Select Page

Announcement of a new “Smart Automation” section on this portal

It is the field of manufacturing automation or industrial automation that will give industry and the industrial location in this country a new face in the coming years. From pre-programmed controllers, monolithic production systems and proprietary devices, the big step is towards open, Linux-based automation apps in the cloud and edge. From a world of technicians to the industrial internet. The obstructive wall between Operation Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) is becoming history.

For many decades, the automation pyramid was a good representation of the rigid relationships in the control of manufacturing processes. (Image Sendler)

It is only logical that automation is taking the lead in the digital transformation. After all, it was automation in the 1960s and 1970s that brought about the third industrial revolution with PLCs, Scada and OPC UA. Even if it wasn’t called that back then. It was the programmable and programmed automation of manufacturing processes that secured Germany and the entire D A CH region a leading role in the global manufacturing industry for decades.

Industry 4.0 was the wake-up call for the fourth industrial revolution at the beginning of the last decade. The most important result of the initiative was the standardization that the industry implemented with the help of science and associations and the support of politicians. In particular, the Industry 4.0 administration shell for digital communication is the basis for countless innovations in industry today.

On the IT side, there has also been a revolution through open standards in the same period. Linux, Kubernetes and REST API became generally accepted as web technology standards. And this is exactly how programming is done in the industry today. Whether you call it composable software or not.

What was still missing were real-time-capable operating systems and platforms based on open standards that could be used to securely control environments as complex as the industrial shopfloor.

Now this is also available. Bosch Rexroth, for example, has opened up the ctrlX OS operating system for the ctrlX AUTOMATION platform to partners and competitors.

And something else was needed that is now available: data spaces that technically ensure that nothing can be done with data that is not part of the agreement for data exchange in the digital ecosystem. The International Data Spaces Association (IDSA) takes care of such data spaces. Practical implementations include Catena X for the automotive industry and Manufacturing X for mechanical engineering.

Presentation of the Linux operating system ctrlX OS for the ctrlX AUTOMATION platform from Bosch Rexroth at SPS 2023 (Photo Sendler)

Why are these changes so important? Because they are the only way to enable industry to master the challenges that have grown at a tremendous pace and scale in recent years: energy transition and energy saving, greenhouse gas reduction and general sustainability, verifiable supply chains right down to the raw material mine, flexibility with suppliers and partners, and all this with a trend towards batch size 1 and at the speed and price of mass production.

And lo and behold, with web technology and modern automation platforms, the industry is becoming more flexible, agile and fast in its core area of production than was conceivable ten years ago.

View into the production hall of the new Rittal plant in Haiger, where the dashboards receive their data from the ONCITE DPS. (Photo Rittal)

The Bosch Rexroth platform is not the only one. At the Rittal plant in Haiger, GEC has used ONCITE DPS to demonstrate that enclosures can be manufactured faster and better this way. The smart system is also ideally suited to reach out for energy monitoring and, in future, energy management.

With PLCnext, Phoenix Contact not only offers the same type of embedded software for its automation hardware, but has also created a platform for third parties. With easyConnect and the u OS operating system, Weidmüller has such a platform that is not limited to automation, but supports the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) in the broad.

This is not the end of the development, it is the beginning. The coming years will show which platforms will emerge and become established for which areas of application, which infrastructure is best suited to which of the new ecosystems and how quickly the industry will use these new opportunities to make widespread use of generative AI and cloud technology.

I am now making this major transformation of industry the subject of a dedicated landing page on this news portal Industrie-Digitalisierung. Everything worth knowing about the industry on its way into this new world of “Smart Automation” can be found here. All platform providers and important pioneers in use, all important developments. “Smart Automation” is a work in progress.