Many advanced methods, structures and paradigms have been developed in the last decade, with hundreds of billions of investments in the Internet economy. Many of the concepts are so familiar today that it is hard to remember what came before and the revolutionary force with which these concepts have conquered the world in a very short space of time: hypertext markup language, releases, universal resource locator, crowd, content, cloud, browser.
In the industrialised nation of Germany, as part of the Industry 4.0 program, industrial associations, research institutes, innovative software providers and the federal government are working on transferring these paradigms to the physical production of goods in order to identify new potential for increasing efficiency and for differentiation.
In their activities, these bodies are using the technology of the mobile Internet itself, both in terms of hardware (mobile chipsets) and software. The result is a selforganizing, highly flexible production system in which product design, components, manufacturing cells and logistics systems are networked with each other and equipped with decentralised intelligence.
By 2025, this will be nothing less than the fourth industrial revolution and will break down, regroup or even completely replace many achievements of the previous industrial revolutions, such as mechanisation, engines and the production line.
One example of this change is the replacement of the production line with manufacturing cells. The machines in a manufacturing cell will log on to the cloud with a description of their own capabilities (processing modes, precision, availability) via hypertext markup languages. Workpieces will become smart objects thanks to the attachment of a grain-sized microprocessor equipped with its own energy-harvesting capability, own sensors, wireless communication and satellite navigation. A processing plan will be stored in this microprocessor by the product design team or by independent production schedulers, allowing it to make its way independently from manufacturing cell to manufacturing cell and from manufacturer to manufacturer like an network packet by requesting means of transport.
It is a concrete vision that all associations, businesses, researchers and suppliers can use as the basis for their work. The challenge now is to find the right steps at the right time to cope with all the necessary transitional stages.
As one of the most experienced software companies in Germany, PSI has a wealth of expertise and products built up over many years that cover the entire production and logistics process as well as all levels of resource planning systems for planning and optimisation through to production control. With our extensive solution portfolio and the industry expertise that has grown in the last 45 years, we have already begun at an early stage to prepare our products for the requirements of the future-oriented project Industry 4.0.
In close collaboration with leading partners from the fields of science, research and industry, we are involved in implementing the vision in production and logistics in multiple research projects. The results are tested practically in pilot projects and are incorporated in the further development of our software products, making them available to all PSI customers.
PSI implements the software products in Java, the leading programming language, in the open development environment Eclipse. With hundreds of thousands of engineering hours, the group has built its own platform in this environment in order to deliver high availability in industry and realtime performance. With the rollout of this platform in all PSI business areas, we are also creating a basis that guarantees our customers a high degree of flexibility and security for the future. The new PSIpenta product version 9 is an example of the successful implementation of this strategy.
The combination of customer proximity, ground-breaking research projects and important industry standards as part of our group platform is a significant part of our product strategy. This ensures that our solutions take into account current and future trends and actively support the structural change to Industry 4.0.
The product designer has the intellectual ownership of the product and bears responsibility for the design and for entrepreneurial risks. The product designer may not have any connection to the company that is responsible for the performance of production and transport services. Exceptions to this rule can be highly specific value creations that feature a new level of quality and are decisive in terms of differentiation. Usually, however, production and transport service providers will grant everyone access to the manufacturing cells without prior notice and only with electronic billing – just as anyone can offer their product worldwide via YouTube or in the App Store and use the associated reproduction and transport capacities.
The products are developed further in the course of releases. Every end product produced may differ slightly (minor release) or structurally (major release) from previous products. Highly individual products, customized products and massproduced products differ only in the price of the individual design service costs. Old and new releases are produced at the same time.
Entrepreneurial capital for the opportunities and risks of product design, production planning, manufacturing cells and transport facilities will be used, as it is today, by creative businesses – but also by corporations and in even greater detail and more directly by crowds. On the internet, this is all difficult to imagine any other way, but when it comes to physical production it sounds very much like a dream for the future. Arranging plant annual shutdowns for the conversion of a production line for a new vehicle model will one day become something as obsolete as the record shops, cathode ray tube televisions and wired telephones that originated from the same era.
The flexibility, efficiency and differentiation of the new value creation chain of the fourth industrial revolution excel over conventional forms of production by double-figure percentages, and will win the day.
Dr. Harald Schrimpf
Photos (top to bottom): Christian Kielmann