November 9, 2023

“Everybody fell in love with data spaces!”

Around the world manufacturing is in transition. That’s because, on the one hand, there is great uncertainty around supply chains, and on the other, new technologies are available to address this – and additionally make production more effective. But this technology is complex and can be confusing. In Italy, UCIMU-SISTEMI PER PRODURRE (the Italian machine tool, robots, automation systems and ancillary products manufacturers' association) provides advice and services to its member companies to help with the transition.

Enrico Annacondia, head of UCIMU’s Technical Department, explains, “We conduct analyses on foreign markets and on technical issues.” The studies conducted by the association deal with market analysis, as well as technology and production issues, research and innovation. “We try to avoid misperception of new technologies.”

Annacondia is convinced that European manufacturers will remain one of the pillars of the worldwide economy. In particular his sector, the machine tool industry, is one of the most important actors in the European manufacturing industry. Italy is the fourth biggest producer, user and exporter of machine tools and machine tools are the basis of any kind of industry. Therefore, a stronger machine tool industry is key for any economy.

“We created a group to invite experts we trust to explain the real world of digital manufacturing.” UCIMU companies were very interested but, often, their customers didn’t want to share data without knowing the exact use of this data. How to solve this problem? They heard about IDSA and data spaces. And “everybody fell in love with data spaces!” and even named the group the “UCIMU Data Space Committee”. Improving predictive maintenance is at the core of their data space activity. Because when a machine is not running, somebody loses money. But if stops of the production can be anticipated, it benefits the company and the customer.

The project has a bottom-up approach. “We are a machine tool association, but not all the members are “pure” mechanical companies. We have software development companies that develop code and digital solutions and we have a number of companies that develop components for electronic parts.” It is a collaborative approach. “I do believe that we are very close to the real industrial needs.” They have no budget from third parties (such as public ones), and everybody is free to participate. It’s very uncommon way of working, but it’s very effective, Annacondia stresses.

Physical goods are easy to protect, “you can lock the door and then nobody can take them.” But data is very difficult to protect. Companies want to secure their own information and need to ensure contractual clauses, because “if an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) is broken, you have to pay a lot of money, you lose your reputation and you can get in a lot of legal trouble.”

That’s why the companies decided to follow IDSA’s approach, which is modular, flexible, and secure. “You can adapt its structure to different sectors.” To be modular is important, because UCIMU associative compages is largely composed by SMEs companies.. The main challenge is always the same, but each industry solution has its own problems. This could also ensure interoperability between solutions developed by other European projects. “We are already in contact with European projects and initiatives.”

In October 2024 the UCIMU Data Space Committee will be part of BIMU, a huge trade show with about about 700 exhibitors in Milan. Many machines will be on display, but there is also a focus on digital manufacturing called BIMUDigital. This digital technology is not only interesting for machine tool users, but also attracts people from other sectors, such as the food industry.

At the show the UCIMU initiative will present its proof of concept, how it works, why it works, and what the benefits of data space implementations are. After that, “we’ll start the industrial implementation of our concept – with a focus of predictive maintenance.” So the event will not only showcase their work, but also introduce the data space concept to a wide audience, announcing: There is a solution for the biggest obstacle to the data economy!

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