Interview: “We are working hard and are doing well in the race”
In the autumn of 2016, the Association Industry Business Network 4.0 was launched. The aim of this SME initiative is as follows: Together, the new association of machine and plant producers wants to open up the great potential of networked production for the benefit of users. The chairman of the association, Igor Mikulina (Managing Director of MicroStep Europa GmbH) and Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johannes Schilp (University of Augsburg, Chair of Production Computer Science and Fraunhofer IGVC) describe in an interview what has already been achieved and what specific steps are on the agenda.
Mr Mikulina, the launch of the new association has triggered a broad media response. The idea of tackling the issue of the Smart Factory in the context of a medium-scaled business initiative – producer-independent and on an equal footing – is still making waves. Where is the association today?
Igor Mikulina: It goes without saying that we were very pleased that the specialist media on our industry picked up on this topic. A young initiative like ours thrives on being the subject of discussion and generating interest. We have benefited greatly from this: In the meantime, more than a dozen in some cases well-known companies have become involved in the association. And at the next board meeting, we will once again be welcoming a bunch of new members on board. At the same time, we have completed all preparations for the association to be able to begin its operational work: Planning for a first reference plant at the headquarters of the association in Bad Wörishofen
is about to be concluded. And at the beginning of July, we will hold joint workshops to work out what specific added value we want to demonstrate in the first step within the scope of the reference plant.
Prof. Dr. Schilp, you have accompanied the new association since its launch as a member and have played a decisive role in the development and design of the roadmap. In your opinion, 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 thematical and working groups, we will work out what value-added functions we want to develop for the end user in the context of networked production. The scope of solutions for such specific solutions is comprehensive, and it is now a matter of defining together what topics from the areas of work and resource management, maintenance, energy efficiency, quality assurance, occupational safety and the supply chain will be addressed in the first step.
This could mean, for example, a producer-independent automated maintenance management system or the monitoring and reporting of the energy consumption of all systems in a production plant. And then it will depend on how rapidly we can demonstrate these solutions within the context of the reference plant, a cyber-physical production system in cross-producer networked production.
Mikulina: We are currently working at full tilt on this and are doing well in the race. In my opinion, the challenge is not the networking of the systems or the demonstration of the functionalities defined by our members. Rather, the challenge lies in not only thinking about topics such as interoperability and safety and security from the ground up, but also taking them into account structurally during development.
How does the association intend to achieve this?
Mikulina: By working closely together 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 right from the start. And on the part of the producers engaged in the association, we can also fall back on a huge network of know-how.
What are the next milestones in the planning of the Industry Business Network 4.0 e.V.?
Schilp: From the beginning of July, the members’ operational association work will now start with the first thematical and working groups. In autumn, Industry Business Network 4.0 will be presented at several events. For example, the second meeting of the “Fertigung 4.0” congress will be held in Bad Wörishofen in mid-November. Here we have set ourselves the goal of presenting a first application based on cross-producer networking of systems. This will not be a purely virtual demo, but rather installations of the member companies that want to participate accordingly will also be included. So Industry Business Network 4.0 live and tangible!
Mikulina: And before that, of course, we also want to fly our flag at the Welding and Cutting 2017 trade fair in Düsseldorf – every member company exhibiting on site will be provided with the appropriate information material by the association. As a result, we will achieve a conspicuous presence at the most important event of our industry this year. We are all medium-scaled companies that have a lot in common when it comes to Industry 4.0: We are innovative, we are good at what we do and we are open to cooperation in principle – because we are convinced of this truth: Only together and on an equal footing can we succeed in tapping the great added value that the Smart Factory potentially offers in the interests of our users.