Unternehmen & Trends 1/2024

30 comprising manufacturing, assembly and material flow processes, sensors, actuators, controllers and their real-time communication was largely independent of higher-level IT systems, including, of course, the internet. The ERP and MES layers had their own systems with separate functions. With the development of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things, end-to-end networking “from the sensor to the cloud” and collaborative approaches for data exchange, the architecture, interaction and responsibilities of IT and OT have changed completely: IT is becoming an integral part of field devices and machines. Accessing the data of field devices and machines is now standard in plants across all levels of the old automation pyramid. The layer model has given way to a network of devices that all have internet connectivity as a matter of course. Many companies use machine and system data to continuously improve their performance indicators. The next step will be to collect and analyze data across the complete life cycle of products and systems and to exchange them with other companies, such as suppliers and customers. This will allow organizations to exploit further potentials, for example:  i n engineering, to test and quickly commission production systems and their digital twins,  a long the supply chain, to enable continuous traceability, or  t o improve production processes by rapidly adjusting process parameters due to changing conditions or measurements. Asset management systems manage digital twins of production systems during their entire life cycle, including their skills, capacities, links, communication, etc. Business applications like MES use this data as a base for order planning or task sequences, coordinating tool use and staff schedules and The next step in digital trans- formation: data ecosystems for production By Dr. Olaf Sauer, Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation (IOSB), Karlsruhe Germany has a strong industrial background. It is globally recognized for its expertise in plant operations, mechanical engineering, electrical and automation engineering, microelectronics and embedded systems, production-related IT and complete systems integration. Hardly any other country can match this wealth of knowledge and experience. Value creation is the catalyst for ‘the wealth of nations’ For many years, companies have had full order books, maxing out their development and production capacities. The question is: Will this continue in the future, and how can German industry maintain or even increase its competitiveness? And what role does digital transformation play in this process? Since the start of Industry 4.0, many companies have taken steps to digitally transform their processes, with varying degrees of success; often, proprietary solutions haven’t lived up to expectations. Businesses have become a lot more cautious as a result. However, they now run the risk of missing out on the key opportunities that digitalization offers, such as additional data-based services for factories, machines and their components. There is no doubt that digitalization is a key strategic element for all manufacturing industries. Whether you’re a plant operator, machine builder, component supplier or automation provider: Digital twins, artificial intelligence, industrial data spaces and data exchange across companies are vital topics for the future. Fraunhofer IOSB has been developing and supplying pioneering solutions for industrial automation and digitalization for decades. While trends and buzzwords may have changed over the years, the challenges have stayed very similar: collect, communicate and process heterogeneous signals and data from industrial processes, and then prepare, analyze and interpret them with state-of-the-art software tools in complex IT components and systems. The digital transformation continues Before Industry 4.0, everything was “as it should be”: Manufacturing and IT were two separate worlds. The automation pyramid represented common sense: the field layer Images: © IOSB