April 17, 2020

The Connected Factory (Part 2/3)

Many people still consider the smart, connected factory as something to emerge at some time in the future. However, as our co-exhibitors at IDS Virtual Expo demonstrate, such factories have become reality already. The enterprises are presenting use cases in which novel data-sharing concepts revolutionize our traditional notion of a factory.
Ralf Keuper

This second part of our series deals with novel business, payment, and financing models that can be created and established in the wake of the connected factory.

New business, payment, and financing models 

Increased electronic interconnection of production processes has led to the emergence of new business and payment models. Instead of purchasing machines, manufacturers today tend to buy machine performance (‘pay as you use’). Another payment model is ‘pay as you earn’, allowing manufacturers to be flexible with regard to installment payments, depending on the degree of capacity to which the machine has actually been utilized.

Besides new types of business and payment models, new types of financing models are becoming increasingly popular. Researchers of ibi research (University of Regensburg) and Fraunhofer IESE (Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering), who have coined the term ‘Finance 4.0’, have developed a concept named DFI4.0. The two partners are planning to initiate a consortium project for establishing an electronic marketplace mediating between investors and financial service providers (e.g. banks, leasing companies, investment funds, insurance companies) on the one side and manufacturing companies seeking new ways of financing production on the other side. In this scenario, digital twins of machines provide investors with machine data they need to view in order to make an investment decision. The overall goal of the project is to establish a digital ecosystem made up of investors, financial service providers, manufacturing companies, machine manufacturers, regulators, and additional service providers (e.g. for machine maintenance or logistics). To connect the shop floor and the cloud, solutions such as the one developed by Cybus can be used.

High-quality data brought together in a common data pool 

The data economy creates value if different types of data, coming from multiple parties and different sources, is aggregated, processed and refined. This leads to a common pool of high-quality data, from which every participating company can gain new, business relevant insights with the help of machine learning. As a result, companies can develop and offer novel products and services. Furthermore, it is possible to offer the data for sale via data marketplaces. Such marketplaces are made up of multiple micro-services running within a secure environment.

When it comes to sharing data and establishing a common data pool, data quality is critical. If data comes in different formats, and if systems lack interoperability, the need for manual rework is growing significantly, which makes the entire endeavor extremely error-prone. The data marketplace component of the IDS Reference Architecture makes sure all data shared and exchanged across the IDS ecosystem is delivered over a certified IDS Connector. This ensures that data originates from trustworthy sources and cannot be manipulated over the course of a transaction. Sharing and exchanging high-quality data within a secure environment is key for the data economy to produce success stories. One such success story is ADVANEO.

A proper and reliable technical infrastructure for the connected factory 

In order to ensure data sovereignty with regard to industrial data being exchanged across an integrated European data ecosystem, relying on operating systems ‘made in Europe’ is mission critical. Europe must by any means avoid becoming dependent on operating systems developed in the US or Asia (as is the case in the business-to-consumer domain) if it wants to build up a secure and trustworthy European data ecosystem for the business-to-business domain.

Currently a number of operating systems are being developed and tested in various projects across Europe (e.g. FabOS). Data sovereignty presupposes that sensitive data can be processed and stored securely and transparently. With this goal in mind, German Edge Cloud (GEC) – together with IoTOS, Rittal, and Bosch Connected Industry – has developed Oncite, an all-in-one industrial-edge data center. In the automotive industry, Oncite is used to make sure data can be securely exchanged between car manufacturers and top-tier suppliers across the entire value chainA similar approach is pursued by Smart Connected Supplier Network (SCSN), a Dutch field lab.

Combined with GAIA-X and IDS, solutions like Oncite and SCSN have the potential to contribute to the establishment of a European data ecosystem ensuring data sovereignty for all parties involved.

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Author: Ralf Keuper

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