SCALABLE ICT FOR INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY IN MECHATRONICS MANUFACTURING
Mechatronic manufacturers often face a fundamental contradiction: on one hand they manufacture high-tech devices for the production of tomorrow, but on the other hand they become fragmented with too many manual processes, due to the high diversity in their own production process. The lack of interconnectivity complicates the cross-process and cross-domain horizontal value creation, as well as innovative interactions with industry 4.0-solutions on the shop floor.
Today’s IT-solutions are often too complex, inflexible and heavyweight for many of the potential users. This results in an inability to scale under economic conditions and no effective support for decentralized process composition by using intelligent tools. To close this gap and thereby to obtain technological leadership, it requires a co-innovation that is oriented on the shop floor.
Objective of the research project ScaleIT is the development of a scalable technical platform, which provides measurements and data from sensors as well as intelligent tools and will be linked to existing IT systems. Apps (software modules) will link the data to information. The application of intelligent tools, such as interactive documents, intelligent workpiece carrier or test equipment, will make test processes more efficient due to a higher transparency and will support all process parties to take decisions.
By providing very low barriers of entry as well as high value and usefulness, the ScaleIT approach aims at making cyber-physical system modules, such as intelligent tools, a key factor on the shop floor of smaller companies. For this purpose, the project researches the integration of hardware components by software based adaptation and composition mechanisms. The mechanisms are built upon web technologies and an app concept, leading to responsive designs and semantic mash ups. The latter are refined for the integration of intelligent tools, the adaptation of HMIs and dynamic data stream composition on the shop floor. These are intended to encourage the use and the development of innovative hardware solutions.
Manufacturers in the domain of mechatronics (Zeiss 3DA, RoodMicrotec, Feinmetall, Digiraster and SICK) will develop and test new intelligent tools, characterized by low investment costs (low infrastructure investments, opportunistic implementation strategies, manageable software costs due to the app store principle, low socio-technical barriers of entry) as well as high flexibility and customizability. These companies are supported by a group of innovative IT-SMEs in the domains of gateways (Ondics), monitoring (Bull) and HMIs (Smart HMI). The research partners (TECO at KIT, Fraunhofer IAO and Uni Stuttgart, IAT) contribute new dynamic approaches for hardware connectivity as well as data and interface adaptation to the project.
Within the project, concrete use cases of the participating companies serve as a basis for a holistic and economic view of the entire system. The scalability of applications stands in the focus of the research, even in the concrete use cases. However, the scalability also implies the scaling regarding the staff’s qualification as well as the scaling of simple isolated solutions and informal ad-hoc processes horizontally to complex value creation chains.
The results of the project will serve as a “showcase” demonstrating how intelligent tools, as the core of industry 4.0-solutions, can be lucratively used in the production.