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Standards-Based Interoperability in Mechanical and Plant Engineering

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Standards-Based Interoperability in Mechanical and Plant EngineeringStandards such as OPC UA and umati are becoming increasingly important in the context of interoperability for the standardized integration of business processes in mechanical and plant engineering. Why do we need international standards and how can SEEBURGER solutions support digitization in mechanical and plant engineering? Find out here why standards-based interoperability between machines and software systems is becoming increasingly important for mechanical and plant engineering.

Standards-Based Interoperability – What does that Mean?

Products, processes and organizational procedures in mechanical and plant engineering are becoming increasingly complex. Companies have long since ceased to operate just one type of machine, such as machine tools in production or at shop floor level, and now work with a company-specific mix of diverse machines and plants, machine tools, robots and systems. They quickly reach their limits with the existing machine interfaces.

The call for standards-based interoperability between machines and software systems is growing louder and louder – from the shop floor to business IT and even to the cloud, provided that applications are operated in the cloud. The increasing digitization of production to meet future requirements in the area of Industry 4.0 /(I)IoT and digital services makes standardized interfaces for industrial communication on and between different levels indispensable.

Interoperability is the basis for a continuous flow of information in the entire product lifecycle along the value chain and thus the basis for the digital transformation and all associated measures in the realization of Industry 4.0/IIoT and digital services as well as a platform economy.

For interoperability to succeed, the meaning of the data must be clearly described on the basis of standards. This data is then exchanged between all involved actors, systems and endpoints, such as products and machines, plants and robots. In this way, they can be interpreted and processed correctly and trigger further actions or processes.

Standards-Based Interoperability for the Exchange of Operational, Measurement and Sensor Data

For the most diverse branches of mechanical and plant engineering, not only commercial – (B2B/EDI), technical – (CAD/CAx), logistical – and service-related data play a role, but also the exchange of operating, measurement and sensor data is becoming increasingly important. This is intensified by the increasing digitization of shop floor processes and by the integration of business IT with production systems within the framework of Industry 4.0 /(I)IoT.

The data at shop floor level is usually linked to the individual products and processes in their operational environment. This information is often only stored in proprietary formats in the respective IT systems. Standards for data exchange and system integration are therefore becoming increasingly important. This is because they considerably simplify the exchange of information and make machines and systems significantly more efficient.

Standards-Based Interoperability Along the Entire Industrial Value Network

The mechanical and plant engineering industry is making great efforts to create information models based on internationally recognized standards, such as OPC UA (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) and umati (universal machine tool interface) for machine tools, or to combine existing approaches. From this, a specification called ‘OPC UA for Machinery’ is to be developed and published with the aim of bringing together all resulting basic information models in this field.

Machines, devices and capability descriptions can be mapped in OPC UA and described in OPC UA Companion Specifications (CS). An OPC UA CS is a manufacturer-independent information model that describes the interface between machines, systems and other components. With the help of an OPC UA CS and standardized device and capability information, a machine, system or component can be more easily integrated into a system network. Integration into software systems for planning and controlling production is also much more efficient.

The use of such standards ensures a system- and supplier-neutral exchange of data by means of uniform interfaces, which brings advantages for machine and plant manufacturers as well as operators and system integrators. Scenarios such as condition monitoring, predictive maintenance and production optimization as well as product-related digital services based on international standards can be implemented more efficiently.

It is important to consider the requirements of the entire industrial value-added network. To this end, actors, systems and other end points within and outside the ‘mechanical and plant engineering’ sector are integrated bi-directionally if possible. This enables data exchange and integration with all actors and processes, including those from other branches of the mechanical and plant engineering industry, such as electrical drive technology, plastics and rubber machines, industrial image processing, metallurgy, robotics and machine tools.

Standards-Based Interoperability – Comprehensive Solutions from Integration Platforms to Digitization Consulting

SEEBURGER supports the internationally recognized standards such as OPC UA with a wide range of solutions and platforms and reduces costs through faster implementation of customer-specific projects in the entire machine and plant construction and:

  • supports integration and communication through standards-based interfaces, API and API management for endpoints such as machines, plants, machine tools or robots to the applications involved in the process, such as MES, ERP, automation systems and services such as digital services
  • simplifies the machine connection to business IT and other IT solutions and processes
  • creates horizontal and vertical integration capabilities to communicate relevant data to other authorized process participants, e.g. up to the MES, PPS/ERP and cloud levels
  • offers different operational options that can be adapted to customer needs, such as on-premises, cloud or hybrid
  • enables individual mapping and exchange of data for customer or manufacturer specific configurations of information models for machines, plants and machine tools through many years of experience
  • offers holistic consulting for digitization, industry 4.0/(I)IoT and PLM from concept definition to implementation support of necessary solutions

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About the Author:

Seref Erkayhan
Dr.-Ing. Seref Erkayhan is product manager for engineering (CAD/CAx) and product data exchange at SEEBURGER AG. He heads the division for mechanical and plant engineering.

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