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An encouraging article in the FAZ

Stephan Finsterbusch published an article entitled “The X-Factor” in the FAZ on April 23, 2014, on the Hannover Messe. The article is encouraging when looking at Germany as an industrial location. It shows where our industry – the big names as well as the hidden champions – not only has the future in its sights. At best, they already have it on their smartphones. The decisive factor is currently taking place in production. Smart automation is replacing rigid processes.

Rittal CEO Markus Asch (center) explains to Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the Hanover Fair how smart automation works with ONCITE DPS (Source Rittal)

Finsterbusch describes very clearly what Rittal demonstrated to the FAZ before the trade fair at the new Haiger plant and then to Chancellor Scholz in Hanover:

“With a flick of his finger, Moritz Heide gets a complete overview. He has his smartphone in his hand, has opened the in-house app and is now slowly scrolling through the program. First the factories in America, then those in Asia and finally those in Europe. He zooms deep into the data records of the individual production lines and workstations. What is happening in the distance and on site becomes visible on his screen in the form of colorful numbers, many curves and several bar charts. Everything in one app, everything at a glance, everything in real time. With his smartphone, Heide is at the center of a global industrial empire.”

The in-house app is the ONCITE Digital Production System (DPS) technology platform developed by Rittal’s sister company German Edge Cloud (GEC), which was founded in 2021. (See also my interview with CTO Andreas Zerfas.)

And the technology shown by Vice President Digital Operations Moritz Heide using the example of global production at Rittal is now also used by well-known industrial companies in their own factories, even if not all of them make this as public as the press manufacturer Schuler, whose Smart Press Shop set up with Porsche and SAP is also a topic at the trade fair and in the FAZ article.

Finsterbusch places the example of Rittal in a series with other trade fair highlights and projects, which all seem to be connected in some way by an X in their name. Gaia-X, Manufacturing-X, Factory-X, Catena-X, Aerospcae-X, Semicon-X and others. These are all follow-up projects to the major Industry 4.0 initiative, which are now turning the smart factory concept into reality. (Incidentally, ONCITE DPS was the first system to be certified by Catena-X).

The X stands for transparency


What does the X stand for? You could say it stands for the connection and communication of all devices and machines via product and production data in real time. And in such a way that they are transparent for those involved on their smartphone at any time and anywhere. With security against unauthorized access, of course.

This transparency can be achieved in various ways. For example, by consolidating all data via a single system. Large companies do this with enterprise software from SAP or Siemens.

Or they can build a digital factory environment based on open standards such as Linux. This is the solution that Rittal has chosen.

Energy monitoring with ONCITE at the Rittal plant in Haiger (Image Rittal)

It is probably no coincidence that the Friedhelm Loh Group’s sister companies Rittal, Eplan, Cideon and German Edge Cloud have been exhibiting together at major trade fairs since the first presentation of ONCITE DPS. Rittal’s own IT specialists connect the data with the solutions of the other three.

Transparency starts in-house with an ecosystem that links digital twins of control cabinets, circuit diagrams, cabling and machines. But standardized in such a way that Schuler and others can enjoy the same benefits.

This is the path that a whole range of companies are now taking, which are brought together on the Smart Automation page on this news portal and compared in some of the special features of their platforms: Bosch Rexroth with ctrlX AUTOMATION, Contact Software with Elements for IoT, FLECS Technologies with FLECS, German Edge Cloud with ONCITE DPS, KEBA AG with Kemro X, Lenze with Lenze NUPANO, Phoenix Contact with PLCnext Technology, SALZ Automation with SALZ Controller, Siemens with Industrial Operations X, TTTech Industrial Automation AG with Nerve, WAGO with WAGO OS and WAGO ctrlX OS, Weidmüller with easyConnect and u-OS.

Some of them also have an X in the name of their platform. In others, the X rings through, as in FLECS. All of them run with real-time Linux, which incidentally also ends in an x. Almost all of them can be used for x links between devices from x different manufacturers. This makes it flexible, because it works via interoperating composable software, container apps and their APIs.

At the end of his article, Finsterbusch draws what I consider to be an encouraging conclusion with regard to the local industry, which I will now leave at the end of my article without comment:

“At Schuler/Porsche in Halle, at SAP in Walldorf, at Siemens in Munich, Erlangen and Amberg, they have the future just as much in mind as at Rittal in Haiger, Hessen – only the latter already have it on their smartphones there too. An app for everything, for digital data from production, for an overview of the company’s own plants, for the smooth organization of new and old factories. Production is running at full speed, they say. “Demand is huge,” says Rittal boss Asch in Hanover – and all the indicators on his cell phone are green.”