Integrated Industry - Editorial Magazine Monitor, Bender
The Bender Group at Grünberg, Germany, a provider of solutions for electrical safety, in the issue 1/13 of its customer magazine monitor has taken up as the title theme this year's theme of the Hannover Messe "Integrated Industry" and asked Ulrich Sendler to write a product and vendor neutral editorial it. Here it is. The printed version of the Monitor article can be downloaded here.
– big idea, but it covers a lot
Integration means not going back to ‘everything under one roof’, but opening the door to new forms of cooperation
Integrated Industry – the Hanover Trade Fair has taken a seriously important main topic for the 2013 event. And the first reaction from industry – and it is all about this sector and above all the exhibitors from it – seems to confirm that it hits the mark exactly. Integration is the subject that industry, particularly German manufacturing, is concerned with above all else. It is therefore worthwhile taking a closer look at the subject and studying more closely what is actually to be integrated, why it has become such a general topic and why it is so urgent.
The organization of industrial companies has been changing more or less continuously in the last 200 years, from make-to-order through to serial manufacture in the millions. Now we are experiencing an amazing coexistence and intermingling of ultra-small job lots and individual variants that are still capable of being economically brought to market utilizing mass manufacturing methods. Two main paths have led to this success.
The first one consists of driving the distribution of labor and specialization to the point where high-quality components could be delivered in the shortest possible time. To do so, not only specialization within the company had to be driven to the extreme, the company even lost its original integrated form. One single company has not supplied everything for a long time and neither has development and manufacture taken place under a single roof. For a new range of products in the automobile industry – i.e. the kind of project that has a specific and defined goal – thousands of companies have come together to form an extended company that no longer represents a company organization in the real sense. This giant “distributed” company operates across national boundaries and even worldwide, this being the only way in which products can today be produced in an economic manner in spite of the enormous diversity of customer wishes.
The second path that arrives at today's situation is closely linked to the first one. The only way to extend and virtualize the company as it is experienced today is through the use of computers for the digital development and manufacture of products and systems by means of – in comparison to earlier documents – fast and easy exchange of data. And the only way of creating a globally distributed “company” is by means of the Internet and the global networking possibilities offered by the World Wide Web.
Organization in industry now implies a virtual distributed organization with many thousands of participants. Here competitors work closely together on an as-needed basis while still engaged in bitter competition with one another in other fields, or in the same one after the project has ended. A good example here is engine development, for which automobile concerns nowadays enter partnerships.
Although this was so positive in its effect initially, it today calls for some kind of consolidation. The communication between the many participants, the clients, partners and suppliers – without even taking the end customer into consideration – can in no way be compared with the direct communication between staff in two neighboring departments. This is because the technical information systems that are used everywhere still date from the time when there were no smartphones or mobile terminals. They can only communicate indirectly since each has its own language, and the organization of a small company specialized in software is different than that of a constructor of large systems, thus making communication – to put it mildly – difficult.
Integrated Industry means in all cases a modern industrial organization. We have to find new ways that permit a distributed organization that comes together only for a short period to internally consult, formulate requirements and communicate and follow up on their implementation. The old specification sheets will soon look as outdated as the technical drawing done by hand on a draftsman's table has been for decades. The integration of the industrial organization can therefore not be thought of as a way back to “everything under one roof” but as finding new ways of cooperating. The future of the organization lies in its networking.
Network processes for a networked industry
The second big topic in industry is in the processes that have, across many years, crystallized out for the specific product and method of production. These processes continue to be refined and optimized for planning, development, production, order administration and customer service. For a long time it has been said that the improvement of processes never ceases and that a good company is in particular characterized by the fact that its processes are constantly changing.
In the same way that the organization has fundamentally changed due to the influence of modern technologies, processes fundamentally change when they are no longer defined and followed through within a closed company, but are split among hundreds or even thousands of participants who are not subject to a common form of discipline.
These processes, distributed worldwide, now also demand a suitable form of integration. The interplay of the sub-processes must be simplified and improved. Whether the standardization of procedures, communication paths or the establishment of common terminologies with the aim of forming a meaningful whole out of a confusion of individual processes that are not matched to one another – industry needs modern information technologies that can handle the task of integration here. It must, however, be tailored to the specific purpose and the processes to be developed in the industries concerned. The subject of security has recently shown that IT security for the PC and the use of standard software fundamentally require other measures as the security of IT controllers in automation systems. In the one case it is protection against data theft and unauthorized use of data that is important, in the other, the protection of company-critical systems against deliberate or accidental control malfunctions or even sabotage. In the same way, the integration of industrial processes needs solutions different to those needed for the integration of citizen registration procedures or the statistical evaluation of school results. Here it is not about the best possible recording and assessment of data – in the end analysis, value must be added.
The third area that is more and more strongly calling for integration is to be found in the intelligent and increasingly networked systems that mean that almost every product is today accompanied by a complexity that is almost impossible to control. Embedded software is everywhere, from the electric toothbrush and the coffee machine to the automobile. In a preview of the 2013 Hanover Trade Fair, Professor Manfred Broy gave several figures: With up to 100 million lines of programming code, a top-of-the-range vehicle has around double the amount of software that the Space Shuttle has. And it has anything up to a hundred control units that communicate via five bus systems.
Software makes the products into something that has previously never existed – even if no external change can be seen. The cell phone is still a telephone but this particular function is now negligible compared to everything else that it can be used for. Software, GPS systems, sensors and actuators are all contained in one case. As a direct result, the quality, the security and not least the usability and usefulness for the human over the long term therefore requires an integration of those specialist disciplines involved in the development and production of today's products.
Integration of engineering disciplines for intelligent system development
The high degree of specialization that has in the first instance brought us so far has now become a shackle that prevents us from taking the next step. How can software developers and mechanical specialists be brought together with electronics, hydraulics and flow specialists? How can the extremely differing rates of development, from new versions of software that can be released at an hourly rate up to the weeks or months required for the mechanical disciplines, be synchronized? How do we arrive at a model of the digital product that can be represented and understood from all its very different perspectives or indeed at a model that above and beyond this permits the simulation of its multidisciplinary function in the conceptual phase?
This indeed is one of the most important goals – the ability to test on a digital model the product, the production system, the tooling and manufacturing facility those aspects that in the real production world simply cost too much time and money to carry out.
And as if all of these challenges were not more than enough, they are now joined by one that results from what industry can rightly regard as being its masterpiece – the integration of the value creation chain. What was regarded as being right for hundreds of years is now antiquated. Separation of the product lifecycle into individual blocks that run in a sequence but then have to wait for the results provided by the previous block is no longer regarded as being sufficient by the market – and not only because things must move faster, but also because technology today gives us possibilities that can already involve potential future customers in the concept and planning phases. This can only be realized when all of the data from A to Z, from the sketch through to the ordering of spare parts, are completely integrated. In other words when the customer can access data that up until now has been reserved for the constructor or when manufacturing can simulate in action a model of the next product series utilizing data from the future product production facility. There are already a great number of pilot projects in which the market is involved in innovation and product development via the Internet or is even treated as the main player.
Integrated Industry is therefore a motto that succeeds very well in intent and scope for this year's Hanover Trade Fair. And we have not even mentioned the fact that this is the place where VDMA, ZVEI und BITKOM will jointly hold a platform discussion on the subject of Industry 4.0. The final version of the strategy recommendation for the Federal Government will be presented there. The core of the fourth industrial revolution which everyone is now talking about is indeed the integration of the organization, the processes, the specialist disciplines and the entire value creation chain. And all of this intelligence is intended to be used for the benefit of those industrial production possibilities that modern technology offers.