Several white connector plugs

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Making complexity manageable

Industrie 4.0 factories will feature an unprecedented degree of automation and extensive use of the Internet. Different systems need to be able to communicate and interact. For this to succeed, the interfaces must be harmonised. This in turn requires interfaces to be designed according to internationally agreed norms and standards.

People will initially take on the role of the developer and user who controls, monitors and, when necessary, intervenes in ongoing processes.

The interaction and communication between the factories and their machines transcends operational and organisational boundaries. Companies in different sectors, such as suppliers, logistics companies and manufacturers, are linked to each other in a value system. This is now a matter of course for consumers: USB cables connect printers to laptops, music files are transferred between MP3 players and mobile phones by Bluetooth and vice versa. The communication is almost seamless because the manufacturers of the various components have agreed on common interfaces. The manufacturing industry is now faced with this standardisation process; one which will define the mechanisms for cooperation in advance. To this end, so-called reference architectures are being defined: idealised models which provide the framework for the development, integration and operation of the relevant technical systems.

Developing a common language and definitions

A reference architecture – a set of uniform definitions and methods – forms the basis for this. It provides a common structure and language for the uniform description and specification of system architectures. Plattform Industrie 4.0 has proposed a solution-neutral reference architecture model, RAMI 4.0, which will form the basis for the platform’s future work. In addition to this, a description needs to be developed in collaboration with the expert committees of what constitutes an Industrie 4.0 component and how it can be encapsulated in an ‘administrative shell’. Moreover, the reference architecture model can be used to develop an Industrie 4.0 ontology, a grammar and semantics – and thus a common language. This calls for cooperation across sectors and industries. The collective approach of the mechanical and plant engineering, automation technology, IT and manufacturing industries will lead to a holistic view of Industrie 4.0 and its ontology.