Automation and IT: Partners in Industry 4.0
Hannover. Not so long ago, industrial automation and IT were two separate spheres with little or no overlap. Fast forward to the present, and digitization has blurred these boundaries almost beyond recognition. Today, the world’s leading providers of automation technology and production machinery have morphed into pioneers of digital transformation, while the big software providers have diversified into solutions for industrial manufacturing. “The convergence of automation and IT now sweeping across industry is of course also reflected at HANNOVER MESSE,” says Arno Reich, Global Directorand as members of the HANNOVER MESSE family. “With its chosen lead theme of “Industrial Intelligence”, HANNOVER MESSE 2019 is not only putting the spotlight on digitally enabled collaboration between people and machines in today’s age of artificial intelligence, but also revealing the source of the necessary expertise, namely platforms that build bridges between people, machines and data.”
“Implementing Industry 4.0 hinges on close cooperation between IT and automation. Naturally, things don’t always go smoothly. The main challenge is getting the two disciplines to understand each other,” explains Rainer Glatz, director of the Electrical Automation and Software & Digitalization associations within the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), adding: “They speak in different tongues and have different organizational make-ups and approaches, leading to frequent misunderstandings, conflicts of interest and needless competition at their points of intersection.”
That said, there are countless examples of successful collaboration. One of these is Adamos: an IIoT alliance between various plant and machinery providers and software company Software AG. The alliance aggregates machine data from the various participating manufacturers in order to develop smart services for customers. Similarly, ABB and IBM have embarked on a strategic partnership for artificial Intelligence. AI and its growing importance for industry feature very prominently at HANNOVER MESSE – hence the “Industrial Intelligence” component of the lead theme for its 2019 showcase.
Some cross-disciplinary partnerships are very new. The one between Bosch and Huawei is a case in point. In October this year, the two companies announced that they will be partnering to make Bosch’s IoT services available to the strategically important Chinese market via Huawei’s cloud platform. Bosch and Huawei are also members of the Industrial Internet Consortium, where, among much else, they have jointly advocated for harmonized industrial standards. One interesting alliance between classic automation providers and ICT specialists is the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA), established by the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI). The aim of 5G-ACIA is to ensure that the forthcoming 5G mobile data standard addresses industrial requirements and is applied in industrial production settings so as to accelerate the realization of Industry 4.0.
Alongside these automation-IT alliances, numerous IT-industry firms are joining forces with each other in order to develop better solutions for their industrial customers. The alliance between Software AG and hardware provider Dell is a good example of this. Another is the partnership between DXS Technology and Amazon Web Services (AWS), who are planning to jointly develop industry-specific services based on AWS cloud technology. Of course, these sorts of alliances are not without their challenges either. Rainer Glatz: “One of the biggest problems in realizing Industry 4.0 is that many of the companies involved lack digitization know-how and the necessary specialist staff. Consequently, traditional IT companies need to do more to work alongside startups. Interdisciplinary teams made up of seasoned automation experts and young IT-savvy co-workers are another fruitful approach.”
HANNOVER MESSE 2019 will feature the full range of products and solutions for the factory of the future, including factory and process automation systems, industrial IT, robotics, smart drives, and intelligent hydraulics and pneumatics systems.