The Industry Business Network 4.0 e.V. association was launched in the fall of 2016. The goal of the SME initiative: Together, the new association of machine and plant manufacturers wants to tap the great potential of networked manufacturing for the benefit of users. In an interview, association chairman Igor Mikulina (Managing Director MicroStep Europa GmbH) and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johannes Schilp (University of Augsburg, Chair of Production Informatics and Fraunhofer IGVC ) describe what has already been achieved and what concrete steps are now on the agenda.
Mr. Mikulina, the founding of the new association has triggered widespread media coverage. The idea of tackling the topic of smart factories as part of a medium-sized business initiative - across manufacturers and at eye level - continues to make waves. Where does the association stand today?
Igor Mikulina: Naturally, we were very pleased that the trade media relevant to our industry picked up on the topic. A young initiative like ours thrives on being talked about and generating interest. We have benefited greatly from this: More than a dozen companies, some of them well-known, have now joined the association. And at the next board meeting, we will once again be taking a slew of new members on board. At the same time, we have completed all preparations so that the association can start its operational work: The planning for a first reference plant at the association's headquarters in Bad Wörishofen.
is nearing completion. And at the beginning of July, we will be holding joint workshops to work out which concrete added values we want to demonstrate in the first step as part of the reference plant.
Prof. Dr. Schilp, you have been a member of the young association since it was founded and played a key role in developing and shaping the roadmap. In your view, what are the key success factors for the association to achieve its goals?
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johannes Schilp: It is important that we in the association have found a functioning structure for joint cooperation: In working groups, we will work out across manufacturers which added-value functions we want to develop for the end user in the context of networked production. The solution space for such concrete solutions is comprehensive; now it is a matter of jointly defining which topics from the areas of work and resource management, maintenance, energy efficiency, quality assurance, occupational safety and supply chain we will concretely tackle in the first step.
This could be, for example, automated maintenance management across manufacturers or the monitoring and reporting of the energy consumption of all the plants in a production facility. And then it will depend on how quickly we can demonstrate these solutions in the context of the reference plant, a cyber-physical production system in cross-manufacturer networked production.
Mikulina: We are currently working on this at full speed and are well on track. In my view, the challenge here is not to network the systems and demonstrate the functionalities defined by our members. Rather, the challenge lies in not only thinking about issues such as interoperability and safety and security from the outset, but also taking them into account structurally during development.
How does the association plan to accomplish this?
Mikulina: By working closely with experts such as Prof. Dr. Schilp and his team in the field of production informatics or TÜV Süd in the area of safety and security in all development steps right from the start. And we can also draw on a huge network of expertise from the manufacturers involved in the association.
What are the next milestones in the planning of Industry Business Network 4.0 e.V.?
Schilp: From the beginning of July, the operative association work of the members will start with the first working groups. In the fall, the Industry Business Network 4.0 will then present itself at several events. For example, in mid-November, the second edition of the Manufacturing 4.0 conference will be held at the association's headquarters in Bad Wörishofen. Here, we have set ourselves the goal of presenting an initial application based on cross-manufacturer networking of plants. This will not be a purely virtual demonstrator, but plants of member companies that want to participate accordingly will be integrated. So Industry Business Network 4.0 live and hands-on!
Mikulina: And before that, of course, we also want to fly the flag at the Schweißen und Schneiden 2017 trade show in Düsseldorf - every member company that exhibits there will be provided with information material by the association. As a result, we will achieve an impressive presence at the most important event in our industry this year. We are all medium-sized companies that have a lot in common when it comes to Industry 4.0: We are innovative, we are successful in what we do, and we are open to cooperation in principle - because we are convinced that only together and on an equal footing can we succeed in unlocking the great added value that a smart factory potentially offers for the benefit of our users.