and carry out self-optimization in production. The continuous transfer of information ensures transparency and reliability. The classic automation pyramid thus becomes superluous, a monolithic witness to an obsolete system. A new, service-oriented architecture makes the factory a smart factory.

Service-oriented architecture down to the field level

How do we rebuild the automation pyramid? How do we replace it with a networked, forward-looking structure? This fundamental transformation is made possible by the use of a Manufacturing Service Bus, such as the Orchestra Industry 4.0 Engine. The middleware is the mediator between all participants in a value chain. In doing so, internal communication protocols of the machines for the IT level are translated.
Orchestra ensures that even existing systems in the context of Industry 4.0 are made suitable for further use. Through independent coupling of the systems, it offers a faster and easier connection of production facilities as well as data consumers. For this, existing structures do not have to be renewed, but the middleware can be embedded in any existing IT / plant landscape and is therefore highly scalable. The migration process is carried out in phases and can also be operated parallel to the current architecture to avoid any downtime. The almost infinite number of interfaces that can be seen with regard to the manufacturing industry have so far been associated with a huge integration effort.The ever-increasing demands on the product to be manufactured require a new degree of flexibility. By using a manufacturing services bus like Orchestra these tasks are centralized and solved.

This article was created in collaboration with Christos Lithoxopoulos, Business Development Manager of our partner neogramm. He has appeared in full length and German language in Issue 1/18 of the Digital Manufacturing Magazine.